Closely connected with the issue of whether land was collective or individual property was the question of whether the essential political institution of the ancient and authentic Indian village was a council or a headman. Some scholars held that the brotherhood of jointly owned village was the true Indian village and argued that the council, an instrument of joint rule and hence isomorphic with that village type, was the essential institution of ruler ship in it, even though it might not seem so.
The typical village of India was the severalty village rather than the jointly held village. Consistent with its form of property and division of labour, the essential political institution of that type of village was not the council of five (panchayat), but the headman. Just as that type of village developed out of a tribal ancestor, so too, his headman was the continuation of the earlier tribal headman and not an intrusion from a developing or conquering central government. There was, however, one village functionary who was just such an intruder, the village accountant, whose rise was inevitable when the plan of taking revenue by means of a share of the produce was introduced, and some kind of public administration was organized. Thus did Need introduce a modern administrative principle into the village alongside the ancient principle of kin-relatedness. One might think that this village bureaucrat would have eventually replaced the older headman, but this was not so. He remained the nominally superior head of the rayatwari village, retaining small powers and much-cherished privileges and precedence rights. Beyond this early insertion of the administrative principle, the ruling institution of the Indian village apparently underwent little or no change. The persistence of the older office of hereditary headman was a symptom of the post-tribal nature of the Indian village community and its caste society.
The displacement of the little republic by the little monarchy as the atom of India’s political economy has had important consequences. To some extent it can be seen as clearing away an egalitarian inconsistency in the primitive, stateless society. The idea that the Indian village was by nature a small monarchy seems much more congruent with the idea of an India divided into ranked or hierarchically related castes and patriarchal households. But some scholars were not prepared in making this shift even to suggest that headman and other villagers were not related to each other by the natural ties of descent.
Some scholars pointed out that the headman and the village officers and elders did not constitute an association. They were constituted by their natural places in the community, by their descent, by their age and sex, and by their clan and caste.