The body of literature on the societies of the New Guinea Highlands has tended to support the early characterisation of their political life as a competition for power in which individuals achieved big-man status by their ability, through the manipulation of wealth in the form of pigs and other valuables, to recruit supporters from within their natal groups, clients from outside them and exchange partners in the accessible universe of cognates, affines and non-kin. There has been debate, however, about the specific manifestation of these principles: the extent to which, for example, competition constituted a form of anarchy within the political arena (e.g. Brown 1963: 3—6) or was limited by the segmentary character of the social system (e.g. Sahlins 1962—3: 289; Reay 1964: 243—5; Meggitt 1967: 23—4); the degree to which leadership depended on consensus (e.g. Read 1959) or could take the form of 'serial despotism' (Salisbury 1964: 225—8); and the existence of tendencies towards hereditary succession to leadership and internal stratification of social groups, which is a major concern in the sequel.