Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

acephalous societies
communities with no formal positions of leadership.
age sets
gendered groups of people of roughly the same age who play a distinctive role in society with important social obligations and abilities. Age-grade systems tend to be associated with acephalous societies.
Arab Spring
a series of protests that spread throughout the Arab world in the early 2010s, demanding an end to oppressive government and poor living conditions.
in Akan societies, the group of young men charged with protecting the town, performing public works, and representing public opinion. Asafo could depose corrupt and unpopular chiefs.
the exercise of power based on expertise, charisma, or roles of leadership.
band societies
communities of gatherer-hunters in which leadership is temporary, situational, and informal.
big man
an informal leader who has gained power by accumulating wealth, sponsoring feasts, and helping young men pay bride wealth.
centralized societies
communities in which power is concentrated in formal positions of authority, such as chiefs or kings.
the inherited office of leadership in a chiefdom, combining coercive forms of economic, political, judicial, military, and religious authority.
societies in which political leadership is regionally organized through an affiliation or hierarchy of chiefs. Chiefdoms are associated with intensive agriculture, militarism, and religious ideologies.
agricultural plots created from layers of mud and vegetation in the shallow part of a lake.
large kin groups that trace their descent from a common ancestor who is either not remembered or possibly mythological.
coercive power
the ability to enforce judgments and commands using socially sanctioned violence.
colonial states
state governments imposed by foreigners to rule over local peoples.
failed state
a state that cannot perform any of the essential functions of a state.
fragile state
a state government that cannot adequately perform the essential functions of a state, such as maintaining law and order, building basic infrastructure, guaranteeing basic amenities, and defending its citizens against violence.
a powerful ideology that has become generally accepted by most groups in society as common sense. Hegemony emphasizes the norms and values that support the existing social order.
an organized set of ideas associated with a particular group or class in society. Ideologies are used to explain how various realms of nature and society work, including such realms as economics, politics, religion, kinship, gender, and sexuality.
imagined communities
citizens of a nation-state joined together by rituals and practices that give them a collective, imagined sense of community.
hereditary ruler of a multiethnic empire based on a chiefdom.
leopard-skin chief
an informal mediator in Nuer society who negotiated settlement in the case of homicide.
lineage orders
societies in which extended family groups provide the primary means of social integration. Leadership in these societies is provided by elders and other temporary or situational figures.
a sense of cultural belonging or peoplehood based on a common language, common origin story, common destiny, and common norms and values. National identities are actively constructed by states.
a political institution joining the apparatus of the state with the notion of cultural belonging or peoplehood.
courageous public speech inspired by a moral desire to reveal the truth and demand social change.
persuasive power
the ability to influence others without any formal means of enforcement.
political economy
study of the ways in which political and economic realms continually reinforce and sometimes contradict one another over time.
all elements of the sociocultural dynamics of power
postcolonial studies
an interdisciplinary field that combines history, anthropology, political science, and area studies in an effort to understand the diversity, complexity, and legacy of colonialism throughout the world.
the ability to influence people and/or shape social processes and social structures.
societies that exhibit some but not all of the features of state societies.
the call for systemic changes to address social problems.
the expression of disagreement or dissatisfaction with the social order; may be explicit or implicit.
the replacement of one social order with a different one, often to create enhanced justice, equality, stability, or freedom.
segmentary lineage
a kind of lineage order in which family units called minimal lineages are encompassed by larger groups called maximal lineages, which are subsumed by even larger groups called clans.
social movement
an organized set of actions by a group outside of government aiming at achieving social change.
social stratification
the division of society into groups that are ranked according to wealth, power, or prestige.
state societies
large, stratified, multiethnic societies with highly centralized leadership, bureaucracies, systems of social control, and military forces exerting exclusive control over a defined territory.
tribal societies
an older term used by anthropologists to refer to pastoralist and horticulturalist societies in which extended family structures provide the primary means of social integration.
an old-fashioned term used to describe ethnic groups or groups organized by lineage. Avoided by many anthropologists now because of connotations of primitivism and groupthink.
village democracies
acephalous societies in which an array of social groups provide arenas for discussion and consensus.
Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Dec 20, 2023 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.