Communalism | Definition, Features, Pros & Cons

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Communalism Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits


Definition of Communalism

Communalism is a political system in which there is a joint or communal ownership of the means of production (land, labour and capital) and equal distribution of the products of labour.

It is the oldest form of government and human organisations. From the very beginning, man has lived in a small communities. This is with the belief that the security of each human being will be guaranteed by the security of all.

The family head acted as the leaders of the communal society, but with the expansion of the community, the responsibility of administering the people steadily fall into the hands of a small group, and from this small beginning developed the ideal of politics.

In modern Nigeria, the small Aiyetoro Community in Ondo State used to practice this system of government.

Features of Communalism

The main characteristics of communalism may be summarised as follows:

  • Collective Ownership: There is collective ownership of the resources.
  • Community Development: Opportunity for individuals to participate in community development is created.
  • Self Government: Communal govemment is likened to self-government, where public issues are raised and discussed openly.
  • Decision Making: Individual’s opportunity to contribute to the decision making process of the community is enhanced.
  • Landed Property: They are collectively owned by the community as there is no private ownership.
  • No Room for Exploitation: There is no room for exploitation; the resources are for the good of everybody.
  • Collectively Owned Institutions: Schools, farms, common health facilities etc are collectively owned by the people.
  • Unit of Government: The small community was said to be the main unit of government.
  • Relationship: There is a strong relationship that exists among them thus making everyone his brother’s keeper.
  • Village Community: Communalism is a common feature of the village setting.

Communalism in Modern Times

Some African leaders in the past exaggeratedly referred to the Communal society as the ‘authentic African society‘ which we must go back to in order to develop.

The introduction of Ujaama, a form of African socialism in Tanzania by the late president Julius Nyerere after the country’s independent in 1964, was a product of such dreams to return to the original African society.

Ujaama itself was not a success but the stable political order and discipline in the Tanzanian state today attested to the fact that the programme was not a complete failure.

Communalism has also sometimes being canvassed especially in the immediate post-independence era as the model of social organisation that Nigeria should adopt.

Interest in communalism was probably encouraged by the incompetence of the Nigeria state. Individualism in the negative sense of unbridled selfishness has brought untold hardship and lawlessness to the Nigerian society.

In Nigeria, a single individual in public office can unshamedly appropriate the whole wealth of the community to himself, as in the case of a former top lawmaker who allegedly stole more than Forty Billion Naira (#40,000,000,000) belonging to the Nigeria National Assembly.

Communalism, however, does not allow people to realise their full potential. As the restricted nature of the system began to retard development (for example, the need for individual labour and private ownership of property was not recognised under communalism), its collapse was only a matter of time. It collapsed and gave way to the slave.

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