Despite often high levels of formal centralization, ancient states did not have well-developed capacity. Most were reliant on indirect administration exercised through locally based elites and therefore had limited interdependence with society. This chapter shows how this situation applied in Mediterranean city-states (Athens and Rome) and the Roman Empire, but not in China. However, even in China the state’s aim was coordination and regulation of society rather than cooperation with it. The first major attempts to organize state capacity occurred in the ancient states. This chapter will concentrate on the Greek polis (Athens), Republican Rome, the Roman Empire and China from the emergence of the Qin until the end of the Han Empire. Clearly a large part of the globe is omitted here: the city-states and empires of the Near East, Egypt, the Mauryan and Mughal states of India, the Islamic Caliphates, the Inca, Aztec and Maya in South and Central America, the Ankole state in Africa, Angkor in South East Asia and the Polynesian polities to mention only a few. (For one survey, see Claessen & Skalnik 1978.) And even in the chosen regions, not all states appear.
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- The Origins of State Capacity
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