Published in Turchin P., Grinin L. E., de Munck, V. C. and Korotayev, A. V. (eds.), History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex




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Published in Turchin P., Grinin L. E. , de Munck, V. C. and Korotayev, A. V. (eds.), History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies (pp. 63–114). Moscow: KomKniga.

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Political Development of the World System:

A Formal Quantitative Analysis1


Leonid Grinin and Andrey Korotayev


As the main evolving political unit of the World System is the state, it becomes necessary to begin our article with a discussion of the relevant set of definitions regarding the evolutionary sequence of state types.2 Some scholars are "suspi­cious" to the very idea of identifying stages within any processes; in fact, it is not unusual for them to directly contrast the notion of "process" with "stages" as mutually exclusive (see, e.g., Shanks and Tilley 1987; see also Marcus and Feinman 1998: 3; Штомпка 1996: 238). However, we agree with Carneiro (2000b) that the opposition of process to stages is a false dichotomy, as stages are nothing else but continuous episodes of a continuous process, whereas the notion of process can be used for the development of the notion of stages (Goudsblom 1996; see also Гринин 2006в).

When the development of statehood in the framework of the overall histori­cal process is analyzed, two main stages are usually identified: the ones of the early state and those of the mature state (see, for example, Claessen and Skal­ník 1978a; Claessen and van de Velde 1987, 1991; Skalník 1996; Shifferd 1987; Tymosski 1987; Кочакова 1995). However, when we try to apply this scheme to the political development of the World System, it becomes evident that in no way is this scheme complete.

Firstly, if, according to the prevalent views, the first mature states appeared in ancient times (Egypt), or in the late 1st millennium BCE (China)3, how could we classify the European states of the 18th and 19th centuries, let alone the con­temporary states? Would they be also mature, or supermature?

Secondly, it is evident that the European 19th century states also differed in the most profound way from the complex politically centralized monarchies of the Antiquity and Middle Ages (which themselves are qualitatively more com­plex than the early state) according to a number of other characteristics (in par­ticular, with respect to the administration level and culture, the level of devel­opment of the law, and the relationships between the state and society). This ac­counts for the following statement by Max Weber: "In fact, the State itself, in the sense of a political association with a rational, written constitution, ration­ally ordained law, and an administration bound to rational rules or laws, ad­ministered by trained officials, is known, in this combination of characteristics, only in the Occident, despite all other approaches to it" (Weber 1958: 15–16)4.

Thirdly, it would be rather strange to assume that the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century did not lead to the radical transformation of the state organization, whereas the scheme early state – mature state does not reflect this transformation at all.

Thus, it is rather clear that Claessen and Skalník (1978b: 5) had restricted their scheme of the statehood development to the pre-capitalist non-industrial states only. Consequently, the first author of this article has suggested to sig­nificantly augment and amend the theory of the early – mature state (see Гри­нин 2006а, 2006б, 2006г, 2006е), and has come to the conclusion about the necessity to "insert" between the early and mature state a stage of the devel­oped statehood. Hence, we are dealing not with the two main stages of statehood development (the early states and the mature states), but with following three stages:

a) early states that are not sufficiently centralized yet and that politically organize societies with underdeveloped social, class (and, frequently, adminis­trative-political) structures;

б) developed states, these are the formed centralized states of Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern period, and politically organize societies with distinct estate-class stratification;

в) the mature states of the capitalist epoch that organize politically such societies, in which estates have disappeared, the bourgeois and working classes have formed, nations have developed, and representative democracy has prolif­erated.5 To be more correct we should speak about Industrial, rather than capital­ist period, as this group includes industrial socialist states. This has made it necessary to develop anew the statehood evolution theory and to suggest new formulations of the main characteristics of each of the stages of this evolution­ary process (see Гринин 2006а, 2006б, 2006г, 2006е).

For each stage we can identify three phases: the primitive, typical, and tran­sitional states of each respective type6. In the framework of this article the basic characteristics of statehood stages are identified on the basis of the middle phase of each stage (thus, respectively for typical early, typical developed, and typical mature states). The point is that at the first phase (the one of the primi­tive state of the respective type) the polity retains many elements of the previ­ous state type, whereas in the third phase (the transitional phase) many of its institutions become "overripe" and the first characteristics of a higher stage of the statehood development appear.


Main differences between the early, developed,

and mature states


Early states differ greatly among themselves according to many characteristics, in particular with respect to the degree of their centralization, as well as the level of development of their administrative, taxation, and judicial systems. However, if we look for what differentiates them from the developed and ma­ture states, we will find that the early state is always an incomplete state (both organizationally and socially). This "incompleteness" is also relevant with respect to relationships between the state and the society. There were nu­merous versions of the early states, but within each of them some important elements of statehood were either absent, or significantly underdeveloped. In most cases this incompleteness was expressed in the most direct way, as most of the early states simply did not have some significant statehood attributes, or did not develop them to a sufficient degree. First of all, this is relevant with re­spect to such statehood attributes as professional administration, control and repression apparatus, taxation, territorial division, as well as a sufficiently high degree of centralization and written law. However, in some early states (such as, for example, the state of the Incas or the Early Kingdom in Egypt) a contrary disproportion is observed. Though the administrative apparatus and bureaucracy were rather powerful there, they were imposed upon societies that were underdeveloped socially and/or ethnically. Hence, in such cases it was the society that looked underdeveloped in comparison with the state.

The developed state is a state that has been formed and completed, and centralized, that has all the above mentioned attributes of statehood (among them the professional apparatus of administration and control, regular taxation and artificial territorial division). Thus, the statehood attributes that could be absent within the political system of the early state are necessarily present within the one of the developed state7. The developed state was a result of a long historical development and selection, as a result of which those states turn out to be more successful whose institutes are organically linked with the social structures of respective societies that are both grounded on the respective social order and support it. For example, in Russia such states with effective centrali­zation developed on the basis of the formation of the estate society, estate mon­archy, the alliance between the monarchs and nobility (and sometimes with cities). The developed state influences social processes in a much more pur­poseful and active way. It is not only tightly connected with the peculiarities of social and corporate structure of the society, but also constructs them in politi­cal and judicial institutes. In this respect it can be regarded as an estate-corpo­rate state. Naturally, different states reached the respective stage of their devel­opment in different times (see Table 1 for more detail).

The mature state is a result of capitalist development and the industrial revolution; hence, it has a qualitatively different production basis. Other differ­ences between the mature state and its predecessors are also very significant. It is bases on a formed or forming nation with all its peculiarities. Such a state is qualitatively more developed in organizational and legal respects, it always has a professional bureaucracy with its definite characteristics (see, e.g., Weber 1947: 333–334), and a clear mechanism of power transmission and rotation. It is also natural that the mature state has qualitatively more developed and spe­cialized institutions of administration and control. The mature state was also gradually transformed from an estate-class state into a purely class one; and in its final stages it evolves into a social state. Thus, in the Antiquity and Middle Ages there were no mature states, but only early and developed ones. The first mature states could only appear in the late 17th and 18th centuries.

The above mentioned evolutionary types of states differ among themselves by a number of other characteristics. In particular, it appears necessary to pay attention to these differences with respect to the interaction between centralized power, the elite, and the commoners ("population"). This point that is important by itself acquires an especial theoretical significance, because the interaction model of state – elite – commoners is used rather productively in the demo­graphic-structural theory that analyzes the dynamics of internal processes in preindustrial and early industrial societies, as well as the interaction between the elements of this structure in conditions of population growth and the re­source deficits produced by this growth (see, e.g., Goldstone 1991; Turchin 2003, 2005a; Нефедов 2005; Korotayev and Khaltourina 2006).

In the present article, the model of interaction for the triangle CENTER – ELITE – COMMONERS (PEOPLE) within each evolutionary type of state can be only presented as short descriptions of the most typical situations (see Гри­нин 2006а for more detail)8. These schemes look as follows.9

In the early state we frequently observe a situation where the elites, basing themselves on their resources (lands, clients, military force) or their special po­sition (as recognized representatives of certain lineages or dynasties, heads of tribal formations and so on), control, in some way or another, a very large part of the territory of a respective country, or even most of it. The commoners find themselves under the jurisdiction and effective control of the elites and they are required to perform state duties. A considerable part of the commoner popula­tion (especially serfs, slaves and so on) find themselves altogether out of the state's jurisdiction. Within such situations the center turns out to be actually an aggregate of the forces of the elites (both regional elites and the ones repre­sented in the capital). Frequently the center cannot organize the main functions of the state without the elites, because the state does not possess yet the neces­sary apparatus, or this apparatus is rather weak. Thus, the interrelations be­tween the commoner population and the center are mediated by the elites to a very considerable degree. As a result, the elites take control of the territo­rial-functional institutions, in particular the fixation of duties, tax collection, ju­diciary, organization of military forces and defense, land distribution (this is frequently combined with the elites' immunity and autonomy as a sort of pay­ment for the performance of such functions). We can mention as examples of such early states the feudal states of Europe, such as the Frankish state in the 8th – 10th centuries, England (both before the Norman conquest and some time after it), German states in the 10th – 15th centuries, Kievan Russia and Muscovy up to the age of Ivan III. This is typical for many ancient and medieval states outside Europe (for example, for Mesopotamia after Hammurabi, for the Hittite Kingdom, for Chou China, considerable parts of the Japanese history, and so on).10

In the developed state the elites are significantly more integrated in the state system, thus they are much more connected to the center. In comparison with the early state, the developed state possesses a considerably larger and much more sophisticated administration apparatus. However, it is only repre­sented systematically in the center, whereas at the periphery it is rather frag­mentary. That is why here the elites still act as a component of the regional state apparatus, especially with respect to the military functions, but also fre­quently with regards to general administration, taxation, judiciary, religious subsystem and so on (see, e.g., note 41). In particular, large landowners fre­quently performed taxation, judiciary and administrative functions; the taxes were collected by tax-farmers and the police functions would be performed by representatives of special social groups (for example, in the Ottoman provinces they were performed by the Janissaries [see, e.g., Kimche 1968: 455]).

This point does not contradict the idea that the developed state is more or­ganically connected with the society than the early one does. Within the devel­oped state the relations between the center and the commoners are both direct and indirect, that is, they are partly mediated by the elites, but partly these re­lations are conducted directly through the formal and official local state appa­ratus. In the meantime the commoners rely more and more on the center as a possible protector against the arbitrariness of the local elites, which is much less typical for the early state.

In the mature state its administrative-bureaucratic apparatus becomes quite systemic and complete, which makes it possible for the center to conduct its interaction with the commoner population directly. In the mature state it ap­pears more accurate to speak about the interrelations between the elites, the populace, and the state (rather than the center). We observe the relationships between the state and the elite becoming civil. This means that the elites (that is, large-scale landowners, businessmen, financiers, as well as the intellectuals' elite) stop performing the direct functions of the state structures, these functions are now performed almost entirely by the formal, official state organs; that is, the elites can be regarded as a part of the civil society, no longer as a part of the state. However, the elites' privileges and status are still protected by the state. All these contribute to the formation of civil society. The relationships between the state and the populace are direct and immediate both through the state apparatus (for example, through taxation or judicial organs), and through the participation of the populace in elections.

Summing up it may be said that in the early state the center only unites (quite weakly) the territories and populations through the mediation of the elites that provide most of the direct interaction with the populace; in the developed state the center directly or indirectly integrates the elites into the state apparatus, limits the elites' influence on the populace, establishes some direct relations with the populace; the mature state (with the help of a rather sophisticated administrative apparatus and elaborated legal sys­tem that it possesses) eliminates the administrative-territorial control of the elites over the populace, transforms the elites into a part of the civil so­ciety, and establishes systematic direct links between the state and the populace.

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