In anthropology, an acephalous society (from the Greek ἀκέφαλος "headless") is a society which lacks political leaders or hierarchies. Such groups are also known as egalitarian or non-stratified societies. Typically these societies are small-scale, organized into bands or tribes that make decisions through consensus decision making rather than appointing permanent chiefs or kings. Most foraging or hunter-gatherer societies are acephalous.
In scientific literature covering native African societies and the effect of European colonialism on them the term is often used to describe groups of people living in a settlement with "no government in the sense of a group able to exercise effecitve control over both the people and their territory". In this respect the term is also often used as synonymous to "stateless Society". Such societies are described as consensus-democratic in opposition to the majority-democratic systems of the West.
The Igbo Nation in West Africa is alleged to be an acephalous or egalitarian society.
- H.S. Daannaa: "The Acephalous Society And The Indirect Rule System in Africa, Journal of Legal Pluralism And Unofficial Law, Nr. 34, p. 62, http://www.jlp.bham.ac.uk/volumes/34/daannaa-art.pdf
- Daannaa, p61; G.N. Ayittey: "STATELESS SOCIETIES: The Igbo, the Fulani, the Somali", A New Nigeria, http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/stateless-societies-the-igbo-the-fulani-the-somali-by-prof-g-n-ayittey/
- Ayittey, ibid.
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