Peoples and Ethnic Groups – Kinship And Tribal Societies: Tribal Loyalty

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Tribal organization predominated world-wide until the industrial revolution where it was replaced in some countries by bureaucratic organization. Tribal organization is founded on loyalty to specific persons, while bureaucratic organization (like democracies or republics) is based on loyalty to abstract principles, notably the law and a central government. Most modern monarchies, particularly in the West, now share power with a bureaucratic system. Kinsmen are obliged to help each other out, whereas bureaucrats have committed themselves to following identical procedures and principles no matter with whom they are dealing.[4]Tribal leaders talk with government representatives

According to a tribal tradition, it is appropriate to treat different people differently; killing someone outside of the tribe is seen as morally acceptable. Such differential treatment is not seen as unjust but is an indication of loyalty and solidarity to one’s tribe. Nepotism or favoritism towards members of the group is expected.  In Afghanistan this is known as “wahsta” [WAH-stah].  Wahsta is particularly common in the hiring of workers.  In other words, if a farmer is looking for field laborers, for example, the family, tribe or clan would always come first.

This is in direct opposition to a bureaucratic way of thinking; everybody is to be treated according to identical rules and regulations. These two systems are difficult to reconcile as they represent opposing moralities.[5] Afghanistan is facing this very challenge as it tries to move from a tribal society to a republic.

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