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What motivates the evolution of social organization from bands to to states? [GGS] points out to the need of order as the size of society increases. In a group of 100 people there may be only 10 adult males so the number of possible conflicts is 10*9/5 or 45. In a group of 10,000 people there maybe 1000 adult males and the number of possible conflicts is 1000*999/2 or 249,500. So as the society size increases there is need for referees or peacemakers. This is the role taken by leaders. Some anthropologists have idealized primitive societies as peaceful but both Diamond ([GGS], p. 277) and Pinker ([PNKR]) show that the opposite is true (Figs 2-2, 2-3, 2-4). The number of war deaths per 100,000 people per year averaged for 27 non state societies is close to 600. The same number for Germany and Russia in the 20th century is only about 200, in spite of the carnage of WW-II.

Both Diamond and Pinker paint a negative picture of the motives of "leaders." Pinker (p. 42) describes early states as "protection rackets" where a chief extorted resources from the population in exchange for protection from each other and from hostile neighbors. A chief had the same motivation for preventing crime as a farmer has from preventing his animals from killing each other. Of course there is a downside to such control. Pinker (p. 57) quotes the Roman historian Tacitus who wrote: "Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws."

Diamond titles the relevant [GGS] chapter "From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy" and points out that the difference between a kleptocrat and a wise statesman is one of degree! (p. 276). He asks the question why would people tolerate the transfer of the fruits of their labor to their leaders and lists four reasons (p. 277):
1. Disarm the population and arm the elite. Much easier done in modern times with high-tech weapons.
2. Promise the redistribution of the tribune in popular ways.
3. Promote internal peace, i. e. run a "protection racket."
4. Use ideology or religion to convince people to part with their treasure.

Adaptation of Table 14.1 of [GGS]
  Band Tribe Chiefdom State
Population dozens hundreds thousands over 50,000
Relationship kin kin-based clans class and residence
Government egalitarian egalitarian or big-man centralized
Food production no no -> yes yes->intens. intensive
Religion that justifies kleptocracy no no yes yes->no

The enrichment of the leaders by the taxation of their subjects suggests that it is in the interest of the leaders to have well off subjects but it turns out that this need not be true. The leaders of a country rich in, say, mineral resources may enrich themselves by selling resources to buyers in other countries while their own subjects remain impoverished. This is visible in many "third world" countries today. Even if a country is poor in exportable resources leaders amy enrich themselves by monopolizing economic activity. Their main source of revenue are not taxes, but profits from state controlled enterprises.

Table 14.1 (pp. 268-69) describes their salient features. States oppress but also introduce order. Central control over the economies even in early Mesopotamia (p. 279). Power of states: "official religions and patriotic fervor ... make their troops willing to fight suicidally" (pp. 281-282).

Early States

States in ancient Middle East

Between 14,000 and 5,000 BCE social development doubled in the Fertile Crescent / Hilly Flanks [MORR]. But agriculture had not reached Mesopotamia yet. It took time to develop theirrigation techniques needed for the latter, but when it did, it offered a lot of advantages and people in the Hilly Flanks started emulating the society of the floodplains. When farming entered Mesopotamia the Earth was at its warmest/wettest. But by 3800 BCE the Earth was cooling with less rain for Mesopotamia. To meet the challenge, it required organization into larger groups and that gave rise to states and empires. Rise of state meant surrendering freedoms but this was the price of success for hard times [MORR, p. 183].

Sumerians formed cities and states during the 4000-2000 BCE. The Third Dynasty of Ur fell around 2004 BC, followed by a transitional period of Amorite states before the rise of Babylonia in the 18th century BC []

In roughly the same period and for the same reasons states developed in Egypt. While there were over 30 Sumerians city-states, Egypt was unified [MORR, p. 186]. Sumerian kings claimed to be like gods while the Pharaohs claimed to be gods. A unified kingdom was founded 3150 BC by King Menes, leading to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia []. First unified Sumerian empire under Sargon in 2334 BC [MORR, p. 189]. By 2300 BC, Sumerian and Egyptian empires had eclipsed the original core of the Hilly Flanks [ibid].

Other powers: Assyrian Empire/state (2500 BC to 605 BC) []. Babylonian Empire/state (1900 BC to 620 BC). Hamurabi (1792- 1750 BC) known for his legal code []. Cyrus the Great (600-530 BC) founded the Persian empire that dominated the Middle east for the next 300 years until Alexander's conquests. Athenian republic flourished in the 5th century BC.

The Roman empire is dated from 27 BC (start of the reign of Octavius Augustus) but a strong Roman state had existed for several centuries before that. They conquered Greece in 146 BC.

Key point: Centrally organized states thrived in the Middle East as far back as 3000 BC.

States in ancient China

China was inhabited by Homo erectus more than a million years ago (similar to Europe).

Xia dynasty (c. 2100 – c. 1600 BC)
Shang Dynasty (c. 1700–1046 BC) in the Yellow River Valley.
Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC).The Zhou initially moved their capital west to an area near modern Xi'an, on the Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River, but they would preside over a series of expansions into the Yangtze River valley. This would be the first of many population migrations from north to south in Chinese history.

Spring and Autumn Period (722–476 BC). In the 8th century BC, power became decentralized during the Spring and Autumn period, named after the influential Spring and Autumn Annals. In this period, local military leaders used by the Zhou began to assert their power and vie for hegemony. The situation was aggravated by the invasion of other peoples from the northwest, such as the Qin, forcing the Zhou to move their capital east to Luoyang. This marks the second major phase of the Zhou dynasty: the Eastern Zhou. The Spring and Autumn Period is marked by a falling apart of the central Zhou power. In each of the hundreds of states that eventually arose, local strongmen held most of the political power and continued their subservience to the Zhou kings in name only. Some local leaders even started using royal titles for themselves. China now consisted of hundreds of states, some of them only as large as a village with a fort. -- The Hundred Schools of Thought of Chinese philosophy blossomed during this period, and such influential intellectual movements as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism and Mohism were founded, partly in response to the changing political world.

Warring States Period (476–221 BC). After further political consolidation, seven prominent states remained by the end of 5th century BC, and the years in which these few states battled each other are known as the Warring States period. Though there remained a nominal Zhou king until 256 BC, he was largely a figurehead and held little real power.

Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). Unified Empire. The Qin Emperor presided over the brutal silencing of political opposition, including the event known as the burning of books and burying of scholars. Following the opening of the Silk Road in the 2nd century BC, the Chinese thought of the Roman Empire as a civilized counterpart to the Chinese Empire. The Romans occupied one extreme position on the trade route, with the Chinese located on the other. They called the Roman Empire Da-qin. (Greater Qin).


Ancient States in India []

A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture developed in the Mature Harappan period, from 2600 to 1900 BCE. This civilization collapsed at the start of the second millennium BCE and was later followed by the Iron Age Vedic Civilization that encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent from the north-west. Vedic people believed in the transmigration of the soul, and the peepul tree and cow were sanctified by the time of the Atharva Veda. Many of the concepts of Indian philosophy espoused later like Dharma, Karma etc. trace their root to the Vedas.

The Vedic Period saw established republics such as Vaishali, which existed as early as the 6th century BCE and persisted in some areas until the 4th century CE. At the time of the Buddha, Vaisali, which he visited on many occasions, was a very large city, rich and prosperous, crowded with people and with abundant food.

The later part of the Vedic Period corresponds with an increasing movement away from the previous tribal system towards the establishment of kingdoms, called mahajanapadas (600-300 BCE).

The Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, was a geographically extensive and powerful political and military empire in ancient India. The empire was established by Chandragupta Maurya in Magadha what is now Bihar. The empire flourished under the reign of Ashoka the Great (ruled 268 BCE - 232 BCE). Ashoka's reign propagated Buddhism and he established many Buddhist monuments. Indeed, Ashoka put a strain on the economy and the government by his strong support of Buddhism. towards the end of his reign he "bled the state coffers white with his generous gifts to promote the promulgation of Buddha's teaching."

In short, states in India developed only slightly later than the Middle East or China.

Ancient States in sub-Saharan Africa

There are records of only two states in sub-Saharan Africa before the current era (before 0 BCE). The D'mt kingdom was based around Eritrea and existed during the 10th to 5th centuries BCE []. The Nok civilization was based around Nigeria from the 10th century BCE to the 4th century CE. []. Because agriculture started in sub-Saharan Africa more than 3000 years later than in the Fertile Crescent we should not be surprised that states in sub-Saharan Africa were formed about 3000 years later than in the Fertile Crescent.

Wikipedia [] provides a list of pre-colonial African states. Notable amongst them are the Ethiopian Empire (1137–1974), the Ghana Empire (750-1078), the Kingdom of Nri (1043–1911) in West African, etc.

States in pre-Columbian America

An aqueduct in Peru (Cumbe Mayo) is dated to around 1500 BCE suggesting the rise of organized states 2000 years after the start of agriculture. The kingdom of Cuzco (in the same region) is dated 1197 CE - 1438 CE and the Inca Empire 1438 CE - 1533 CE. This is about 5000 years from the start of agriculture and, not surprisingly, these states resemble the Middle Easter states of 3000 BCE.

In Mesoamerica (southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras) the Olmec civilization flurished between 1500 BCE and 400 BCE. The Maya civilization from 2600 BCE to 1000 CE. (Their calendar starts at 3144 BCE). The Aztec empire is much later, 1325 CE - 1521 CE.

Time Lag

The Europeans arrived in sub-Saharan Africa and America about 10,000 after they had started food production to meet socities that they had started food production about 5,000 years ago, So they had a 5,000 year head start in organization and technology.

Different Kinds of States

There are huge differences between a state of 100,000 people and one of one hundred million (100,000,000) people. Gibbon [EG, Chapter 5, vol. 1, pp. 101-102] presents an argument about the size of the state needed for an oppressive regime. He starts by citing studies that show that it is hard to maintain a standing armed force that is more than 1% of the population of a state. He then points out that a single person cannot terrorize 100 others and even 100 armed men cannot terrorize 10,000 people. But 10,000 soldiers can terrorize a million people. That was roughly the size of the Praetorian Guard in Rome that took effective control of the state after the death of Commodus. If we accept Gibbon's argument we have to distinguish between small states of a few hundred thousand people and states of a million or more people.

One of the largest ancient states the Achaemenid Persian Empire is estimated to have had around 50 million people while the Roman Empire at its largest extent had over 70 million people. These estimates are debatable but even if we assume that the population was only a quarter of these estimates, it was still large enough to enable oppressive regimes and they did.

Most modern states contain well in excess of a million people; therefore they can all be oppressive. All have a standing armed force (army/police) and the difference is how that force is used.

Breakup of Big States in Europe

By the start of the fifth century CE the Roman Empire was a single monolithic state. But that state did not last long. Its western part was taken over by Germanic tribes that were in essence chiefdoms. Even these chiefdoms were integrated in bigger states such as the "Holy Roman Empire" the individual chiefs (dukes, counts, barons, etc) kept a fair amount of independence. We should add to them such independent states such as the Italian city of Venice that became autonomous around 700 and rose be a poweful state by the time of the Crusades. Another Italian city, Genoa was an autonomous state from 1005 to 1797. According to [PNKR] (p. 74) there were about 5000 political units in Europe in the fifteenth century.

In the meantime the original Roman Empire had been confined in the East and after the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE, it became confined to Asia Minor and the Balkans. The various small states in the West were following their own line of development.