More on Fukuyama and State vs. Stateless Society
because it's important
The basic subject in Francis Fukuyama’s The Origin of Political Order is the transition of human society from “stateless” to “state” society. Stateless societies are societies of the kindred; state society is the attempt to transcend kin and tribal loyalty.
So the basic question in the transition is how to deal with the natural and physical tribal loyalty that operates in stateless, tribal society.
Because. Because tribal societies tend to get involved in endless wars. That’s what happened in China, starting 3,500 years ago. It took 1,800 years of endless war before northern China crystallized in the single Qin state. But reading the story of the endless wars of the Warring States period culminating in the Qin dynasty is pretty chilling.
The basic story seems to be that stateless tribal societies can only survive today if they are isolated in mountain valleys, as many societies are in Papua New Guinea.
Fukuyama’s basic notion is that a state society needs the following characteristics to beat back the stateless kin-based tribal society.
Centralized source of authority — “king, president, or prime minister” — that “deputizes a hierarchy of subordinates”.
“monopoly of the means of coercion” with an “army and/or police”.
Territorial rather that kin-based authority, allowing for a bigger state.
“states are more stratified and unequal than tribal societies”. Rulers tend to separate themselves from society. And serfdom and slavery appear.
“states are legitimated by much more elaborate forms of religious belief”.
But the interesting thing about China is that it never really developed a strong religious culture, like Hindu India, Islam, and Christian Europe. Religious belief helps keep kings and monarchs down to a dull roar and helps undergird the authority of a rule of law. And yet, in China the emperors rarely taxed to the limit. Unlike our modern centralized states.
Another interesting thing about China is that the emperors utterly failed to control their bureaucracies. So they created a spy system, a hierarchy of eunuchs to keep tabs on the bureaucrats. Except that they also failed to control the eunuchs.
So. In the centuries before our brilliant modern educated class conjured up the top-down hierarchy of socialism, the Chinese had already proved that top-down does not work.
OK, I know. The socialists think — they know — that socialism is the royal road to equality. But Fukuyama is quite matter-of-fact about equality. The only egalitarian societies are tribal stateless societies where the leaders do not have the power to enforce their will.
One interesting issue is the means of breaking up tribal loyalties, one facet of which is “patrimonialism,” or channeling resources towards your kin. This was a constant problem in China, and could only be solved by very severe methods on elites. In India, it took the Brits to teach them about the techniques of state formation. And even today, the varna caste system and the jati occupation categorization makes it difficult for the state to penetrate down to the village level and enforce its will. In the Muslim states in Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, they developed soldier slaves and bureaucrat slaves, taking children from their families at a young age and socializing them into the Mamluks of Egypt and the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire. But the problem was that the slaves, even with their elite status, wanted to marry and have children and have the children succeed into the elite — thereby cancelling the whole point of the unitary state that transcends kindred loyalties.
One constant is the problem of limiting top-down data power. It takes a legal system that is somewhat independent of the ruling class, and an independent religious hierarchy to which powerful political people need to bend the knee. You can see that in the 20th century, as educated classes the world over have dominated religious hierarchy —including, of course, our fashionable Communist and progressive and CRT and DEI priests — this limit on political power has been seriously damaged. And it is also fair to say that the legal system’s independence has been seriously compromised by assimilation into the political class.
Really, the dullness of our educated class is astonishing. You would think that by now it should be obvious that morality should be separate from politics, and the law should be separate from politics.
Indeed I say that the failure of our educated class, and its record of Making Things Worse, stems directly from its conceit that it is so wise that it should run the law and should impose its secular religion.
And the trouble is that things are going to get worse before they get better.