Origins of Government


Interpersonal relationships and the maintenance of political cohesion


Politicking: …to promote oneself or one’s policies (ideas)

In every society people have conflicting interests


The very first way to help control each other’s behavior is the “g” word.


How do people get along without laws/government in small societies?

1.  small size  Dunbar number.

2.  importance of kinship

3.  absence of technology


The centrality of domestic groups and kinship relations means reciprocity can be the chief mode of exchange and the collective interests of the domestic unit can be recognized by all its members


Bands intermarry

Bands have equal access to resources food, rivers, water

Very little private property

Hard to transport

Hard to hide a thief


Taking care of problems mobilizing public opinion


Song contest of the central and eastern Innuit


Shaman – a part time magico-religious practitioner of curing, sleight of hand, etc.

Shamans play important role of mobilizing public opinion


Most cultures reject the idea misfortune just happens “naturally” 


Black magic murders in Indonesia, new diseases killing of albinos in East Africa for body parts


Shamans use techniques to “solve” problems use of drugs, tobacco smoke, drumming, smoking cure


Simplest type of leadership 

Headman – may lead who will follow, usually unable to impose sanctions to enforce his decisions

His word is only good as long as others wish to follow

Often functions as intensifiers of production and as redistributors

Can be more than 1 in a village

Most successful can become bigman



Similar to headman but usually only one per village

Bigman can get people to work together and fight together

Bigman can redistribute things among followers in village


Chiefs and chiefdoms

Headmen are leaders of autonomous villages or bands

Chiefs are the leaders of more or less permanently allied groups of bands and villages called chiefdoms


Headmen must achieve and constantly validate their status

Chiefs often inherit their offices and hold them if they temporarily can’t provide


Chiefdoms to State

1.  population pressure

2.  intensive agriculture – produce surplus and store it for long periods

3.  circumscription – to encircle, draw a line around


Origins of the State

The state is a form of a politically centralized society whose governing elites have the power to compel subordinates to pay taxes, render services and obey the law


The Incas as an early powerful state (Andean civilization started in early 13th century)


The power of thought control

1.  crime and punishment

2.  religion, priests

3.  media

4.  education