EARLY STATE

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Η.J.M Claessen-P.Skalnik, Early State (δομικά χαρακτηριστικά και καταγωγή του Κράτους)

Από το IX Διεθνές Συνέδριο Ανθρωπολογικών και Εθνολογικών Επιστημών, που έγινε στο Σικάγο το Σεπτέμβριο του 1973, προέκυψε η ιδέα του βιβλίου Early State. Ακολούθησαν ετήσια συνέδρια και παρουσιάσεις, μέχρι να καταλήξουν οι εκδότες και επιμελητές στο εξής σχέδιο: το βιβλίο διαρθρώνεται σε τρία μέρη, τη Θέση, την Αντίθεση, και τη Σύνθεση. Στη Θέση, οι συντάκτες και μερικοί συγγραφείς επισκοπούν σύντομα θεωρίες για το Κράτος, και δίνουν ένα γενικό περίγραμμα της σύλληψης των χαρακτηριστικών και της καταγωγής του. Στην Αντίθεση, παρουσιάζονται 21 εμπειρικές περιπτώσεις πρώιμων Κρατών από 21 διαφορετικούς “ειδικούς” στην ιστορία του κάθε Κράτους. Στη Σύνθεση, διατυπώνονται Συμπεράσματα, μερικά από τα οποία παραθέτω εδώ.

The Early State, Η.J.M Claessen-P.Skalnik, New Babylon-Studies in Social Sciences, Mouton Publishers, 1978.  

Some Conclusions Concerning the Structural Characteristics of the Early State (p.537)
In the preceding sections we brought together the results of a great many comparisons based on the data furnished by the case essays.Incidentally, where necessary or useful, we added data from other sources. We grouped the relevant data together in nineteen tables, andwere able to distinguish fifty-one structural characteristics. With theaid of these data we will now try to test, within the limits of the above structural analysis, some of the hypotheses put forward in the first chapter.
The Seven Criteria. In the first chapter we evolved sevencriteria for the early state. As these are supposedly generally valid, wewill test them only by reference to the structural characteristics.
(1) A sufficient population to make possible social categorization,stratification and specialization. This appeared to be too vague acriterion. We replaced it with that of population density. Our analysisof this aspect (Table I) showed that a high population density (in theabsolute sense) was found in nine cases. There is reason to supposethat states will have a higher population density than non-states undercomparable geographical or ecological conditions. However, this statementis still too vague. Birdsell’s study on the ‘basic demographic unit’makes it clear that face-to-face relations are possible only in groups ofmaximally 500 people (1973). As soon as there is a growth of population,fission or the development of a complex social organization seemto be the only two alternatives. In view of the rather complex social structures of the states studied by us, their populations must certainlyhave exceeded 500, though even this still remains rather vague.
(2) Citizenship of the state is determined by residence or birth in the territory. We found that all those permanently living in the territory of a state, as marked by certain boundaries, were considered as citizens orsubjects of that state (S.C. 1). This usually found expression in certainobligations and duties toward the state.
(3) The government is centralized and has the necessary power for the maintenance of law and order through the use of both authority and force, or the threat of force. In all of the cases studied we found a center of government (S.C. 3) where the sovereign resided for the greater part of the year and where the court was located (S.C. 34). From this center, laws and regulations were issued by the sovereign (S.C. 25),upon which activity a number of groups or individuals exercised an influence, formal or informal (S.C. 27, 48, 49, 50). The sovereign wasthe head of a complex three-tier administrative apparatus, to which certain duties and powers were delegated (S.C. 44, 45) and which always comprised regional and mostly also national- and local-levelfunctionaries (S.C. 46). Top-level specialists were always found in thecenter (S.C. 47). Though controlling agencies were found everywhere,this aspect was too diversified for us to formulate more than one structural characteristic in connection with it (S.C. 51).Codified laws were found in only eight cases. Less coherent systems were found in twelve states (Table IX). The maintenance of law andorder seems to have been based for the greater part on authority, and much less on force. In only eight cases was some form of police force found (Table IX), while the controlling apparatus as was mentionedabove, was not well-developed. The administration of justice was inthe hands of formal judges in only nine cases. Elsewhere it was aside-function of certain other functionaries.
(4) The state is independent, at least de facto, and the government has sufficient power to prevent separation, as well as the capacity to defend its external threats. The independence of the state is a generalcharacteristic (S.C. 2). The fact that all of our states had existed for a considerable length of time testifies sufficiently that their defensivemechanisms were adequate. Military aspects, however, did not figure very prominently in the list of general characteristics. Of these we would mention: the sovereign is supreme commander (S.C. 28), there exists a bodyguard (S.C. 29), and commoners are obliged to performmilitary service (S.C. 41). Military groups with explicitly institutionalizedinfluence on state policy were not found as a structural
characteristic. Military functions were often side-functions (Table XV)of general functionaries or of members of the aristocracy. In a numberof cases special functionaries were in charge of military affairs (TableXVI). In only a few cases did military leaders, as a group, play anopenly recognized role (Table IV). A standing army was found infifteen cases (Table X). Some informal influence on government was found in sixteen cases (Table XVIII). The question of separation orfission will be dealt with in the next chapters.
(5) The population shows a sufficient degree of stratification foremergent social classes (rulers and ruled) to be distinguishable. Our data show that social stratification in early states was a fairly complex matter. Several social categories with differential access to material andother resources were generally to be found. We distinguished betweentwo basic social strata, an upper and a lower one, and moreoverdiscovered that in the majority of cases a middle stratum also existed(Table IV). The upper stratum we took to comprise the sovereign, the aristocracy (S.C. 11) to which belonged a.o. the sovereign’s kin (S.C.35), holders of high offices (S.C. 36) and clan and lineage heads (S.C.37)), and the priesthood. The middle stratum was composed of suchcategories as ministeriales and gentry (Table IV). To the lower stratumbelonged a.o. smallholders (S.C. 12) and tenants (S.C. 13), and less frequently such categories as artisans, traders, servants and slaves. Themembers of the upper stratum had only indirect connections with foodproduction (S.C. 15). In the lower level only smallholders and tenants were mentioned as having a direct connection with food production(S.C. 20). To avoid misunderstanding it should be noted that we havenot included the categories of slaves and servants in the comparisonsconcerned. The income of the sovereign and aristocracy was based on tribute, in whatever form (S.C. 19). The commoners were obliged topay taxes — which appeared, in fact, to be obligatory for mostcategories (cf. S.C. 17) — and to perform menial services (S.C. 42).The obligation to render services was also found to apply to all social categories (S.C. 16). Our data showed that the term aristocracy referredto a category that was not composed of equals. On the contrary,large differences in status and position were found everywhere (S.C.38). Whether or not the strata distinguished by us should be labeled’social classes’ depends on the definition of ‘class’. The upper and lower social strata can be equated with emergent social classes. However,no classes based on the control of the means of production —supposed to be a typical feature for societies with a mature state organization — were found. A class struggle, or overt class antagonism,was not found to be characteristic of early states.
(6) Productivity is so high that there is a regular surplus, which isused for the maintenance of the state organization. In all cases a surpluswas found (S.C. 10), which reached the ruling groups in the form of taxes, tribute or tributary gifts (S.C. 17, 19). This surplus was spent forthe greater part on the maintenance of the administrative apparatus:the sovereign gave gifts (S.C. 30), remunerations (S.C. 31) and offerings(S.C. 32), while this kind of expenditure was also found on thelower levels (S.C. 33).
(7) A common ideology exists, on which the legitimacy of the rulingstratum is based. This characteristic appeared to be highly elaborated in all of our cases. Here, invariably, a mythical charter was found (S.C. 21) and the ruler legitimized his position by his divine descent (S.C. 22,23), with which most of his activities were connected: he performed rites (S.C. 24), established law and order (S.C. 25, 26), as supreme commander was the protector of his people (S.C. 28), and gave gifts,remunerated his ‘servants’ (S.C. 30, 31), and made offerings to thesupernatural forces (S.C. 32). Hence the early state had a basic ideology of reciprocity (cf. Section 2.10.5). In conformity with this mode of legitimation, social status was correlated with distance from the ruler’s lineage (Section 2.11, cf. S.C. 35, 43) and the kind of office occupied. The state ideology was found to be upheld by the priesthood everywhere (S.C. 39, 50).
 
FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ORIGIN OF THE EARLY STATE (p.622)
In chapter 1 we discussed at length, a number of theories on the origin of the state. Now, after considering the origins of the early state inbroad generalization, we will be more specific about this. To give ourdiscussion a factual basis, we will outline here the ‘case-histories’ of those states of our sample on whose formation details are given in the essays.With regard to Angkor new ideas and techniques coming from Indiaprovided the impetus for the introduction of more developed modes ofagricultural production and methods of trading, warfare and conductingraids. These in turn stimulated a more intensive and effective organization of government, which was given a more effective legislationby Jayavarman II.
In Ankole groups of pastoral Hima settled a specific region ofmarshlands in the fifteenth century. This area was mostly devoid ofpopulation. Only a few scattered agriculturalists lived here. There were virtually no contacts between the two groups. In the eighteenth centurydroughts and famines set off a chain of battles and wars. Defeat in warand the fear of new wars led to the organization of a defensiveapparatus. Marriage with foreign women set the ruler apart from thearistocracy. The cult of the drum was imported. Famines and wars continued to mould Ankole society, in which relations between theHima and the agricultural Bairu gradually became more developed.
The Aztecs tried to find a solution to the problem of growingpopulation pressure by levying tribute in kind from the surrounding population groups. This led to war and conquest which in turn gave rise to the necessity of greater organization, increased taxation, andmore effective legitimation.
In France as well a growing population pressure seems to havetriggered off numerous developments, such as agricultural expansion, changes in land tenure practices, the necessity to produce a greater aristocracy’s higher incomes from taxes and tribute. War also strengthened the need for more and better organization. In additionreminiscences of former state structures played a role in the formationof the state under discussion here.
The Hawaiian states could only come into being after the conclusion of some kind of treaty between the various paramount chiefs, which curbed the endless wars for a sufficiently long time to enable some chiefs to evolve a more stable organization, which in turn was stimulatedto expand after the recommencements of hostilities. A series ofconquests and reconquests characterizes the period of the early statehere.
The Iberian (Georgian) states seem to have developed as a result ofthe need to defend themselves against foreign invaders. Alliances wereformed, and leaders rose to greater power. Furthermore, populationgrowth required a more complex organization.
The Incas for a long time ruled only one of the many Andeanchiefdoms. However, a victory in a war with their most important rival opened up the way to statehood. Annexation, and increased production stimulated by the pressure exerted by the governmental apparatus,made possible the more extensive and complex form of organizationcalled into existence by war and conquest.
In the case of Jimma, a number of Galla groups, having apparentlylargely displaced earlier inhabitants, settled in their new homeland asmixed agriculturalists. Surrounded by previously existing states, theywarred against these as well as among themselves, and competed for
the control of land, trade routes and markets. The state arose as theresult of a succession of local conquests, as one Galla group defeatedand began to impose its rule over the others (Lewis: personal information).
The Kachari state originated in the hill districts of the northeasternpart of the Indian subcontinent. Even before the state came into being,a disintegration of the clan system had occurred. The genealogicalgroup gradually made way for a socioprofessional type of group,which initiated growing social inequality. As the population grew thenumber of these groups also grew. Incessant warfare consolidated theposition of the notables. The influence of military leaders was considerable.Technical as well as socio-political concepts were borrowedfrom surrounding states; these had a substantial impact upon theformation of the Kachari state.
The Kuba state shows how the production of a surplus, stimulatedby the pressure exerted by chiefs, made possible a more complex governmental apparatus. This additionally made possible the productionof luxury articles which were used to reward faithful servants.
Vansina points to the dialectical character of the process: bureaucracyand production mutually stimulated each other’s development, and both fostered the development of a more complex ideology.The same applies to Maurya: the production of a surplus made possible the development of the state organization, which in its turnboosted the production of the surplus, with, as a consequence, the development of trade and markets. This gave rise to the need for lawand order, and led to the emergence of new social categories.
Developments in Norway seem to have been triggered off by thedisintegration of the extended family. This may have been a result ofthe scarcity of resources in this country (cf. Wolf 1966: 72). This disintegration led to a lessening of the influence of the bonder, whichmade possible the gradual rise to power of a particular ruling family,who in the course of time succeeded in subduing several regions.
In Scythia the relationship between the nomadic Scythians and a number of the agricultural tribes formed the point of departure forstate formation. The dominance of the nomads over the agriculturalistsmade some form of organization necessary, and gradually the statesystem developed (cf. also Khazanov 1975: 340). In point of fact, Scythia is a classical illustration of Oppenheimer’s Conquest theory.
Tahiti shows how population growth made for an increasing socialdistance between the members of senior and those of junior descentlines. A distance that became so great that both groups became endogamous. Ownership of land and social status were dependent onposition in the descent system, the division of the population into agroup of rulers and a group of ruled being the consequence of the resultant configuration.
In the Voltaic area the presence of permanent threats of assault andpillage seems to have induced people to look for more effectiveprotection and leadership. The increase in the political unity created bythese circumstances was accompanied by the growth of a supra-villageideology. In the course of time this led to the stabilization of internalrelations, greatly influenced by continuing external (political) pressures.These condensed case histories of our states facilitate the search for certain patterns or regularities. The principal general characteristic, inour view, is the fact that the development into statehood, in all cases, was triggered off by some action or event which took place a long timebefore, and was not directed especially towards this goal. The otherobvious characteristic of the development to statehood is that it always shows something of a snowball effect: once it comes into motion, itgrows faster and faster. This is a consequence of mutual reinforcement in all of the developmental processes studied between the phenomenaand their effects. Thus we can speak of a positive feedback. This seems to confirmSahlins’suggestion that economy and politics grow together(1972: 140). Likewise, our data seem to corroborate Cohen’s observation(chapter 2, p. 32) that:
Each set of factors, or any particular factor, once it develops, stimulates and feeds back onto others which are then made to change in the general direction of statehood. Although its roots may be multiple, once a society orgroup of them start developing toward early statehood, the end is remarkablysimilar, no matter where it occurs.Aside from historical progression a set of mutually correspondingfactors appeared to play a role in several cases. It is possible to isolate these factors and consider the relative importance of each. In so doing,we must emphasize that in the actual historical process their order wasseen to vary, while not all factors necessarily always occurred.
These factors are:
(1) Population growth and population pressure;
(2) War, the threat of war or conquest, raids;
(3) Conquest;
(4) Progress in production and the promotion of a surplus, tribute,
affluence;
(5) Ideology and legitimation;
(6) The influence of already existing states.
(1) Population Pressure — occasioned by population growth, maystimulate raids to obtain food, or to effect the payment of tribute bysome population group living outside the territory to supplement production shortages within it (Ankole, Aztecs). This involves war, orthe threat of war, which in turn stimulates the emergence of strongerleaders and a better organization, which in its turn makes conquest possible (Incas, Scythia). Alternatively, it may stimulate production,which (as in the case of France or Kuba) may in the end bring aboutaffluence, which makes possible the development of a complex state apparatus — which, in its turn again, will stimulate increased production.Population pressure may bring about the disintegration of theinstitution of the extended family (Norway) which may enable the ruler
to form a central government (cf. Wolf 1966: 70 ff.). Conversely,population growth may stimulate the growth of such families, in whichthe social distance between senior and junior lineages may then become unbridgeable (Kachari, Tahiti). Population growth is an internal development, which has repercussionsnot only for the home community, but also for surroundingpeoples. Our data appear to corroborate Carneiro’s ideas on theinfluence of environmental or social circumscription (1970a). Webster’s hypothesis (1975) that war, or the threat of war, calls into beingstronger leaders and a better organization also finds confirmation in Kottak (1972) on the role of population growth or population pressure
are supported by our findings.How are we to square these results with the findings of Wright and Johnson on the basis of their analysis of Iranian data (1975), however?These show ‘that there was a period of population decline prior to state formation’. (1975: 276). A possible explanation for this may bethat the existing balance between the socio-economic structure of thesociety and the potentials of the territory and/or the cultural setting was upset (cf. Van Bakel 1976: 22 ff.). A new form of social organizationwas needed to create new conditions of life. As long as such a newform of organization remains ineffective the population will show atendency to migrate, or be subject to conflicts, food shortages, etc.These latter factors may cause a decline in population. The socialforces stimulating the development of a new organizational patternmay continue to be active at the same time. Once the new structurecrystallizes, the population receives a renewed stimulus to grow. Thishypothesis seems to find some corroboration in Polgar’s assertion thatsocio-political changes occur before population growth starts (1975:40).
(2) War, or the Threat of War, and Raids — or the need to conductraids and collect tribute — their reasons or causes aside, all have thesame consequences, viz. the emergence of stronger leaders and a better
or stronger organization, be it for purposes of defense or attack(Ankole, Aztecs, Hawaii, Iberia, Incas, Jimma, Kachari, Volta). Suchforms of organization create a permanent need for regular supplies offood and other commodities for the maintenance of the armed forces,the remuneration of warriors, and the establishment of communicationsby means of roads, boats, spies, messengers, etc. The payment of tribute as well as the exertion of pressure on the producers of a surplusare invariably found here. Here again, the condensed histories set outabove corroborate Webster’s hypothesis. State formation is not caused by war, but is greatly promoted by war, or by the threat of war and bysocial stress (cf. Nettleship 1975: 82 ff.; Corning 1975: 375 ff.). Thisfurther endorses Service’s view (1975: 299) that ‘the benefit of being part of the society (which) obviously outweighed the alternative’. The need for protection under these circumstances is obvious; as a result ofthis it was better to be a member of the state than not to be one. We,moreover, believe that Lowie’s idea that the voluntary association wasone of the roots of state formation is confirmed by some of the data ofour case studies.
(3) Influence of Conquest — The origin of many of our states demonstrated
the decided influence of conquest. However, only the Mongol, the Scythian, and possibly the Voltaic states and Zande appeared to owe the formation of their state organization to conquest in the sense of Oppenheimer. Only in Scythia and Mongolia was thedomination of agricultural peoples by pastoral nomads found. Ankolewas not originally based upon the subjection of the group of agriculturalists.
This took place in only a much later period, and even then to arather limited extent. Relations between pastoralists and agriculturalists,living in the same area as they did, remained marginal there tillthe very end. Data furnished by Cohen (in the present volume, but also1974, 1977) show that there are other cases in which the dominationof pastoralists over agriculturalists led to state formation, however.In the other cases in which conquest was mentioned as a factor inthe formation of the early state (Angkor, Aztecs, Hawaii, Incas,Jimma, Maurya), such conquest appeared to be of peoples possessingthe same mode of subsistence. It is not very clear whether conquest leads to the formation of theearly state, or, conversely, the formation of the early state leads toconquest. If conquest is interpreted as the occupation of territory andthe integration of peoples into a given (foreign) political organization,then, in our view, the necessary institutions to make this possible willbe found only at the state level. If, however, conquest is taken to refer to a situation in which two groups, each possessing different (or sometimes the same) modes of subsistence, are merged, with in the endthe development of a political structure that stimulates the dominationof one of the two by the other, then plainly it will be possible forconquest to have already started at a much earlier stage. At any rate,only few of the cases in our sample seem to corroborate the ‘Ueberlagerungs’theories of Gumplowicz and Oppenheimer.
(4) The Production of a Surplus — seems to be a rather complicated matter. Without any doubt it is a necessary condition for the existence of the state. However, the production of a surplus is found already in the chiefdom, and possibly even before that. Nevertheless, the production of a surplus and the development of a more complex form of socio-political organization are closely correlated. This is clearly demonstrated by all of the above ‘case histories’. An expanding government apparatus, the need for some kind of military force (for offensiveas well as defensive purposes), a developing state religion — all these developments demand increased production, and increased production in its turn makes possible the further development of these institutions.This is also a most favorable situation for the stimulation and the promotion of the growth of (already existing) trade and markets (Axum, Aztecs, France, Kuba, Maurya, Yoruba). On the one hand, a growing surplus makes for opulence and conspicuous consumption, with a growing number of people (fromaristocrats to artisans) having only an indirect relation to food production.On the other hand, it causes an increasing number of people tobecome exclusively committed to food production, with the obligationto hand over an ever increasing proportion of their produce. Socialstatuses become more and more rigidly structured. Economic inequalitygradually becomes a permanent feature of the institutions of thesocial organization. The consequence of these developments in theearly state is a clear-cut division of the population into a category ofrulers and ruled, linked together in practice mainly by the taxation system. In the formation of the early state, the production of a surplusconstitutes the pre-eminent factor enabling the development of agovernmental apparatus as well as the institutionalization of social inequality: a dialectical process (cf. Sahlins 1958, 1972: 140).The discussion so far would lead one to conclude that social inequalityalready existed in some form or other before the formation of the state (cf. Maretina, in this volume), and moreover its elaboration israther a consequence than a cause of state formation. Social inequality,indeed, is one of the characteristics of the (early) state, but for itsorigin was probably of only minor importance.Kottak’s hypothetical frame (1972) can easily be brought into agreement with this view. Our results do seem to be rather far removedfrom the theories of Fried (1967), however, who made social inequalitythe cornerstone of his argumentation. It seems to us that Fried, in fact,investigated, in the first place, the origin of social inequality, and onlyin the second place the evolution of political organization.
(5) The Role of an Ideology — or myth of the society in question, orof legitimation — all of them closely related concepts — is mentionedin almost all our ‘case histories’. Everywhere a basic myth of the society concerned (cf. S.C. 21), which legitimized the position of itsleader, chief or sovereign, was found. At the point where the developmenttowards the early state was triggered off, this myth may have been in need of adaptation to account for, or justify, the growing socialinequality, the increasing power of the sovereign, the necessity todefend the home territory, or the exalted duty to raid the territory ofneighboring peoples. This seems to suggest that, generally speaking,the role of the state ideology is one of legitimizing, explaining orjustifying. This sort of activity may lead to the elaboration of existinginstitutions, or the making explicit of existing tendencies. We areinclined to believe, however, that ideological activities have no morethan a secondary influence upon the formation of the early state —though its further development could not have been effected withoutit.
(6) The Influence of Already Existing State Systems — is mentionedin the case of Angkor, Jimma, Kachari and Maurya. In France therewere not only other state systems surrounding the country, but there also existed an extensive knowledge of earlier periods of state formation.This was probably also the case in Iberia, and possibly alsoScythia. The degree of influence of such earlier existing states variesper state. It provided at least some kind of framework for the developments to come in all cases, however. This would have been the position in most of the secondary states.
Summarizing the above, the existence of an ideology, as well as of a surplus, appears to have been a necessary condition for state formation.The elaboration of social inequality was found to be a consequence rather than a cause of such formation. This leaves us with the factors of population growth or pressure, war or the threat of war andraids, tribute, conquest and borrowed ideas as those which seem to have exercised a primary influence on the formation of the state. How these factors operated, influenced one another, and were interlinked with those of the existence of an ideology, a surplus, trade and social inequality in each individual case it is impossible to express in mere generalizations. Whatever the specific order of their appearance may have been, in each case, the result was the same in all of our cases, namely, the emergence of the early state.
With this conclusion we find ourselves in basic agreement with the ideas of Cohen and Khazanov as expressed in the theoretical part of this volume (cf. also Cohen 1977). There are some substantial differences between our and Krader’s views, however. The reason for this, to our mind, is mainly that Krader concentrates more on the characteristics of the mature state than on the specific conditions of the early state.

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