Political Development of the World System: A formal quantitative analysis

Authors: Grinin, Leonid; Korotayev, Andrey
Almanac: History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies

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.[1] 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 stateand 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)[2], 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?

[1] Within the framework of this article the state is defined as a category that denotes a system of specialized institutions, organs, and norms that support internal and external life of a society; an organization of power, administration, and order- maintenance that possesses the following characteristics: (a) sovereignty (autonomy); (b) supremacy, legitimacy and reality of power within a certain territory and a certain circle of people; (c) has the capability to coerce people to fulfill its demands, as well as to change relations and norms.

[2] For example, in the Early State (Claessen, Skalník 1978d) contributions dealing with Egypt and China (Janssen 1978: 213; Pokora 1978: 198–199) the period of the early state corresponds to the Ancient Kingdom (up to 2150 BCE), whereas for China it is regarded as the period preceding the formation of the Qin Empire (up to 221 BCE).