What follows is an excerpt from Anthropologist Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita’s paper “Devout Yet Extravagant: The Filipinization of Christianity” (ID- 2008: 53-77). It is being reproduced here with his permission.
“Anthropologists have classified polities in all known cultures into four: (1) the band, (2) the tribal village, (3) the chiefdom, and (4) the state. To understand what a chiefdom is, we should situate it vis-à-vis the state and the tribal village…
“The first states that arose in the world as a whole began in the Near East around BC 4000. They were monarchies ruled by kings who claimed divinity”. .. (Ibid.: 55).
“At the opposite extreme is the polity called the ‘tribal village’. I prefer to call this the ‘autonomous locality’…In the more simple types of autonomous localities, authority is vested not in a single individual…The leader was he who had skills needed for a particular situation. Kinship forms the framework of the autonomous locality” (Ibid.: 56).
“In between these two polities is the chiefdom. A ruling chief has rights and prerogatives over his followers. However, he looks up to another chief, a “paramount” who comes from the most prominent or the wealthiest family in an area. The paramount may also have gained renown for his victories in warfare. It may also happen that the local ruling chief is connected to the paramount through ties of kinship. Nonetheless the paramount’s authority base is limited. He has no taxing powers over the subordinate chiefs, much less over their followers. Nor is he able to institute a monopoly on the use of force by banning the use of weapons to all save to his own retinue. Lacking a regular taxing power and a monopoly on force, the chiefdom is unable to set up a full time, formal government. Verticle ties between subordinate and superior are personalistic rather than functional and they revolve around the exchange of favors. The subordinate may remove his allegiance from his master and transfer it to a more powerful or a wealthier master. Horizontal ties between group of followers are tenuous as well, for the focus of the subordinate is keeping true to the master even should conflict erupt between groups of followers.