Bands. Some nomadic cultures are made up of groups (bands), being one of the first layers of political and social organizations. Food pickers and persons responsible for heating used to organize themselves into groups. The group usually is modest in size and population, but it has a well-organized governmental structure. They used to go to different places in quest of food and live there, but there was never a permanent location where they could settle. The band is divided into tiny subgroups that are categorized or subdivided into small groups that become other groups, either annually or seasonally (Grinin & Korotayev, 2017). Bands are egalitarian societies and informal political organizations in which no one is selected to solve an issue, but the group as a whole makes a choice. Before the agricultural period, nearly all communities had this political system in place.
Tribes. Tribal societies are similar to bands in terms of social and political organizations terms. Their political system is also usually considered egalitarian and informal. But the difference is that in the tribe, agriculture and animal husbandry are more important than gathering food and hunting (Gluckman & Moore, 2017). The population of the tribe is large, and the subgroups are comparable to the bands. The head of the tribe is promoted by age and wisdom, so the older person had to be the chief or leader of the tribe because of age and experience. The older person was considered a storehouse of wisdom and had the necessary expertise to solve problems.
Chiefdom. The post of the chief is hereditary and virtually permanent, and the chiefdom has some formal organization, an integrated community, and regulations. When comparing the civilizations of the tribes, leaders had higher economic production and redistribution power (Grinin & Korotayev, 2017). In society, the leader has high prestige and rank. He oversees and coordinates religious activities as well as labor responsibilities. He is in charge of military operations’ leadership and management.
The following can be considered when looking at the Iranian Basseri tribe concerning the concepts mentioned above of the social and political organization. The Basseri tribe differentiates from the band society by the position of leader. It has a formal political organization with a chief and his advisors (darbar), who execute power on a particular tribal group (Barth, 2011). However, when it comes to decision-making, the patterns of Basseri tribes are similar to the bands’ concept of group-making decisions, where the chief does not have the decisive voice. This is also confirmed by the “The leaders’ voice is not given much more weight than anyone else’s, in an absolute sense” (Peters-Golden, 2011, p. 37).
Resembling tribal societies, Basseris is composed of several “camps” that migrate only occasionally, thus exercising a sort of “social distancing” between them. Unlike tribes, the chief of the Basseri tribe is not determined by his age or wisdom, and his functions are limited in terms of decision-making; rather, him being a dispute settler and official representative of the tribe. However, resembling the tribe’s social organization, in Basseri tribes, animal husbandry plays a vital role, rather than hunting.
In relation to the chieftains, the Basseri tribes are similar in the institution of leadership. The leader of Basseris is determined by “a noble linage, and the authority granted them derive from this distinction” (Peters-Golden, 2011, p. 38). Moreover, the Basseri chieftain is also responsible for allocating pastures and coordinating the migration, thus, having higher production and redistribution power (Barth, 2011). However, as it was said, he does not have the exclusive right to problem-solving; he is instead considered a mediator and an active participant in a dispute, surrounded by his advisors (darbar), another political structure, showing a high societal development (in contrast to tribes and bands).
Barth, F. (2011). Nomads of south Persia – The Basseri tribe of the Khamseh confederacy. Read Books Ltd.
Gluckman, M., & Moore, S. F. (2017). Politics, law and ritual in tribal society. Routledge.
Grinin, L. E., & Korotayev, A. V. (2017). Chiefdoms from the Beginning Until Now. Chiefdoms: Yesterday and Today, 3-14.
Peters-Golden, H. (2011). Culture Sketches: Case Studies in Anthropology 6th Edition. McGraw-Hill Education.