Social Organization. Shan social organization is inherently hierarchical, based on age, gender, and wealth.
Political Organization. Traditionally Shan were members of numerous small states ruled by princes having relationships with China, Burma, and northern Thailand. Other lower-ranking officials dealt with clusters of villages and individual villages. Government officials were viewed as one of the five natural disasters. Shan villages in Thailand are administered as is the rest of Thailand, with elected village headmen and village-cluster headmen responsible to an appointed district officer. Shan in China are administered as a minority group in an autonomous region.
Social Control. Within communities, gossip and the desire to maintain a good reputation are important means of maintaining order. If there are fights or thefts people may appeal to the police.
Conflict. In the precolonial period Shan fought with Burmese, other Shan, Chinese, Northern Thai, and other neighboring groups in succession disputes and assorted alliances. Now Shan in Myanmar are actively in conflict with the Burmese, the national Communist party, and, occasionally, other Shan groups.