Complex Chiefdom: Precursor of the State or Its Analogue?


Author: Grinin, Leonid
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 10, Number 1 / March 2011

Abstract

It is often noted in the academic literature that chiefdoms frequently prove to be troublesome for scholars because of the disagreement as to whether to categorize this or that polity as a complex chiefdom or as an early state. This is no wonder, because complex chiefdoms, early states, as well as different other types of sociopolitical systems (large confederations, large self-governed civil and temple communities etc.) turn out to be at the same evolutionary level. In the present article it is argued that such complex societies can be considered as early state analogues. The most part of the article is devoted to the analysis of the most developed chiefdoms – the Hawaiian ones. It is argued that before the arrival of Cook there was no state in Hawaii. It should be classified as an early state analogue, i.e. a society of the same level of development as early states but lacking some state characteristics. It proceeds from the fact that the entire Hawaiian political and social organization was based on the strict rules and ideology of kinship, and the ruling groups represented endogamous castes and quasi-castes. The transition to statehood occurred only in the reign of Kamehameha I in the early 19th century. A scrupulous comparison between the Hawaiian chiefdoms and Hawaiian state is presented in the article.