Evolutionary Pathways to Statehood

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* Article: Evolutionary Pathways to Statehood: Old Theories and New Data. By Peter Turchin, Harvey Whitehouse , Andrey Korotayev et al.

URL = https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/h7tr6

“Our analysis identifies polity population size as the main evolutionary driver of state-formation.”


“Over the past 10,000 years, human societies evolved from “simple”—small egalitarian groups, integrated by face-to-face interactions—to “complex”— societies of millions, characterized by great differentials in wealth, status, and power, extensive division of labor, and elaborate governance structures. At the heart of this transformation was the rise of the state; a politically centralized territorial polity with an internally specialized administrative organization. But what drove the emergence and evolution of specialized governance is broadly contested. Here we use Seshat: Global History Databank to empirically test predictions from a variety of theories. One set of explanations proposes social scale (polity population and territory, population of the largest settlement) as the primary factor favoring the evolution of specialized governance institutions. Other theories focus on alternative mechanisms, such as social stratification or the provisioning of public goods. Still others point to the importance of sophisticated information and money systems as potential preconditions for the evolution of bureaucracy. Our analysis identifies polity population size as the main evolutionary driver of state-formation. Although information systems also play a role, stratification has no detectable impact, once polity population is included in the model; and, while territorial expansion may be a key factor in the emergence of certain first-generation or primary states, the territorial extent of polities actually has a negative effect on the evolution of sophisticated governance, once polity population is included in the model.”