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Anthropology/stateless society


QUESTION: Are tribes and clans examples of stateless societies?

ANSWER: Hi Alex,

That depends.  In North America, the Native American tribes that have autonomous independence, are not "stateless" in that they have their own government. They also live within the US thus have a two state system.  The Yanomani of Brazil could be viewed as a stateless tribe but they too live within an autonomous area that "govern".  A clan can act as a governed group as well, the Aboriginies live in clans but work as a "commune" in which the elders guide the group.  They too live in an autonomous area that they "govern" within Austrailia.  Most Recognized Aboriginal groups around the world are self governing with the exception of some groups in Africa.  In most of these cases there could be an argument for some living in a stateless society.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for answering. What are some examples of stateless societies? I'm an Anarchist and someone told me there has never been a successful stateless society.

Hi Alex,

Stateless is a modern construct.  Even the simplest clan has a hierarchical structure. As a species, we tend to group together and "elect" a leader even if there is no clearly defined process for this.  Even in a commune, there is generally a guiding council of some sort.  The basic rules for living together are also part of this process.  These are taught to the young and the old uphold these rules.  This is even true for non-human species like the apes, monkeys, even ants.  

As an anarchist, you do not believe that there should be a structure or state but with out it, there would be no anarchists.  But to answer your question, the closest may be a commune or a kibbutz.  Here in the US, those remaining Shakers may fit into this category.  The Amish and Mennonites may fit into this as well to a degree.  These function outside of typical state controls.


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Ralph Salier


Business Anthropologist. Business negotiations in multiple cultures and working with multiple cultures in the business arena. Broad understanding of business practices and business "ethics" in different parts of the world.


25+ years in international procurement and negotiations.


MA Anthropology, Proximics

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