The processes of the growing societal complexity, emergence of new forms of social and political inequality, formation of pre-state or complex stateless polities belong to the most intriguing subjects of Anthropology and Social Philosophy.
Social Evolution & History has consistently published the research articles devoted to these issues. The chiefdom concept plays a special role within the theories that try to account for the transition from simple social systems to systems of greater complexity. Following its emergence in the 1950s this notion became an important heuristic means to advance Anthropology and Archaeology. It was also subjected to vigorous debates within which the participants denied the methodological significance of chiefdoms and the very notion of the chiefdom. These debates are becoming even more vigorous in connection with the rapid accumulation of information on ancient societies (see the dispute over chiefdoms between Timothy Pauketat and Robert Carneiro in 9.1). There is also much discrepancy in the definition of ‘chiefdom’ as some scholars consider it a standard phase of cultural evolution, a natural transition between the ‘Big Man’ society and the states of the ancient world.