Essay on Theories on the Origin of the State

Essay on Theories on the Origin of the State

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The State is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history, emerging somewhere between 6000-3500 B.C. (Ember, Ember, Peregrine, 2005.) Thus a critical issue for anthropology must be: what is the state and why and how did it appear? The most widely accepted definition of the state is an organization which attempts to maintain a monopoly on the use of force and violence in a given territorial area (Rothbard, 2009, p. 11). These powers include the ability to collect taxes, draft men for work or war, and direct and enforce laws (Carneiro, 1970). Another way of looking at the state is by distinguishing the way it acquires wealth. According to Franz Oppenheimer, there are two means for acquiring wealth – the political means and the economic means. The state uses the political means which is the “unrequited appropriation of the labor of others”. The economic means is the exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, for the satisfaction of needs (Oppenheimer, 1922, p. 30). States are not to be confused with chiefdoms – which is “a society with centralized but not internally specialized authority” (Spencer, 2010, p. 1). The purpose of this paper is to describe the three frequently discussed theories on the origin of the state: hydraulic theory (irrigation), circumscription, and territory expansion model (local and long-distance trade). I will discuss, critique, and implement all three theories in my own view of the state.
Hydraulic Theory
Karl August Wittfogel became one of the leading proponents of the hydraulic theory in the 1950s. The theory states that the “initial statehood (primary states) and development of power is directly related to the need for the society of the construction and management of large...

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...A Theory of the Origin of the State: Traditional Theories of State Origins Are Considered and Rejected in Favor of a New Ecological Hypothesis." Science 169.3947 (1970): 733-38. Print.
Ember, Carol R., Melvin Ember, and Peter N. Peregrine. "Ch. 13: Origins of Cities and States." Anthropology. 13th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005. 215+. Print.
Nikolay, Kradin N. "State Origins in Anthropological Thought." Social Evolution & History 1st ser. 8 (2009): 25-43. Print.
Oppenheimer, Franz. The State: Its History and Development Viewed Sociologically. New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922. Print.
Rothbard, Murray N. Anatomy of the State. Auburn: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009. Print.
Spencer, C. S. "Inaugural Article: Territorial Expansion and Primary State Formation." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.16 (2010): 7119-126. Print.

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