The Political Economy of Violence and Distribution in Ancient Times: A Note on the Relationship between Specific Investments and the Evolution of Early Human Societies
this paper combines the economic concept of specific investment with anthropological evidence on three early human societies –the disbanding groups of pre-anatomically modern humans, the huntergatherers’ egalitarian communities, and the primitive states or chiefdoms. This combination is aimed to provide a single framework for thinking of the institutional evolution of their political organizations and, therefore, of the associated mode of regulation of violence and distribution. Specifically, I examine a circular causation mechanism by which exogenous ‘technological’ conditions determine the basic type of economic activity together with the associated degree of investments’ specificity. The resulting safeguards are expressed in political terms and, in turn, the way these political organizations regulate the level of violence in the society implements a distribution of goods and power which has the effect of reinforcing the initial kick in terms of the economic structure. Thus, at the cost of some loss in formal sophistication, the paper stresses the two-way link between the economical, the political and the distributional sphere, and discusses grouplevel mechanisms to restrain behaviour that –exogenous to every individual in the group but endogenous to groups’ behaviour- are not caught by conventional modelling about the origins of order.
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