Tribe and tribal proto-state - History of the East

1.4. Tribe and tribal proto-state


Sociologists and anthropologists, among whom Emil Durkheim was perhaps the first, subjected a detailed analysis to the phenomenon of mechanical solidarity of the numerous family clans that grew up on the basis of segmentation of numerous related clans in the zone of the ethnic community in Nigeria. Based on common origins, welded together by a single culture, language, ritual norms (initiation ceremonies, men's homes, festivities) and a legendary mythological tradition, this kind of community, usually formerly called the tribe, is very numerous, it tens of thousands of inhabitants. It was in its depths that solidarity was fixed, which was realized automatically, but obeyed the laws of entropy. Its strength decreased with increasing distance, both socially-related and territorial (the phenomenon of diminishing ethnic solidarity). In practice, this meant that every household (large family) advocated for its own in the event of a conflict with its neighbors. Together with the neighbors it was, if the conflict arose with the inhabitants of a remote part of the village, together with the whole village - in case of conflict with another settlement of this community. Consolidating the whole community impulse arose only in an extraordinary situation, when the community threatened the enemy, i.e. strangers. In this case, the community did not simply rally, but nominated from its midst a suitable leader, who temporarily (this is important) led its fighting forces. After successfully reflecting the danger, the head of the army discharged his duties and quietly returned home.

The situation described in detail by Durkheim is instructive in many respects, but the most important is that it demonstrates the process. The community has grown; new relationships between its parts are being born and institutionalized, but it is not yet ready for integration, because these relationships seem to dismember it. The temporary rallying was sufficient only to preserve the community, which, after defeating the external enemy, returning to its normal state, immediately again automatically disintegrates into an amorphous amount of communities, each led by its elders. However, as the same researchers note, in the event that the external danger becomes regular, the situation gradually begins to change. The temporary leader, whose services become repetitive and all the time necessary to preserve the integrity of the entire community, acquires a new status and in fact becomes permanent and very necessary. The process of tribalization is being completed, and the described community is being transformed. It becomes a structured tribe led by a leader , initially usually re-elected.

Given that all such studies and publications by anthropologists and sociologists should be considered, M. Fried has quite recently reasonably proposed to abandon the name of amorphous communities by tribes and to fix the name "tribe" only those who have become structured communities headed by leaders.

• If the community has a constantly existing leader, this is the tribe. The structured tribe not only becomes the prototype of the proto-state, but itself, albeit not immediately, not always, not everywhere and not every, really becomes the first and most primitive form of statehood - tribal proto-state.

You can imagine another situation, for which there are also some grounds. We will return to the community again. Operating within this ethnic community and having close exchange, ritual, marriage-family and other ties with the neighboring communities of their community, each community, however, formed a closed social cell. On occasion, it could be connected by an exchange with an alien to it, but it turned out to be a socio-ethnic community in the neighborhood, however, and of course, of course, there was no question of any integration for nothing, for no reason at all. When, and under what circumstances, could an integration impulse of sufficient strength emerge in order for a political structure to emerge?


Field surveys of anthropologists make it possible to reconstruct the process of genesis of primary surplus structures by the example of closed enclaves, be they the Trobriand Islands (now Papua New Guinea) or Polynesia, and also some African communities. The mechanism here is approximately the same: in the course of rivalry of the leaders of neighboring communities, the most successful of them takes the upper hand and subordinates the others to them, turning them into obedient leaders of the previously ruled collectives who now act in relation to the emerging tribal proto-state as subordinate units. Here, the process of tribalization as such turns out to be blurry, for it is not clear how sterile the population of the communities that have joined together is ethnically. But in any case, the process is one thing in a closed enclave, the other in the reality of the oldest historical past. Moreover, in a closed world on the islands, the process could wait until the community finally ripens for integration, i.e. for mushrooming, provided that nothing from the outside does not interfere with it and does not interfere in any way. As for the reality of the ancient Middle East, where it seems that the first tribes in the history of mankind and tribal proto-states (for the time being only about them), there were no such conditions.

However that may be, the conclusion is that end-to-end integration and tribalization were most likely interrelated processes, both of which, together or separately, could to lead to the creation of the most primitive of the forms of statehood known to anthropologists and historians. We call all its possible modifications the same most acceptable term tribal proto-state. " The question arises: what is this structure, how should it be characterized and evaluated.

• The first thing to keep in mind is the extreme primitivism of the structure. Actually, this is not the state; this is the first and very small step in the way of its creation. In fact, it is only the embryonic administration that is supposed to consist not of a single leader, but of a certain group that includes a leader and his entourage, helpers, a military squad. So the parallel with the Varangians in Russia, the very ones who, led by the first king-princes like the son of Rurik Igor, went to subordinate tribes to collect tribute-polyudye. Somewhere in the Tropical Africa of the recent past, it could have looked different (it is known that the chiefs there with ease, for glass beads or "fire water", sold slavers as captured by them strangers and fellow tribesmen). But in any case, the power of the ruling leader consisted not only in authority and prestige, without which he would not become the leader (at least in the beginning), but first of all in organizing the power apparatus, even if this apparatus was more like a gang of thugs.

• The second thing that is important to keep in mind is the evolution prospects. The Varangians in Russia had prospects, because they came from a community already familiar with civilization and statehood of a higher order. Moreover, their level of this acquaintance was sufficient not only for the development of Russia along the same path that was greatly helped by its Christianization, but also for the transformation of the nomadic Tatars who had conquered it several centuries later, at the same level of the tribal proto-state, which was unusually expanded, but structurally still not exceeding the limits of this level. This forces us to assert that a structure of this kind was devoid of potencies for further independent evolution without active intervention from outside.

The question now boiled down to finding out who could intervene. It is clear that it could only be a very serious impact on the part of a more developed society. For the Slavic farmers in Russia, for this, there was quite enough impact from the Varangian squad and Christianity. For Tatars familiar with the developed countries, beginning with China and referring to the Jurchens and Khorezm, which were routed by them on the way to the West, this acquaintance was not enough, for they were nomads. For nomads, their transformation into a society of a higher level could become a reality only if they, in the style of the ancient Chinese, "get off their horses". This happened after the conquest of the long-suffering Russia.

In short, as history shows, a tribal state without very serious and intense external influences has no potential for evolution. It is able to create a state of a more developed type only if its contact with a more developed society is real. But how was it in those remote times when such societies were not yet available, when on the planet there were only community communities that should be called, with a view to their level of development, the world's village ? Specialists, anthropologists and historians, long aware of this fact, sought to reconstruct the circumstances that could contribute to the process. As a result of their work, it became clear that primitive-primitive tribal proto-states could reach the level of an endowed political structure only in contact with the city or in extremely favorable and very rare circumstances, when some of them could become cities themselves. In any case, we are talking about the culture of the first cities in the history of mankind, about the emergence of urbanism.

Also We Can Offer!

Other services that we offer

If you don’t see the necessary subject, paper type, or topic in our list of available services and examples, don’t worry! We have a number of other academic disciplines to suit the needs of anyone who visits this website looking for help.

How to ...

We made your life easier with putting together a big number of articles and guidelines on how to plan and write different types of assignments (Essay, Research Paper, Dissertation etc)