Thursday, April 20, 2006

Outline of political anthropology from Guns, Germs, and Steel

Here is an outline of the political anthropology and state formation chapter in Jared Diamond's popularization Guns, Germs, and Steel. It takes time to find all the places where Jared Diamond takes his ideas on state formation from. Like number three below from Weber:

How do kleptocracies keep from being overthrown?
1. Disarm the populace, arm the elite
2. Redistribute tribute in popular ways
3. Use monopoly of force to keep public order
4. Construct an ideology or religion that justifies kleptocracy

If you have to teach economic history to undergraduates in a Thai University though, Jared Diamond's book is invaluable because there is a translation into Thai so students can read the two texts in parallel. Guns, Germs and Steel also brings the subject alive for students with striking examples like the Maori's invading the Chatham Islands (See Wikipedia:Moriori) inhabited by hunter-gatherer social organization that matched the environmental constraints on the island, putting them fatally behind Maori invaders. It seems to be a rather clear case of environmental determinism, although some would disagree, while others would agree.

Jared Diamond also does a good job simplifying some rather difficult concepts like the growing complexity of societies as they move from a hunter-gatherer to a tribal to a chiefdom to a state organization, but he does fail to adequately point out that this was the theoretical creation of Elman Service.