The Two-Factor Model (Authority-Solidarity) of Society's Structural Cycles in Evolutional Perspective

Author: Dobrolyubov, Sergey V.


Any ruling organization requires legitimation in society by a common ideology based on reciprocity (Claessen 2002). Such legitimation of power is a result of the ruling system’s traditionalization in society. After such traditionalization, for the inhabitants of the capital or the traditional core of society, the issue of the ideological legitimation of power no longer arises, with the exception of cases of the emergence of a new political system - tyranny, democracy, etc. However, for the inhabitants of the periphery, this issue arises at every stage of the expansion of the socio-political system.

Initially, at the A-phase the ruling organization is the external and formal superstructure over the captured or subordinated distinct social subjects. Only at the U-phase the ruling organization of winners may penetrate into the social fabric and become the internal structure for the society with less suppressive and more organizational and regulative function.

We should distinguish the legitimation of the political (state) organization as a political agent and as an institutional regulator. Actually, power itself was legitimate in the ancient world. A winner gets a legitimate right to kill, enslave or to impose tribute on the defeated population. All conquerors immediately become legitimate rulers, e.g. Mongol Khan in Kievan Rus’ (1240), Alexander the Great in Persian Empire (330 B.C.).

This legitimation as acceptance of something as rightful presumes rational judgment, while legitimation by common ideology is quite different. Common ideology is one which is shared by social consciousness; it is remote and therefore the unintentional result of traditionalization of ideas and practices, regardless of the initial rational attitude to them. Ideology becomes the social institution when it is supported by informal norms, traditions, and stereotypes; eventually when it is reproduced by mass consciousness. Such legitimation for an individual is not rational, it is traditional; likewise individual legitimized own parents, language, culture and religion. Tradition is legitimate by definition.  

For example, conversion to a new religion is in most cases forced and initially is rejected by the population; but with time, the new religion becomes a tradition and thus becomes a common ideology. Kievan Rus’ was baptized by Prince Vladimir in 988 with the help of violence; and up to the thirteen century, Christianity had not occupied fully the mass consciousness as a common ideology. We can assume this on the basis of the “Russian Primary Chronicle” (Ostrowski 2003), in which there are signs of resistance to Christianity, e.g., the anti-Christian aspect of the uprising in Novgorod in 1071, the fear of the Christianized nobility that rebels may plunder monasteries during the uprising in Kiev in 1113.

We can indirectly trace the process of the ruling organization’s legitimization in early societies through changes in the methods of collecting revenues: booty – tribute – tax. At the P-phase, remote entities are alien to each other and they just rob one another. At the A-phase, they are subordinated in one political structure and are imposed by a tribute, which is forced and obligated on the social entity as a whole. At the U-phase, the ruling organization is internalized in the social fabric. The social consensus, the strata’s responsibilities and reciprocity arise that allow rulers to demand taxes and order individuals to pay it.

Moreover, the ruling group needs social support and solidarity of its social base, especially if polity continues expansion. Then rulers can alleviate the burden of taxes and transfer it to the periphery and even exempt the social core from taxes. Such tax exemption was repeated at each step of Roman polity expansion. Taxes were exempted first from the residents of Rome, then from the residents of Latium within Italy, and then from the residents of Italy within Empire.

Thus tribute is a marker of an incompleteness of legitimated political system formation. The ruling organization gets control over the subdued society, but does not yet become an internal regulator of social relations, and it has no access to individuals’ economic relations; instead, it requires a tribute from the retained traditional local rulers. For example, Mongols despite a census of captured Rus’ principalities (1260s) did not enter personal taxation and did not eliminate the local ruler organization. They took tribute from the Princes while the individuals’ taxation remained a privilege of the latter. All kinds of suzerainty in medieval Europe are also the result of the incompleteness of state formation.


Claessen, H.J.M. 2002. Was the State Inevitable? Social Evolution and History 1-1: 101-117.

Ostrowski, D., trans. 2003. The Povĕst’ vremennykh lĕt: An Interlinear Collation and Paradosis. Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature. Texts. Vol. X. Parts 1-3. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Evolutionary conditions restrict both the expansion of political organization and the universalization of society; the former is limited mainly by technological conditions (weapon, transport, production, etc.), and the latter is limited mainly by ideological conditions (universality of ideas, values, religion, etc.). Thus, there should be cases of pristine (primary, original, unique) political self-organization of each scale and cases of the pristine emergence of universal societies in these formats. And these will be different cases. (Dobrolyubov 2020).

Technological inventions, once appeared, are spread around relatively fast; they have no impenetrable social barriers. On the contrary, values and ideologies are fixed in the collective consciousness and traditions (informal institutions) that are conservative and sustainable. They are part of society’s culture and self-identification and usually they are replaced together with society itself, e.g., as the result of its destruction, occupation, assimilation and etc.

Of course, societies are able to voluntarily adopt advanced values, social practices and institutions from outside, however the entry point for such reception is a phase transition related to values and identity crises. However, this is not easy to do. The introduction of new informal institutions requires a prolonged use of power and coercion against the existing social traditions in order to traditionalize the new ones. The ruling organization may not have enough political power for such coercion in the time of the phases change crisis, which is accompanied by a weak collective identity and solidarity. In turn, in a period of high solidarity, society is quite satisfied with its values ​​and continues to develop its existing institutions. So, it is always easier for a society to continue developing an already existing value tradition as long as it retains its independence. If we use an analogy with natural evolution one may say that the technological aspects evolve according to Lamarck as acquired signs while institutional aspects evolve according to Mendel as the development of inherited signs.  

Because of this, the technological ability of a political organization to expand through warfare increases faster than the ability of a society to develop advanced values and ideologies. Therefore, even early states (ES) were able to expand the administrative structure up to large civilizational dimensions (e.g., the Inca empire, the Mongol empire), but they were never able to universalize a society of this scale.

Evolutionary limitations lead to oscillation of political structures in their historical lifecycles of growth around the current stable evolutionary format. This format is limited by ideological conditions. If excessive political expansion fails, states disintegrate and return to a more compact organization relevant to the current evolutionary conditions.

For example, chiefdoms may oscillate from a neighboring community up to one or two tiers of its hierarchical subordination (chiefdom and complex chiefdom) without further evolving to statehood. At a certain level of material and ideological conditions, complex chiefdoms may extend the life cycle and achieve wider political proto-state structure. These structures initially are fragile and often disintegrate back to a more stable structural attractor – chiefdom. An individual agency and accidental circumstances become decisive factors of such an advanced political organization; and theories of collective action (Levi 1988; Blanton and Fargher 2009) are becoming more applicable to this case. For example, several charismatic leaders at the end of 9th century (Harald Fairhair, Oleg Rurikid) founded polities in north-east of Europe and took control of trade routes. But after the leader’s death, only Rurik’ clan retained control over routes and established relatively stable Rus’ polity. One may hypothesize that the causes of this success were accidental: lucky successors, higher solidarity of the ruling group, high income from trade route’ control, better deals with local kinship elites, etc.

Pristine political self-organization. Organizational theories, although developed within economic disciplines, – organizational ecology (Hannan and Freeman 1989), resource dependence theory (Pfeffer and Salancik 1978) point out the pre-existence of the organizational environment as the cause of organizations emerging. They consider self-organization as the isomorphic proactive adaptation to the external organizational niches that occur as competition for the scarce resources of other organizations.

Such an approach works for a secondary type of organization's expansion, but doesn't work well in the case of a pristine process of elite's self-organization, because it is a non- isomorphic type of organization which has never taken place before. The primary process occurs in an organizational and resources “vacuum”. For example, groups of hunters/gatherers do not have resources other than their own bodies and wearable items; so no others endogenous isomorphic organizations can emerge in this environment. Only external organizations which are able to store items and utilize human bodies in its own structure, e.g., as slaves, may exploit this social environment (adapt to it). Thus, the pristine self-organization has to overcome internal resources and organizational restrictions. Elite’s self-organization only follows the process of population concentration, surplus growth and social stratification. Even when the stratification of growing population begins, the society continues maintaining traditional kinship solidarity, mutualism, and cooperation. The analysis of pristine urbanism in Mesopotamia (Ur 2014) shows that cities evolved as an extension of the household, and it wasn’t an intentional organizational adaptation, but rather a creative transformation of a familiar structure with unintended consequences.

In contrast, the secondary self-organization indeed is an adaptation to a more organized environment. If resources are accessible from outside, organizations may rise as robbery organizations for booty regardless of internal conditions. The presence of developed civilizations means that high-value items – tools, weapons, luxury goods – are transported through trade routes. Primitive societies may not even have direct contact with civilizations and be unaware of advanced social practices, but circulation of valuables allows any organized group to plunder resources and obtain more effective weapons and wealth. The organized group may use these resources to strengthen its role in its own society, to subordinate community, chiefdom, etc. Note, that this process may be treated as an isomorphic adaptation to organizational niches only in terms of the size of the organizational structure and not in terms of the nature of the social institutions.

As a side note, the idea that awareness about advanced social practices affects development of social institutions seems doubtful. Nomads may co-exists with civilization for a long time and do not adopt its social samples, even knowing them well. In fact, civilizations as carriers of resources, but not as social samples provoke self-organization in surrounding primitive societies. For example, China for a long time was a source for surrounding nomadic military self-organization. Secondary self-organization aimed at external resources is also typical for pre-colonial African early states influenced by European products, for pirate polities, past and modern, etc.

Therefore, we may define the pristine statehood formation as predominantly a societal (urbanistic, productive, innovative and endogenous) type of politogenesis with a lag of political centralization and advancement of socio-economic sophistication. The secondary statehood formation predominantly is administrative (organizational, coercive, warfare and exogenous) type of politogenesis with advancement of political centralization and lag of economic agents' activation and social stratification. Note that the process can acquire a primary character each time when the causes of development are shifted from predominantly exogenous factors to endogenous ones. Even in the course of initially secondary politogenesis, societies such as Athens, Rome or feudal Europe, came to the development of innovative social institutions.

Material (technological) evolutionary conditions restrict only pristine self-organization. So, pristine Early states are in the historic past (Claessen 2006), since material conditions have been already spread in the populated universe. While ideological conditions (values, religion) restrict only the formation of universal society within a given political format. It means that the political organization (secondary states) can easily jump over formats if it is strong enough militarily; but it not be able to universalize such society. Developed states (DS) are also distanced from the modern states (MS) not only stadially but also historically (Grinin 2008), since the Cognition changes the entire nature of society (rationality, humanity, tolerance, degree of individualization, etc.) in seemingly identical formats. The emergence of a stable state based on slavery seems impossible in modern conditions. However, both material and ideological restrictions are still valid for the primary formation of society within civilizational state (CS) and definitely for the global society-state (GS) (Dobrolyubov 2020).

The discussed features of states-society’s genesis are summarized in the Table.



Blanton, R. E. and L. F. Fargher. 2009. Collective Action in the Evolution
of Pre-Modern States. Social Evolution and History 8-2: 133-66.

Claessen, H.J.M. 2006. Development in Evolutionism. Social Evolution and History 5-1: 3-40.

Grinin L. E. 2008. Early State Developed State, Mature State: The Statehood Evolutionary Sequence. Social Evolution and History 7-1: 67–81.

Dobrolyubov, S. 2020. The Transition to Global Society as a Singularity of Social Evolution. In: Korotayev A., and D. LePoire (eds) The 21st Century Singularity and Global Futures. World-Systems Evolution and Global Futures. Springer, Cham, pp. 535-558.

Hannan, M.T., and J. Freeman. 1989. Organizational Ecology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Levi, M. 1988. Of Rule and Revenue. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pfeffer, J. and G. R.Salancik. 1978. The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective. New York: Harper and Row.

Ur, J. A. 2014. Households and the Emergence of Cities in Ancient Mesopotamia. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 24: 249-268.


Historians refer timing of the Eastern Slavic resettlement to the wide time interval of the fourth-eighth centuries (Sedov 2003). There is also no clarity in the dating of the first Russian towns’ appearance on the Dnieper and Ilmen (Tolochko 1981; Janin and Aleshkovskii 1971). To justify the scheme of sociogenesis (Fig.1), we rely on the Russian Primary Chronicle (Ostrowski 2003). It mentions the emergence of a centralized polity in 882 with the center in Kiev and the beginning of urbanization of this entire area. To date the shifts of the following phases, we use conditional markers – historical events that most clearly manifested the nature of those transitions.

Fig.1. Diagram of Early Rus’ sociogenesis (by the example of Novgorod).

Kievan polity (882-1132). Outwardly, this period is characterized by a large polity emergence. The ruling organization – clan of Rurikids with retinue – could be invited or even invaded from Scandinavia as argues so-called Norman theory of Russian state origin, but may arise as the self-organization of local elites. The legendary date of Rurik’s invitation to rein in Novgorod is 862 and the conquest of Kiev by his successor Oleg is 882. One way or another, the military chief and his retinue (druzhina) gained control over a large territory and could collect tribute from local archaic tribal or chiefdom entities (their nature is not clear to us). However, as in Europe, this chief had to delegate the governmental functions that are supposed to be centralized (fiscal, judicial, police, defense) to lower levels of lords and form a hierarchy of lords (feudals) with significant autonomy of local political agency. This happened because there was no society, economy and domestic market of such scale. Actual societal and managerial processes were on a smaller scale. Moreover, neither the central authority nor the local governance had state institutions.

The end of Kiev prince Mstislav reign in 1132 is commonly (Vernadsky 1973) considered as the end of a single Rus' polity. After 1170, the Principality of Kiev even lost its independence and the younger prince from Vladimir or just the governor began to be appointed to Kiev. We conditionally accept this date (1132) as the stage completion.

At the societal level, this was period of mass appearance of towns, which we define as A-phase of the urban communities’ formation (Stage II, Fig.2). Towns were founded either by local entities as a common cult or market centers or by princes to collect tribute. For example, at the beginning of this period, two Slavic (Slovene, Krivichi) neighboring settlements and one Finnish (Meria) formed a new single urban community – Novgorod (New Town) (Janin and Aleshkovskii 1971). In some towns (e.g. Novgorod, Polotsk), the prince’s fortress was for a long time separate from town fortress, which indicates that both sources (local and invaded) of elite self-organization took place.

Feudal fragmentation (1132-1380). The U-phase of the urban society’s formation (Stage III, Fig.2) was expressed in towns strengthening. Urban communities acquire a pronounced social identity and group cohesion. Social consciousness becomes more universal, i.e., the social values and priorities are now aimed at the citizenship rather than at kinship affiliation. Individuals obtain more possibilities for social and economic activity.

Town communities’ cohesion has opened possibility for the development of self-regulative and democratic institutions. Rudimentary guilds emerged in towns. Popular Assembly (Veche) became an influential institution, although not permanent, occasional one. Veche was formally institutionalized only in Novgorod and Pskov. Nevertheless, the population of major towns begins to limit the power of princes and sometimes invites and expels princes through the Veche. Conflicts in towns acquire a social character. The uprising in Kiev in 1113 was aimed at limiting debt slavery and financial speculations (Vernadsky 1973). The crisis of 1136 in Novgorod led to a republic establishment and political separation from Kiev. Note that a similar transition to an aristocratic republic and limitation of debt slavery happened in Athens and Rome at the same phase (Stage III, Fig. 1).

The strengthening of towns exacerbates their competition and leads to Kievan polity fragmentation. Independent principalities were formed around major cities. The growing selfishness and self-sufficiency of towns’ communities led to their alienation from each other. For example, when the troops of Prince Andrew of Suzdal took Kiev in 1169 they plundered the town for three days and burned it, something that never happened in Rus' before. Kiev was also plundered in 1203 by the Smolensk prince Rurik.

This stage at the same time was an A-phase of the formation of polities of the polis (city-state) format. Major towns strive to subordinate their surroundings and expand their direct management to the provinces. This was visible in Lithuania of thirteenth-fourteenth century and in Novgorod. Three historical districts of the Novgorod city community - Slavensky, Nerevsky and Lyudinov were reformatted into five districts, possibly as early as the twelfth century. The surrounding areas were also divided into five sectors assigned to city districts. They were called Lands, and later – Pyatinas (one fifth). Lands began at the borders of city districts and ended at the ever-expanding borders of the Novgorod polity. The periphery of Lands was always at first simply exploited by districts, but later some residents of close towns began to be attributed to the Novgorod districts as citizens, just as the residents of Latin cities received Roman rights through their attribution to the Roman territorial urban tribes. Novgorod colonial northeastern lands also appeared, which were governed and exploited by the whole city. The conflict with these territories did not fade until the end of the fourteenth century (Vernadsky 1973), and this indicates the administrative nature of polis entity.

During the Mongol invasion (1237-40), all the other Rus’ principalities also remained administrative in nature. Resistance to the invasion was not able to become a national movement, because there was no MS identity and solidarity of even polis scale.

In the second half of the fourteenth century, major Rus’ polities achieved great consolidation and absorbed small principalities. We take 1380 as a conditional date for the end of the fragmentation period, when the first and key victory of the Moscow Grand Duke Dmitry (reign of 1359 - 1389) over the Golden Horde army took place. We could also use the reign of Vytautas (1392-1430) for Lithuania. By this time Lithuania, Novgorod, Moscow, and Tver become solidary, self-aware and self-sufficient entities of polis scale. Their further feudal conflicts are already turning into a new quality; they take the form of a national unification.

Flourishing and fall of Early Rus’ city-states (1380-1612). This period was a U-phase of polis-scale societies. Novgorod had a vast territory, a developed trade economy, a tax system, written codes and some signs of statehood. Novgorod society in this format has acquired a strong collective identity, self-sufficiency and a republican political system with an influential People's Council.

The political competition of principalities becomes a national centralization, therefore we consider this period as an A-phase of a territorial (ethnic) polity formation. Political centralization of nations began to occur throughout Europe even earlier (stage IV, Fig. 1).

However, neither Novgorod nor Lithuania had a sufficient ideology for national leadership. Novgorod was a trade polis, and as such it carried an egoistic ideology of its own economic prosperity. Classic trade policies, such as Athens or medieval Italian republics, left the historical scene also at the stage of national centralization, because they could not offer more universal national values to the kindred environment. In its turn, Lithuania adopted Catholicism (1385) and lost any ideological basis for Russian centralization and eventually lost all lands with an Orthodox population. Only the messianic idea of the Orthodox faith protection gave Moscow an ideological power for the centralization and weakened the resisting centers.

Novgorod was included in Moscow state in 1478 with the support of lower layers of the population. Rich Novgorod genera (ruling elite) were repressed and their patrimonies were exchanged for fiefdoms in Moscow lands. Repressions were repeated in 1570 in regards to wider elite strata. After the Time of Troubles (1604-13) Novgorod ceased to exist as a carrier of its own MS identity and republican version of social consciousness. The last to lose their independence were Pskov Republic (1510) and Ryazan Principality (1521).

Nevertheless, the all-Rus’ administrative polity and the all-Rus’ nation did not emerge since Russian national state had centralized only part of the Ancient Rus’ ethno-cultural field.


Janin, V. L., and M. H. Aleshkovskii. 1971. Origin of Novgorod (Problem Formulation). History of the USSR 2: 32-61 (Янин В.Л., и Алешковский М. Х. 1971. Происхождение Новгорода (к постановке проблемы). История СССР 2: 32-61).

Ostrowski, D., trans. 2003. The Povĕst’ vremennykh lĕt: An Interlinear Collation and Paradosis. Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature. Texts. Vol. X. Parts 1-3. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sedov, V. V. 2003. Ethnogenesis of the Early Slavs. Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences 73-7: 594-605 (Седов В.В. 2003. Этногенез ранних славян. Вестник Российской Академии Наук 73-7: 594-605).

Tolochko, P. P. 1981. Recent Archaeological Investigations of Kiev (1963-1978). New in Archaeology of Kiev. Kiev: Naukova Dumka (Толочко П. П. 1981. Новые археологические исследования Киева (1963—1978). Новое в археологии Киева. Киев, Наукова Думка).

Vernadsky, G. 1973. Kievan Russia. New Haven: Yale University Press.