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Chiefdom vs State

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For that some should rule, and others should be ruled is a thing not only necessary but expedient: from the hour of their birth, some are marked for subjection, others for rule (Aristotle). In ancient times Kingdoms were also referred to as the kingship or monarchy because of its status and the royalty it holds. Both the state and the chiefdom have political and leadership interest though they are distinguishable in terms of structure but similarities in terms of administrative roles. Although Chiefdom is not common in the modern society both the state and the chiefdom were used during the ancient period by different communities.

The similarities can also be defined in terms of the natural resources that both the state and the chiefdom govern and maintain. The management is based on the fact that the resources available in the locality can be shared or the revenue it generates can be shared within the community. The primary role of the chief or the president is to ensure that the immediate people who live within the rich resource are the beneficiary. In terms of ownership of the territory, both the state and the chiefdom have their territorial definition. The power to protect the border is vested upon the chief (Chiefdom) and president (state) under a written document such as the constitution.

In both societies i.e. chiefdom and state the wielding of power by the rulers was of great essence. Thus was to make sure the status quo is maintained. In order to wield this power the importance of having a strong military force and accumulation wealth by the president and chief of was much stressed. In most cases the kingship or the statehood was considered royal and was accorded much respect and the national status or the chiefdom hood.

Bothe the chiefdom and the state had a role to play in the decision making regarding the distribution and budgeting of the finances, distribution and allocation of powers, developmental issues, religious matters and social status of the communities within their jurisdiction.

The chiefdom and the state had a settlement pattern based on sedentary many villages and the basis of their relationship was fundamentally dependent on class and residence, although states later developed modern cities (Scarre, 2007). The first states were not distinguishable from the advanced chiefdom, because they had similar administrative structures and population size. The economic activities such as agriculture (horticulture and small scale farming) and trade was common in both the state and chiefdom.

However the development of states was preceded by formation of small scale society’s referred to as the chiefdom. Te development of the state through the chiefdom can be illustrated in the diagram below:

Due to the development of states from the chiefdom there are differences which emerged and are significant and worth mentioning. At the heart of the chiefdom was the kinship which was very strong. The kinship was fundamentally based on the family linkage and lineage where the first or the eldest male in the most senior lineage was the chief. The main responsibility of the chief was to perform ritual and governance while basically maintaining the lineage. At the state level there was no performance of ritual by the leader. This is because the major role of the ruler was to enhance and concentrate on administrative issues and duties.

The division of labor at the chiefdom level was by ascriptive category while at the state level a complex division of labor and elaborate stratification was developed. As the state continued to be developed, the clan of the chieftain shifted the emphasis from the kinship to the society at large so as to develop a noble and qualitative lineage (Scarre, 2007). This will help in hiring of specialist such as scribes, priest and soldiers who will play a major role in governing.

There are other distinct features which differentiate the state from the chiefdom. The population of the chiefdom span up to thousands but that of the state should be at least 50,000. Whereas the difference between the state and the chiefdom can be intricate, the lines can be drawn in terms of degree or magnitude: more and larger villages or cities: more social strata: more complex division of labor. There is intense exploitation of natural resources at a chiefdom level while at the state level there is development of elaborate institutionalized bureaucracy to control and manage a greater population, large and wide area, and greater intensification of the exploitation of the natural resources. During the evolution of the states, there was emergence of the capitalist who will amass vast wealth by exploiting market imperfections and market distortions created by the state and use the wealth for economic exploitation especially large scale trading.

In a chiefdom setting, the ruling chief is the manager, military leader, judge and priest. This mean that the powers of the ruler are not divided although they are from different sources. At the state level the powers are divided and bureaucratized. Since the state serves people from different cultures and societies, the holders of the offices such as the military and judges should be guided by certain policies and regulations so as to serve without bias and impartiality thus bureaucratic. The state was considered to be a monopoly because it derived its power and force from the explicit legal system and the writings (Scarre, 2007).

Another significant distinguishing factor is the decline in the social groups defined by the kinship and the replacement of groups defined by class and residence. On the other hand the state is very important to the typology of language change. The state is able to bring together sufficient force to conquer, incorporate and integrate other societies leading to multiethnic and multilingual state. While the state is considered an egalitarian society the chiefdom is a utilitarian society in terms of labor and market capitalization.

It is very important to study the chiefdom because it is the foundation of the state and it helped in the definition of the state in terms of governance and administration. The basis of chiefdom is to enhance societal development through division of labor and careful exploitation of the natural resource available.

Chiefdoms were very powerful in terms of controlling labor and managing of enormous natural resources. They could get labor from the commoners, who were considered of low class, and pay them. This method was adopted by the state, thus bringing the essence of studying chiefdom. Therefore, the chiefdom laid an important foundation in the development of structures in terms of administration and governance of the state.

The contribution of the chiefdom socio-cultural nature cannot be ignored. This is because it helped in setting the standards which the sate used to incorporate and integrate.

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