Social Organization. Households form alliances based on kinship or patron-client ties for economic, social, and political purposes. When migrating, a household moves with its allies or goes to a village where fellow zo members or affines already reside. Formal request to live in a village must be made of the village headman.
Political Organization. Each village is an independent unit. Elder males provide the leadership, depending upon ability, experience, wealth, and the number of allied households that can be counted on for support. They nominate one of their own to act as headman, often only a figurehead who represents the village to the external world. Formerly, among the Black Lisu of the Upper Salween, hereditary headmen might have exerted control over several villages; class stratification (aristocrats, commoners, and slaves) existed in pre-Communist days. In Myanmar, Lisu villages are said to have owed allegiance to local Chinese or Shan saohpa, though this was probably more symbolic than real.
Social Control. The household is responsible for the actions of its members. The headman, acting in concert with prestigious elder males, may arbitrate disputes, levy fines, or even expel an individual from the village.
Conflict. Family feuds and personal vendettas occur, as do disputes with neighboring ethnic groups over theft or destruction of crops or livestock. Only after arbitration by elders has failed will quarrels be taken to lowland authorities.