By “government,” it appears you mean “representative government”—a body (1) whose special function is to govern, (2) that is separate from “the governed,” and (3) that is composed of representatives chosen by “the governed.”

No such body exists in any aboriginal tribe I’m familiar with (and would seem absurd in a group that normally doesn’t exceed eighty individuals). The optimum tribal size is between forty and eighty. When it falls much below forty, they soon find they need to join with another tribe.

When it grows much beyond eighty, they soon find they need to split in two. Since this represents the experience of three million years, I’m inclined to think that these limits are real. However, this applies to tribal LIVING.

It’s possible for people to make a living for themselves tribally—without being a tribe in the strict sense of the word, and the upper and lower limits of this sort of tribal association are unknown.

ID: 644
updated: 13 Sep 2003