Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Six Stages of the Creation of the State | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on May 26, 2021

In all places, the same results are brought about by force of the same sociopsychological causes. The necessity of keeping the subjects in order and at the same time of maintaining them at their full capacity for labor leads step by step from the fifth to the sixth stage, in which the state, by acquiring full intranationality and by the evolution of “Nationality,” is developed in every sense.

The need becomes more and more frequent to interfere, to allay difficulties, to punish, or to coerce obedience; and thus develop the habit of rule and the usages of government.

Franz Oppenheimer

[Excerpted from chapter 1 of The State: Its History and Development Viewed Sociologically]

In the genesis of the state, from the subjection of a peasant folk by a tribe of herdsmen or by sea nomads, six stages may be distinguished.

In the following discussion it should not be assumed that the actual historical development must, in each particular case, climb the entire scale step by step. Although, even here, the argument does not depend upon bare theoretical construction, since every particular stage is found in numerous examples, both in the world’s history and in ethnology, and there are states which have apparently progressed through them all. But there are many more that have skipped one or more of these stages.

Stage 1: Looting

The first stage comprises robbery and killing in border fights, endless combats broken neither by peace nor by armistice. It is marked by killing of men, carrying away of children and women, looting of herds, and burning of dwellings. Even if the offenders are defeated at first, they return in stronger and stronger bodies, impelled by the duty of blood feud. Sometimes the peasant group may assemble, may organize its militia, and perhaps temporarily defeat the nimble enemy; but mobilization is too slow and supplies to be brought into the desert too costly for the peasants. The peasants’ militia does not, as does the enemy, carry its stock of food — its herds — with it into the field.

In Southwest Africa the Germans recently experienced the difficulties that a well-disciplined and superior force, equipped with a supply train, with a railway reaching back to its base of supply, and with millions of the German Empire behind it, may have with a handful of herdsmen warriors, who were able to give the Germans a decided setback. In the case of primitive levies, this difficulty is increased by the narrow spirit of the peasant, who considers only his own neighborhood, and by the fact that while the war is going on the lands are uncultivated. Therefore, in such cases, in the long run, the small but compact and easily mobilized body constantly defeats the greater disjointed mass, as the panther triumphs over the buffalo.

This is the first stage in the formation of states. The state may remain stationary at this point for centuries, for a thousand years. The following is a thoroughly characteristic example:

Every range of a Turkoman tribe formerly bordered upon a wide belt which might be designated as its “looting district.” Everything north and east of Chorassan, though nominally under Persian dominion, has for decades belonged more to the Turkomans, Jomudes, Goklenes, and other tribes of the bordering plains, than to the Persians. The Tekinzes, in a similar manner, looted all the stretches from Kiwa to Bokhara, until other Turkoman tribes were successfully rounded up either by force or by corruption to act as a buffer. Numberless further instances can be found in the history of the chain of oases which extends between Eastern and Western Asia directly through the steppes of its central part, where since ancient times the Chinese have exercised a predominant influence through their possession of all important strategic centers, such as the Oasis of Chami. The nomads, breaking through from north and south, constantly tried to land on these islands of fertile ground, which to them must have appeared like Islands of the Blessed. And every horde, whether laden down with booty or fleeing after defeat, was protected by the plains. Although the most immediate threats were averted by the continued weakening of the Mongols, and the actual dominion of Thibet, yet the last insurrection of the Dunganes showed how easily the waves of a mobile tribe break over these islands of civilization. Only after the destruction of the nomads, impossible as long as there are open plains in Central Asia, can their existence be definitely secured.

The entire history of the old world is replete with well-known instances of mass expeditions, which must be assigned to the first stage of state development, inasmuch as they were intent, not upon conquest, but directly on looting. Western Europe suffered through these expeditions at the hands of the Celts, Germans, Huns, Avars, Arabs, Magyars, Tartars, Mongolians and Turks by land; while the Vikings and the Saracens harassed it on the waterways.

These hordes inundated entire continents far beyond the limits of their accustomed looting ground. They disappeared, returned, were absorbed, and left behind them only wasted lands. In many cases, however, they advanced in some part of the inundated district directly to the sixth and last stage of state formation, in cases namely, where they established a permanent dominion over the peasant population. Ratzel describes these mass migrations excellently in the following:

The expeditions of the great hordes of nomads contrast with this movement, drop by drop and step by step, since they overflow with tremendous power, especially Central Asia and all neighboring countries. The nomads of this district, as of Arabia and Northern Africa, unite mobility in their way of life with an organization holding together their entire mass for one single object. It seems to be a characteristic of the nomads that they easily develop despotic power and far-reaching might from the patriarchal cohesion of the tribe. Mass governments thereby come into being, which compare with other movements among men in the same way that swollen streams compare with the steady but diffused flow of a tributary. The history of China, India, and Persia, no less than that of Europe, shows their historical importance. Just as they moved about on their ranges with their wives and children, slaves and carts, herds and all their paraphernalia, so they inundated the borderlands. While this ballast may have deprived them of speed it increased their momentum. The frightened inhabitants were driven before them, and like a wave they rolled over the conquered countries, absorbing their wealth. Since they carried everything with them, their new abodes were equipped with all their possessions, and thus their final settlements were of an ethnographic importance. After this manner, the Magyars flooded Hungary, the Manchus invaded China, the Turks, the countries from Persia to the Adriatic.

What has been said here of Hamites, Semites, and Mongolians may be said also, at least in part, of the Aryan tribes of herdsmen. It applies also to the true negroes, at least to those who live entirely from their herds:

The mobile, warlike tribes of the Kafirs possess a power of expansion which needs only an enticing object in order to attain violent effects and to overturn the ethnologic relations of vast districts. Eastern Africa offers such an object. Here the climate did not forbid stock raising, as in the countries of the interior, and did not paralyze from the start, the power of impact of the nomads, while nevertheless numerous peaceable agricultural peoples found room for their development. Wandering tribes of Kafirs poured like devastating streams into the fruitful lands of the Zambesi, and up to the highlands between the Tanganyika and the coast. Here they met the advance guard of the Watusi, a wave of Hamite eruption, coming from the north. The former inhabitants of these districts were either exterminated, or as serfs cultivated the lands which they formerly owned; or they still continued to fight; or again, they remained undisturbed in settlements left on one side by the stream of conquest.

All this has taken place before our eyes. Some of it is still going on. During many thousands of years it has “jarred all Eastern Africa from the Zambesi to the Mediterranean.” The incursion of the Hyksos, whereby for over 500 years Egypt was subject to the shepherd tribes of the eastern and northern deserts — “kinsmen of the peoples who up to the present day herd their stock between the Nile and the Red Sea” — is the first authenticated foundation of a state. These states were followed by many others both in the country of the Nile itself, and farther southward, as far as the Empire of Muata Jamvo on the southern rim of the central Congo district, which Portuguese traders in Angola reported as early as the end of the 16th century, and down to the Empire of Uganda, which only in our own day has finally succumbed to the superior military organization of Europe. “Desert land and civilization never lie peaceably alongside one another; but their battles are alike and full of repetitions.”

“Alike and full of repetitions”! That may be said of universal history on its basic lines. The human ego in its fundamental aspect is much the same all the world over. It acts uniformly, in obedience to the same influences of its environment, with races of all colors, in all parts of the earth, in the tropics as in the temperate zones. One must step back far enough and choose a point of view so high that the variegated aspect of the details does not hide the great movements of the mass. In such a case, our eye misses the “mode” of fighting, wandering, laboring humanity, while its “substance,” ever similar, ever new, ever enduring through change, reveals itself under uniform laws.

Stage 2: Truce

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Franz Oppenheimer

Franz Oppenheimer (1864–1943) was a German-Jewish sociologist and political economist, best known for his work on the fundamental sociology of the state. His book The State: Its History and Development Viewed Sociologically was the prototype for Albert Jay Nock’s writing, for Frank Chodorov’s work, and even for the theoretical edifice that later became Rothbardianism.

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