chiefdom

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chiefdom

a form of centralized social organization relying primarily on allegiance and not on formal coercive institutions. US evolutionary anthropologists regard it as existing prior to the STATE and as a development from the TRIBE. Chiefdoms are characterized by the emergence of patterns of social stratification and an economic system based on the redistribution of goods, but the distinction between states and tribes is often tenuous. See also SEGMENTARY STATES.