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In geopolitics, a political system defines the process for making official government decisions. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems. However, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex system of categories involving the questions of who should have authority and what the government influence on its people and economy should.

Anthropological formsEdit

Anthropologists generally recognize four kinds of political systems, two of which are uncentralized and two of which are centralized.[1]

  • Uncentralized systems
    • Band society
      • Small family group, no larger than an extended family or clan; it has been defined as consisting of no more than 30 to 50 individuals.
      • A band can cease to exist if only a small group walks out.
    • Tribe
      • Generally larger, consisting of many families. Tribes have more social institutions, such as a chief or elders.
      • More permanent than bands. Many tribes are sub-divided into bands.
  • Centralized governments
    • Chiefdom
      • More complex than a tribe or a band society, and less complex than a state or a civilization
      • Characterized by pervasive inequality and centralization of authority.
      • A single lineage/family of the elite class becomes the ruling elite of the chiefdom
      • Complex chiefdoms have two or even three tiers of political hierarchy.
      • "An autonomous political unit comprising a number of villages or communities under the permanent control of a paramount chief"
    • Sovereign state
      • A sovereign state is a state with a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states.
  • Supranational political systems
    • Supranational political systems are created by independent nations to reach a common goal or gain strength from forming an alliance.
  • Empires
    • Empires are widespread states or communities under a single rule. They are characterized by the rulers desire for unanimous religious affiliation or posing as threat for other empires in times of war.* Empires often[which?] made considerable progress in ways of democratic structures, creating and building city infrastructures, and maintaining civility within the diverse communities. Because of the intricate organization of the empires, they were often able to hold a large majority of power on a universal level.*
  • Leagues
    • Leagues are international organizations composed of states coming together for a single common purpose.* In this way leagues are different from empires, as they only seek to fulfill a single goal. Often leagues are formed on the brink of a military or economic downfall. Meetings and hearings are conducted in a neutral location with representatives of all involved nations present.


The sociological interest in political systems is figuring out who holds power within the relationship of the government and its people and how the government’s power is used. There are three types of political systems that sociologists consider:

  • Authoritarianism
    • In authoritarian governments, the people have no power or representation and it is characterized by absolute or blind obedience to formal authority, as against individual freedom and related to the expectation of unquestioning obedience. The elite leaders handle all economic, military, and foreign relations. A prime example of authoritarianism is a dictatorship.
    • Totalitarianism is the most extreme form of authoritarianism because it controls all aspects of life including the communication between citizens, media censorship, and threatens by the means of terror.
  • Monarchy
    • A monarchy is a government controlled by a king or queen determined by a predisposed line of sovereignty. In other words, it can be seen as an undivided rule or absolute sovereignty by a single person. In the modern world there are two types of monarchies, absolute monarchies and constitutional monarchies. An absolute monarchy works like a dictatorship in that the king has complete rule over his country. A constitutional monarchy gives the royal family limited powers and usually works in accordance with an elected body of officials. Social revolutions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century overthrew the majority[citation needed] of existing monarchies in favor of more democratic governments and a rising middle class, as well as of authoritarian regimes like the Soviet Union.
  • Democracy
    • A democracy is a form of government in which the citizens create and vote for laws directly, or indirectly via representatives (democratic republic). The idea of democracy stems back from ancient Greece and the profound works of ancient academics. However, the presence of democracy does not always mean citizen’s wishes will be equally represented. For example, in many democratic countries[which?] immigrants, and racial and ethnic minorities, do not receive the same rights[clarification needed] as the majority citizens.[according to whom?]

Chapter 12 a The first point is that organized human violence can be viewed as a normal reaction to the underlying human conditions. These conditions are likely to be biological factors resulting from physiological or genetic processes. The other alternative argument is that people are violent for survival. The second point states that humans are natural peaceful and that they tend to violence only when the situations overwhelms them. The third point states that peaceful or violence may be a derivative of either nature or culture interchangeably. . That is, human beings are either violent in nature, and only act peacefully due to cultural factors, or that human beings are naturally peacefully, but only revert to violence as dictated by their culture.( Guest, 2014, pp. 549) The most persuasive point is the third point. That violence and peace are both as result of either culture or nature, and that one influence the other. The example given in the text is about Micronesians who decide to deploy violence as the only viable means of getting peace (pp. 550) The Micronesians also prepare people for war so that war is avoided when its detrimental effects are considered. Here, nature (their desire for war) and culture (their considerations about the consequence of waging a war) are both evenly matched. Chapter 12 b Egalitarianism is a belief that all people are equally important and therefore have the same rights. Egalitarianism sustained hunter gatherer communities as it ensured fairness, equality and non-domination over scarce resources. Hunter gatherer bands used sharing of resources on an equal level as an economic strategy through cooperating in gathering foods, coordinating game hunting activities, while successfully resisting hierarchy and domination. The community has also learnt to resist aggression, and any other acts of egoism or domination. According to Kenneth Guest in Cultural Anthropology (2017, pp 536) members of hunter gatherer communities work together to suppress any kind of dominance and embrace cooperation, resulting into egalitarianism, which made life possible. The early man was a hunter gatherer and therefore these practices by hunter gatherer bands have evolved today, due to the developed of ethics which promote a sharing culture, generosity and altruism. In the world today, people pursue cooperation, and generosity, and often put up measures to curb exploitation or domination. Chapter 13 In times of economic turbulence, and increasing social stratification, religion serves the role of a narcotic which numbs pain so that people cannot realize how serious a situation is. Karl Marx argued that religion turned people into meek conformists who cannot dare engage in activities aimed at bringing social change. He further argued that the basic tool of social stratification is the economy, and other aspects such as family, governments, arts and religion formed institutions meant to mask the true consequences of an unfair economic situation. Equally, institutions such as religion give the masses an opportunity to let off, and console themselves that all problems are in passing and in fact there will be an eternal life in heaven. This serves to offer a divine justification for the economic status quo. According to Marx, religion is the agent used to undermine the impulse of the masses hence they are unable to resist exploitation, or take steps at effecting changes in social order. I think Max ideas of the role of religion is true. My opinion is formed by current observations, where religious practices in the developed countries like Switzerland are reducing drastically, while religious activities in Third World Countries like let’s say Nigeria are at their optimum, with multiple denominations and church. Indeed, it is easy to see the positive correlation between increased religious activity and an unfair economic setting. Religion makes people stay humble, unable to rise and agitate for change that will boost equality. References Guest, K. (2014). Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age. W. W. Norton & Company

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Haviland, W.A. (2003). Anthropology: Tenth Edition. Wadsworth:Belmont, CA.


  • Almond, Gabriel A., et al. Comparative Politics Today: A World View (Seventh Edition). 2000. ISBN 0-316-03497-5.
  • Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. The Real World An Introduction to Sociology. 3rd ed. New York City: W W Norton & Co, 2012. Print.
  • "political system". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.

External linksEdit

  • For further resources on political theory and the mechanics of political system design, see the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre's topic guide on political systems