Saturday, November 6, 2010

State Formation (Intro and Egypt)

Broadly speaking there appear to be three major theories regarding the rise of the state... The three theories are

- Conquest theory (Robert Carniero)

- Ideology theory (Henri Claessen)

- Social Contract theory (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau)

Social Contract theory is more of a normative justification for a state and social contract theories don’t always present a descriptive theory of state formation. Locke actually described the state of nature and made the inference that people very likely gave up a few liberties for the protection of a state. But more important to these arguments is that theoretically they would do so, therefore the state is legitimate. And since collapsed states do tend to lead to chaos, it is not unreasonable to presume that the states are requisite for law and order, and that a rational man, if the choice were presented to him, would choose to submit to a state. A social contract theory is not necessarily descriptive of how the state actually came to be.

Now I would put myself squarely in the ideology camp, but force obviously plays a role. Both are necessary. I wouldn’t say a state maintained by force alone is impossible, and one can debate whether a man holding up a bank is a state or not, but for a state to be profitable in the long run, it needs to appear legitimate, and states which lose their appearance of legitimacy quickly fall.

There is a great deal of interpretation in history, and these interpretations rest on a theory of political economy. Since almost all people believe in the necessity of the state for law, defense and to solve commons and free-rider problems, this influences the interpretation of history. For example Harappa had law, courts, large collective irrigation structures, roads and a relatively small military. If you believe these things require a state, then you will interpret Harappa as having had a state, even though there is very little direct evidence of one.

State Formation (Introduction and Egypt)

1 comment:

  1. I've always wrestled with this question.

    Hobbes too, now that I think of it, was a little to forceful on his belief of the contractual theory.

    If there's a contract between citizens and state, someone should be taking the other to Judge Joe Brown for breach of contract.


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