Acephalous society

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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[citation needed]. Some exceptions to this trend are the Indus River Valley Civilization, Minoan Crete and the Cucuteni-Trypillia culture.[1]

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 effective control over both the people and their territory".[2] In this respect the term is also often used as synonymous to "stateless society".[3] Such societies are described as consensus-democratic in opposition to the majority-democratic systems of the West.[4]

The Igbo Nation in West Africa is alleged to be an acephalous or egalitarian society.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gelderloos, Peter (2017). Worshipping Power: An Anarchist History of State Formation. 
  2. ^ H.S. Daannaa: "The Acephalous Society And The Indirect Rule System in Africa, Journal of Legal Pluralism And Unofficial Law, Nr. 34, p. 62,
  3. ^ a b Daannaa, p61; G.N. Ayittey: "STATELESS SOCIETIES: The Igbo, the Fulani, the Somali", A New Nigeria,
  4. ^ Ayittey, ibid.