||Warfare and the origin of the state||5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state|
The History of the Culture of War
". . there is little question that, in one way or another, war played a decisive role in the rise of the state. Historical or archeological evidence of war is found in the early stages of state formation in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Japan, Greece, Rome, northern Europe, central Africa, Polynesia, Middle America, Peru, and Colombia, to name only the most prominent examples."
Carneiro's analysis of the early state corresponds to the descriptions that we have seen above, involving military leadership and a class-structured society based on slaves that were taken prisoner through warfare:
"While the aggregation of villages into chiefdoms, and of chiefdoms into kingdoms, was occurring by external acquisition, the structure of these increasingly larger political units was being elaborated by internal evolution. These inner changes were, of course, closely related to outer events. The expansion of successful states brought within their borders conquered peoples and territory which had to be administered. And it was the individuals who had distinguished themselves in war who were generally appointed to political office and assigned the task of carrying out this administration. Besides maintaining law and order and collecting taxes, the functions of this burgeoning class of administrators included mobilizing labor for building irrigation works, roads, fortresses, palaces, and temples. Thus, their functions helped to weld an assorted collection of petty states into a single integrated and centralized political unit.
The Carneiro thesis on war and the state was not new, although he added an aspect concerning the importance of geographical barriers so those defeated in battle could not escape and were therefore subjugated. For example, prior to reviewing Carneiro's theory, Otterbein (1973) mentions many earlier approaches that also considered warfare as crucial to the origin of the state:
"Spencer (1896), an evolutionist, argues that leadership and subordination developed first in the military and were then transferred to the political system. Thus an increase in the efficiency of the military resulted in an increase in political centralization. The "conquest theory of the state" is developed by Gumplowicz (1899: 119): "states have never arisen except through the subjection of one stock by another, or by several others in alliance . . No state has arisen without original ethnical heterogeneity . . " Conquest theory is further developed by Oppenheimer (1914: 55-81) . . "
The Carneiro analysis is not universally accepted, and there are other theories that do not give such a central place to warfare. For example, in his books The Early State (1978) and Development and Decline: The Evolution of Sociopolitical Organization (1985), H. J. M. Claessen downplays the importance of warfare, although as Carneiro (1987) points out in his review, other authors in the latter book acknowledge it:
"Since Claessen minimizes, if he does not actually deny, the effect of war and population pressure on the rise of the state, it is not surprising that he should reject the circumscription theory of state formation, which relies heavily on both (p. 257). But if Claessen gives the circumscription theory short shrift, some contributors to the volume appear more sympathetic. Bargatsky, for instance, writes that "In Hawaii, Tahiti, and Tonga a development along the lines indicated by Carneiro (1970) was well under way in precontact times" (p. 309). Even stronger support comes from Ronald Cohen, who says, "In effect, warfare . . . plus circumscription, produces statehood. States not only make war, but war makes states" (p. 279; see also p. 278)."
Some more recent studies such as that of the formation of the Zulu state in the 19th Century, tend to confirm the Carneiro analysis. Mathieu Deflem (1999), in his article, Warfare, Political Leadership, and State Formation: The case of the Zulu Kingdom, 1808-1879, says that "Carneiro's theory explains the origin and territorial expansion of the Zulu Empire." Deflem also gives credit to the theory of Elwood Service concerning the transition from chiefdoms to the bona fide state, and in this case the very definition of the state is related to warfare and its monopoly on the use of force.:
"The crucial characteristic of political states is that central authority becomes fully established and institutionalized in formally regulated offices. State-controlled laws are formal, and judicial offices are assigned to act as third parties. Unlike chiefdoms, the political structure of states is fully differentiated, visible and territorially bounded. States have a monopoly over the threat or use of physical force, both internally, through a formalized judicial and punitive system of repressive laws, and externally, by means of an organized and permanent army."
The very definition of the state for sociologists like Max Weber depends on warfare and the monopoly of force. Weber (1921) defined the state as the organization that has a "monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." As mentioned above, the Harappan civilization has been considered "stateless" precisely because it did not have warfare. In describing that civilization Thompson defines the state as "an organization exercising 'paramount control' over society (Fried 1967, 237), that is, monopolizing all large-scale use of force - and often acquiring routine acceptance of its 'legitimacy' (as emphasized by Weber)."
Why was the Harappan civilization unusual in not developing warfare or a state organization. Thompson speculates that the agricultural and commercial basis for the development of its cities was so dispersed that warfare would not have been "profitable":
It can be argued that the Harappan example supports the Carneiro thesis that warfare plays a decisive role of warfare in the origin of the state; because the Harappan people did not engage very much in war, they never developed a state, and certainly not an empire in the classic sense. At the same time, however, it also provides an example in addition that of Crete, of an ancient civilization that was not engaged in extensive warfare. As so often in scientific analysis, it is the exception that proves the rule.
World Peace through the Town Hall