tribe and tribal society

tribe and tribal society

  1. (usually) a pastoral or horticultural society whose members share cultural or linguistic characteristics and who are bound together by reciprocal social rights and obligations. Such a society has weak or nonexistent political centralization, but strong LINEAGE structures, important for social cohesion and interaction.
  2. a concept developed by anthropologists from the 19th century onwards which attempted to categorize one type of stateless society, generally on an evolutionary scale (e.g. the sequence: BAND, tribe, CHIEFTAIN) but which is now often seen as, at the worst, a European imposed category which related inadequately to empirical reality, and, at best, a term over which no consensus exists. Thus definition 1 is only an approximation to some of the concept's usage by some anthropologists, and definition 2 reflects the work of others, especially over the last two decades, who reject usage of the concept, prefer no narrow classification of such societies and would substitute the term ETHNIC GROUP. The debate is still current in anthropology. The concept has a general usage to refer to all stateless societies and is sometimes used as a synonym for PRIMITIVE or SIMPLE SOCIETIES.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000