I had said that, as I interpreted Phil, the shortage of resources caused "exploitation [to] be seen as a more attractive mode of interaction than cooperation." Phil replies:
In response to my summarizing Phil's view as "the absence of industrialization is what maintained the power of the state," Phil responds:
Or perhaps by "fear of death" Phil means, not fear of death by starvation because of food shortages, but fear of death by violence because of the state authorities. This does seem to be what he means a little later on, when he says:
But Phil may disagree. In response to my remark that "our ancestors certainly had the conceptual resources to realize that their experiment with statism was not going to benefit them," Phil replies:
But as I have written elsewhere:
I had argued that our ancestors had the conceptual resources to prefer cooperation to exploitation even in the face of food shortages, and had cited various anti-exploitation religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, and Stoicism. Phil responds:
If Phil is making the first claim, that these religions were founded with deliberate propagandistic intent, I must say I find that claim fantastically implausible, and wonder what evidence Phil is relying on. And I think that, absent specific evidence to the contrary, there is a general presumption in favor of taking seriously, as sincerely intended, the positions and arguments defended by ancient thinkers, simply because there is a kind of pragmatic incoherence in taking a different interpretive attitude toward the texts one is analyzing than the attitude one expects one's colleagues to take toward one's own work.
If Phil is making only the second claim, that these anti-exploitation religions, however sincere the intentions of their founders, became useful for governments to co-opt, I remain skeptical. It is certainly true that when one of these religions emerges, the state rushes to co-opt it. But is that because the anti-exploitation aspect of the religion is so useful to the state that the state is eager to propagate it? Or is it instead because the anti-exploitation aspect is so dangerous to the state that the state is desperate to tame and defang it? The latter seems much more likely. For one thing, once the state succeeds in co-opting one of these religions, the religion always ends up toning down and diluting the pacifistic implications of its doctrines, rather than strengthening and emphasizing them.
In closing, I want to make sure to avoid leaving the impression that
my carping and kvetching in response to Phil represents an unfavorable
assessment of his work. Let me emphasize that I think Phil Jacobson's series
of articles on the nature and formation of power elites represents some
of the most important work being done in libertarian social theory today,
and has profoundly shaped my thinking about these matters. In some sense
I could even call myself a Jacobsonian ... just a heretical one!
1 ["Reply to Roderick Long's 'Was the State Inevitable?',"] Formulations, Vol. V, No. 1 (Autumn 1997). My original article appeared [as] ["Was the State Inevitable"] Formulations, Vol. IV, No. 4 (Summer 1997).
2 Franz Oppenheimer, the most prominent defender of the conquest theory, writes:
"The State ... is a social institution, forced by a victorious group of men on a defeated group, with the sole purpose of regulating the dominion of the victorious group over the vanquished, and securing itself against revolt from within and attacks from abroad. Teleologically, this dominion had no other purpose than the economic exploitation of the vanquished by the victors. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner." (Franz Oppenheimer, The State, trans. John Gitterman (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1997), p. 9.)
But having said this, Oppenheimer immediately goes on to qualify it:
"[Sometimes] a reliable tradition reports otherwise, [but in such cases] it is an adaptation to men of the fable of the sheep which made a bear their king in order to be protected against the wolf. But even in this latter case, the form and content of the State became precisely the same as in those States where nothing intervened, and which became immediately 'wolf states.'"
In other words, Oppenheimer is granting an exception to the conquest
theory of the state: Sometimes, rather than being conquered from
without, a community will voluntarily accept an authority who promises
to be a kinder master than those outsiders and to protect the community
from them. (Oppenheimer suggests this isn't a real exception to his
theory, because the result is the same; but that is surely a non sequitur.)
3 "The Return of Leviathan: Can We Prevent It?," Formulations, Vol. III, No. 3 (Spring 1996).
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I did not understand the significance of all of Roderick's feedback to me on this subject. But some of what he said strikes me as quite valuable.
Let me address some specifics from his last reply.
"If food shortages are what created and maintained the state, and food shortages depend on the absence of industrialization, how it a mischaracterization of Phil's view to say that the state owed its existence to the absence of industrialization."
Industrialization and the gains in food production in the last century or so have ended the "need" for starvation. But industrialization was not the only significantly "absent" quality in the early stages of the food shortages I describe at the end of the Paleolithic. Sufficiently large herds of natural game were also "absent". Newly discovered natural plant foods were also "absent". Human plague sufficient to offset population growth was "absent". Attacks from animal preditors sufficient to offset population growth was "absent". Generally "absent" were 1) adequate human population limits not based on war, and/or 2) adequate yet stable supplies of food for the growing population.
Industrialization (including agricultural advances) eventually provided both 1) and 2) above. If one believes that, once the famines began, only industrialization might have ended them, then "lack of industrialization" can be noted from the point of the first serious famines. I didn't say that (nor was I opposing this interpretation). I said that industrialization did address the problem for the first time, not that it had to be the solution.
I don't wish to get into "deterministic" versus "non-deterministic" theories of history here. Roderick introduced the notion of "inevitability", not I. I do not find the concept "inevitability" to be necessary to what I was or am trying to say.
"As theories of state origins go, Phil's conquest theory seems as plausible as any (Though I should add that I doubt that there is any one way that all states originated. In particular, I suspect that many communities that were not conquered by external forces became states because the internal warrior groups on which they relied for protection were able to translate their crucial status into political power. This seems to be how King Aelfred of England came to power for example.)"
Excellent point. I have not made it clear that I see the possibility for many kinds of states, with different origins. I have been trying to describe the origin of the type of state which currently dominates the Earth. I erroneously used the term "state" to refer to that particular institution, as if no other institution has ever qualified as a "state". Perhaps I should try to use a phrase like "the Modern State".
I agree with Roderick that King Aelfred's regime seems to have derived from Aelfred's command of a community militia. Other military systems have become states in this way, and still other states may have emerged in other ways. But in England, as in most of the rest of the world, "the state" of today, the Modern State, is of the sort I describe. I believe that in some specific times and cultures, the initial use of this model came about exactly as I described it in my "Origin of the State" essay. In other cases, the model I described was copied over time (e.g. the Roman Republic evolved into the Roman Empire by adopting practices from states in the Middle East). In other cases, states based on my model conquered other communities. The conquered communities either became a permanent part of those states or retained the model after gaining independence. The Modern State I describe can thus be seen as a form of disease which has slowly infected the world. I stand by my description of the origin of the disease, however.
I believe, in addition, that much of the character of the currently dominant state-form has been modified - often by influences from conquered communities. For instance, warriors are no longer at the top of the social hierarchy in many modern states. Yet it is still true that the dominant modern states (including the one established where both Roderick and I live) are war-power-based and reflect a conquest-based heritage.
"Is [Phil] saying that these [anti-exploitation] religions were actually invented as propoganda by the state, or only that, once they emerged, the state co-opted them because of their usefulness in keeping the population docile?"
I'm not saying that the state invented these religions.
"It is certainly true that when one of these religions emerges, the state rushes to co-opt it. But is that because the anti-exploitation aspect of the religion is so useful to the state … or because the anti-exploitation aspect is so dangerous to the state …?)"
I think both motives are there. Typically, statist societies encourage
some elements of their populations to function as docile taxpayers, while
encouraging other elements to join the military, police, or other violent
forces. Contrary and totally separate messages are sent to these different
populations by "official" public agents of the state as well as by more
covert cultural influences which the state supports. (Meanwhile state agents
also like to promote the fiction that they believe that there is only one
morality which they want everyone to adopt. [Hypocracy?! Are libertarians
really surprised?]) Additionally, a certain degree of flexibility is encouraged
in a large number of normally peaceful persons who are kept in reserve
as potential auxiliary military forces. The state wants enough "anti-exploitive"
(passive) thinking to keep the taxes flowing, but not so much that it fuels
tax resistance or corrupts the fighting spirit (willingness to kill on
orders) of the active military and police populations.
1 This discussion is the latest installment of a sequence which has appeared in Formulations, beginning with Phil Jacobson's "From Free Families to Statist Societies and Back Again" Formulations, Vol IV, No. 3. It continues with Roderick Long's "Was the State Inevitable" Formulations, Vol. IV, No. 4 (Summer 1997). The next installment was Jacobson's "Reply to Roderick Long's 'Was the State Inevitable?'", followed by Jacobson's "Food Wars and the Origin of the State", both of which appeared in Formulations, Vol V, No. 1. [Web Editor's note: See also Mary Ruart's related comments in that issue, "Aggression a Luxury, Not a Necessity"]
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