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Rule by old men. A term introduced by social anthropologists in the 1930s to describe certain societies in Africa south of the Sahara, in which social stratification was based on age-sets or age-grades, public roles were allocated by age-grade (as well as gender), with governance functions allocated to the oldest age-group. The term is now used more generally to describe societies in which the most senior decision-making and political roles are dominated by the oldest males, with negative consequences in periods of rapid change and instability, when innovation and flexibility are at a premium.

Subjects: Sociology.

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