Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Model of State Formation and Expansion

Fernquest, Jon (2005) "Min-gyi-nyo, the Shan invasions of Ava (1524-27), and the beginnings of expansionary warfare in Toungoo Burma: 1486-1539," SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 2, Autumn 2005, Link.

Here my summary of the model of state formation and expansion that comes from Di Cosmo (1999). I call it the "Di Cosmo-Andreski" model of state formation, but I guess Di Cosmo has intellectual property rights over his name so I better name it the "war-and-society-endogenized" model.

Although Andreski's prose is tortuous to read and his fixed models that he tries to squeeze different societies into are rigid and overly simplistic, the feedback diagram at the back of his book seems to capture a lot of timeless truths about war and society (for a concise description of Andreski's models see Keegan's History of Warfare). I have a full photocopy of this fold-out diagram in Chiang Rai that I will post to this blog in the future, after my own rediagramming of course)

"Four stages in state formation have been proposed by Di Cosmo (1999, 26):

1. crisis
2. militarization
3. centralization
4. acquisition of external resources

In economic terms, an exogenous shock throws a state out of a stable political equilibrium and sets in motion endogenous mechanisms of adjustment (2,3, and 4) that will eventually return it to equilibrium.

First, a crisis is the precipitating cause behind state formation. A crisis is defined as "a general, sometimes abrupt, worsening of economic, political, and social conditions, carrying with it a sense of impending change." Bad climate, bad harvests, droughts, epidemics, overgrazing, and tensions between ethnic groups are all cited as possible precipitating causes behind a crisis that leads to war (Di Cosmo, 1999, 10). Many of these crises can be subsumed under population growth’s positive effect on warfare discussed above. Chinese sources provide ample evidence of tensions between ethnic groups along the Shan-Chinese frontier, whereas the more royal eulogizing style of the Burmese chronicle tends to leave such precipitating causes out of the narrative. One possible crisis in the Shan realm along the Shan-Chinese frontier consisted of population pressure on limited land bounded to the east by the Chinese and the south by Ava. In Toungoo, a possible crisis was the Shans taking Prome two years prior to Tabinshweihti’s first expedition against Ramanya. Toungoo would have been the next likely candidate in the Shan southern expansion. The only alternative was to attack Ramanya in the south and build up manpower from there for an assault against the north.

Second, the initial crisis leads to militarization and the mobilization of the society for war. The military participation rate of the society increases and a high percentage of the adult males are conscripted into military service. Imperial bodyguard units are also formed to strengthen the personal power of the ruler and create greater cohesion in the upper ranks of the military. The general population that conscripts are drawn from undergoes subordination to put it on a war footing. Censuses and tattooing are instituted to stem the flow of population out of social groups that bear a greater burden during warfare such as royal servicemen into those that are exempted like religious institutions (Lieberman, 1984, 40-41, 152-181; Aung-Thwin, 1985; Charney, 214-216). In Burmese society conscripts did not draw a salary and were expected to provide many of the perquisites of war that states in other societies and times (e.g. Roman) provided soldiers with such as food supplies and personal weapons (sword, knife, lance, spear, shield, protective gear, bow and arrow, crossbow, boats, Charney, 2004, 23-41, 105). Rigid disciplinary rules that involved the families of soldiers were used to subordinate the population for war: "to ensure the loyalty of conscripts, their families were treated as hostages for their good behavior" (Charney, 219).

Third, centralization occurs next when small states begin to form alliances and work together. Di Cosmo uses the term "ideology in reserve" to "suggest the latent possibility of the state, made possible by the willing consent of tribal components to alienate part of their power for the greater good of the resolution of the crisis" (Di Cosmo, 1999, 14). Centralization occurs when: During a crisis several leaders would emerge and strive to create a new order, thereby restoring peace; they were usually junior members of the tribal aristocracy vying for power. The competition revolved around the ability of the leader and his close military associates to defend the interests of the tribe. If successful, the leader would attract the support of several other tribes (Di Cosmo, 1999, 13)…

Fourth, the final stage is the actual acquisition of external resources to ensure the future existence of the emergent state. The focus is on more efficient resource extraction. As Di Cosmo describes it, it is “the search for more efficient and more sophisticated ways to supply the new politically dominant class with sufficient means for its continued existence” and “the gradual – but uneven – expansion of ways to achieve better control and management of revenues." States run through an evolutionary sequence of fiscal stages in their finance that runs: raiding, tribute, taxation. As Di Cosmo describes the evolution, fiscal policies become "less rapacious and erratic." From raiding parties "swollen to the size of fully-fledged armies" states pass to more permanent and lasting control by demanding tribute from conquered states, but tribute can be difficult to collect from remote vassals and must ultimately be backed up with the threat of punitive expeditions, so tribute can be volatile and when it disappears can provoke a crisis (Di Cosmo, 1999, 17-18, 27). To ensure fiscal revenues, governors with garrisons, not tributary lords, are appointed from the center to manage more reliable regular taxation of agriculture and trade on the periphery."


Di Cosmo, Nicola (1999) "State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History," Journal of World History 10:1 (Spring 1999): 1-40., pp. 10-26), this weblog's entry]