1st Edition

Early State Economics

Edited By Henri Claessen Copyright 1991
    348 Pages
    by Routledge

    336 Pages
    by Routledge

    The central theme of this volume is the political economy of early state societies: the ways in which the income of the central government of such systems was collected and spent. The work contains descriptive as well as narrative and commemorative essays. Contributions present data on early states as diverse as the Interlacustrine states of East Africa, the Sudanic states of West Africa, prehistoric Cahokia in the Mississippi Valley, Aztec Mexico, the Classical Maya, eighteenth-century Nepal, and Polynesian, Tahitian, and Mayan case studies. At the theoretical end of the spectrum, the book offers a general discussion of the concept of political economy; modes of production in antiquity, and the editors themselves offer an overview of early state organizational forms. With the data of the contributions to this volume, such theoretical viewpoints are evaluated. The conclusion is that inherited approaches fall far short of explaining the political economies of early states. The editors of this volume maintain that much thinking on this issue of the early state is off-base because it is confined to the study of redistribution. They hold that a prestige goods system is probably as important, while in some cases, the key factor to look at is tribute or taxation. Likewise, the system of gift giving, often viewed as ancillary, should be considered central to the performance of the ancient states. In short, political economy is rooted in the stages of social growth. Nearly all contributors agree that simple evolutionary generalizations can no longer be applied to specific cases without considerable modification, and in this undertaking formalist and Marxist canons alike need to be invoked for a deeper understanding of the actual operations of the state in earlier societies.

    Introduction 1. The ABCs of Political Economy 2. The Segmentary State: From the Imaginary to the Material Means of Production 3. The Political Economy of the Interlacustrine States in East Africa 4. Paradise Regained: Myth and Reality in the Political Economy of the Early State 5. Wolof Economy and Political Organization: The West African Coast in the Mid-Fifteenth Century 6. Early State Economics: Cahokia, Capital of the Ramey State 7. Tribute and Commerce in Imperial Cities: The Case of Xaltocan, Mexico 8. Gift and Tribute: Relations of Dependency in Aztec Mexico 9. Divide and Pool: Early State Economics and the Classic Maya 10. State and Community: Changing Relations of Production after the Unification of Nepal 11. The Political Economy of an Early State: Hawaii and Samoa Compared 12. State and Economy in Polynesia


    Henri J.M. Claessen, Pieter van de Velde