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= thesis: the lack of imperio-genesis (failure to create large dominant and unifying states), is what stimulates rapid innovation in certain regions.


Peter Turchin:

"For example, China was not the only world region of recurrent “imperiogenesis” (a term I suggested in Turchin 2006). As Mark Altaweel and Andrea Squitieri write in Revolutionizing a World: From Small States to Universalism in the Pre-Islamic Near East(2018), following the collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, “not only did the region not fragment politically, but also states became even larger and, even after their scale reacheda peak in the Achaemenid period or even in that of Alexander’s empire, for millennia empires continued to be large, often spanning large parts of Eurasia.” In South Asia, which was connected in the northwest to the Great Steppe by a belt of open shrubland, imperiogenesis was less continuous, but still impressive. Equally important are those regions of Eurasia that were insulated from the Steppe influences, or in the “protected zone” as Victor Lieberman has called it (incidentally, the magisterial two-volume Strange Parallels is a worthy precursor to Escape, see Lieberman 2003, 2010). In addition to western Europe, the protected zone includes Southeast Asia and southern India, regions that were similar to Europe in their lack of recurrent imperiogenesis on a large scale. Scheidel uses a similar approach in evaluating the empirical adequacy of the idea that interpolity competition breeds institutional innovation and commercial development. Here he focuses on the periods when China was disunited. He quotes Jean Baechler: “Each time China was politically divided, capitalism flourished.” The Warring States period (after the fragmentation of Western Zhou and before the Qin unification) “was marked by seminal creativity, from the rebuilding of state structures to the Hundred Schools of Thought,” which included Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism, and others. In Firearms: A Global History to 1700 Kenneth Chase (2003)similarly noted that the development of gunpowder weapons in China was feverish during the fragmentation periods but ran to a standstill under unified regimes. Going beyond the case studies discussed by Scheidel, I would add that competition within peer-polity systems is often associated with rapid innovation. In addition to early modern Western Europe and the already mentioned Warring States in China, other examples of peer-polity systems include Classical Greece, Central Europe in the early Iron Age, medieval northern Italy, and the medieval–early modern Hanseatic League. In The Creation of Inequality Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus (2012),following their review of four historical and two archaeological examples of the evolution of early states, concluded that in each case such states arose in the landscape of competing chiefdoms. Apparently, “competition among chiefs ... was one of the engines driving the process.”