Beyond the search for origins
Pages 2

Anthropological studies, which have now been going on for more than fifty years, in *Africa, the *Pacific, *Southeast and *South Asia, and in Amerindian societies have considerably modified the terms of the debate. Researchers are now more interested in the form and workings of the state in apparently very different societies, than in the question of state formation. Is it appropriate to apply the modern concept of the state in sociocultural contexts which contrast very strongly with those more familiar settings in which the concept has usually been employed? Following †S.F.Nadel the state can be defined as a form of political system which is the product of a conjunction of three factors: a unitary polity based on territorial sovereignty; a specialized governmental body with a monopoly on legitimate force; and a ruling group, distinguished from the rest of the population by training, recruitment and †status, with a monopoly on the apparatus of political control. It is in this sense that it is possible to consider as states forms of government that are far removed from the complex and highly developed hierarchical structures of modern society, and to oppose them, as did †E.E.Evans-Pritchard and †M.Fortes (1940), to other political systems that have no centralized authority, no specialized judicial institutions, no differences of rank and status, and where kinship groups provide the basis for political roles.