Rank and Leadership in Nduindui, Northern New Hebrides


  • Michael Allen


THE   IDEAL MODEL of the Melanesian big-man system of leadership is now well   established in anthropological literature and has figured prominently in a   number of theoretical and descriptive studies. The defining characteristic of   the model is that such structural prerequisites as age, generation or either   kin or local group membership are of minimal importance in the selection of   leaders and in the definition of authority, 'The attainment of big-man status   i~ rather the outcome of a series of acts which elevate a person above the   common herd and attract about him a coterie of loyal, lesser men' (Sahlins   1963:291 ). The kind and degree of authority achieved by such leaders is   directly dependent on their individual ability to create dependants and   attract followers; and they do this in the competitive context of exchange   transactions, oratory, warfare, sorcery etc. The personal qualities required   of a leader are of such a kind that the great majority of men possess them,   though in varying degrees.