Chiefdoms: Yesterday and Today
What many anthropologists regard as the major step in political development occurred when, for the first time in history, previously autonomous villages gave up their individual sovereignties and were brought together into a multi-village political unit - the chiefdom. Though long neglected as a major stage in history, recent years have seen the chiefdom come in for increased attention. As its importance has been more fully recognized, it has become the object of serious scholarly analysis and interpretation. In this volume specialists in political evolution draw on data from ethnography, archaeology, and history and apply fresh insights to enhance the study of the chiefdom. The papers present penetrating analyses of many aspects of the chiefdom, from how this form of political organization first arose to the role it played in giving rise to the next major stage in the development of human society - the state.
It is often noted in the academic literature that chiefdoms frequently prove to be troublesome for scholars because of the disagreement as to whether to categorize this or that polity as a complex chiefdom or as an early state. This is no wonder, because complex chiefdoms, early states, as well as different other types of sociopolitical systems (large confederations, large self-governed civil and temple communities etc.) turn out to be at the same evolutionary level. In the present article it is argued that such complex societies can be considered as early state analogues. The most part of the article is devoted to the analysis of the most developed chiefdoms – the Hawaiian ones. It is argued that before the arrival of Cook there was no state in Hawaii. It should be classified as an early state analogue, i.e. a society of the same level of development as early states but lacking some state characteristics. It proceeds from the fact that the entire Hawaiian political and social organization was based on the strict rules and ideology of kinship, and the ruling groups represented endogamous castes and quasi-castes. The transition to statehood occurred only in the reign of Kamehameha I in the early 19th century. A scrupulous comparison between the Hawaiian chiefdoms and Hawaiian state is presented in the article.