Communal Ownership

Property performs a valuable role in human society. In most of the societies it raises the status of a person. But the concept of property has been constantly changing. In modern tribes the concept of property has changed along with changes in technology and moral concepts.

In primitive societies the modern concept of property is not in vogue since one does not find property in them in the sense it is found in civilized society. For example, one does not find any property in food gathering societies. People gather fruits and roots from the forest according to their needs.

Among cattle rearing tribes, cattle form the property. One hardly finds property rights over land among primitive people. In fact, property in primitive societies does not mean possession of physical goods but some special prerogatives in the use of land or animals.


Property rights in primitive societies are both individual as well as collective. At several places pastures are under collective possession.

At other places the same land is utilised for various purposes by various people.For example, in Malenesia and West Africa, while a person is the owner of trees on a land, another has the right of cultivation on it.

The right of inheritance is connected with the right of property. Property right generally leads to right of inheritance. In Indian tribes, the wife’s and children have rights over the personal belongings of a person. But since most of the property is communal, there is hardly any question of inheritance, when a person dies, there is no effect on collective property. On the other hand, the new generation constantly increases pressure upon land. Besides cattle rearing tribes, even in agricultural tribes the land is a collective property.

In primitive tribes, one finds examples of both patriarchal and matriarchal social organization. In them the laws of inheritance are different. In a patriarchal society the son inherits the property while in a matriarchal tribe the succession of property is from mother to daughter and the sons have no share in it.


Division of labour

The division of labour among primitive societies is based upon physical factors such as sex, age and physical health, etc. Besides this there is hardly any other type of division of labour. In many tribes the men and women perform different types of jobs.

In some other tribes, however, there is no such division of labour basedjipon sex. However, even in these tribes there are taboos upon women during some periods such as those of menstruation and child birth, etc., as during these periods she is thought to be impure.

In Toda tribe women are prohibited to do anything with cattle rearing. As they keep busy in bringing up children they are kept free from occupational activities. Most of the household chorus is their burden.Thus their main functions are procreation, child care, looking after the household affairs and doing light jobs concerning agriculture and cattle rearing or fisheries.


This division of labour is due to the delicacy of women and their biological traits of procreation and menstruation. At some places men cook food. For example, in Toda tribe all the edibles made by milk are prepared by males.

However, in most of the tribes women have an active role in the chief occupation. In food gathering tribes they gather roots and fruits. In agricultural tribes they help in sowing, mowing, etc. Besides, light jobs such as basket weaving, making earthen wares, wearing cloth, etc., are mainly done by women.

Most of the hard jobs such as big hunting games, felling bigtrees and the jobs of carpenters and blacksmiths are done by males. Both male and female work as labourers in agriculture and industries.

The tribal women work in tea gardens and mines. Tribal males work in iron factories, coal mines and tea gardens. In tribal areas there are no labourers, everybody performs his own job. The jobs of labourers are done in civilized areas.


The above discussion of tribal economy shows that there is a predominance of division of labour and collective ownership in tribal economy. Most of the methods, techniques and procedures of agriculture and vocations are undeveloped and inefficient which involve a lot of waste.

There is n provision for currency. Banking is conspicuous by its absence. There is the institution of profit. Most of the functions are cooperative. There is stability due to simplicity. There are no regular markets. Bazars are held on festivals in which there is barter of things of everyday use. There is hardly any specialization.