What are the Power and function of legitimate political authority in tribal policy?


Government is the institutional form of the state which is a sovereign political organization of the people settled in a particular country. The government runs the administration. It performs the functions of the state.

The functions are generally of three types – legislative administrative and judicial. Corresponding to these three forms of functions the government has three parts – legislature, executive and the judiciary. As has been already said in connection with other primitive institutions, here also only rudimentary forms of different aspects of government are found in primitive societies.

In rudimentary forms of the government these three functions are not distinct; but homogeneous. In Australia, the same tribal council formulates laws, applies them and awards punishment for their violation. The same is the condition concerning most of the primitive societies in the world.


According to Robert H. Lowie, a significant characteristic of the primitive government is that, in comparison to government of more civilized and developed societies, it performs very few functions. It seldom formulates laws which are generally customary.

The tribal life is generally regulated by customs and traditions in social, economic and political fields. Therefore, the function of the government is not to formulate laws but to see that customs and traditions are followed. Again, primitive life is simple and plain and does not require control through so many rules and regulations. Hence also it is not necessary that laws may be formulated.

The tribal chief is generally a despot. His dictates are the laws and he does not care even for the customs and traditions. In that case too the legislative function of the government is not important. However, lack of legislation is not so much due to the despotic ruler but rather due to the regulation and control through customs and traditions. According to Morgan, Maine and others, primitive societies neither require nor have any type of government.

The only bond of kinship among them is the blood relationship. Therefore, kinship itself regulates social life. It hardly requires any form of government. The formation of government was a later development. Most of contemporary social anthropologists, however, do not agree with this view point. According to them every primitive society has some sort of government and administration.

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