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Circumscription Theory of the Origins of the State: A Cross-Cultural Re-Analysis

  • Author(s): Zinkina, Julia;
  • Korotayev, Andrey;
  • Andreev, Alexey
  • et al.

In the paper we express some doubts about one of the assumptions of Robert Carneiro’s model on state (and chiefdom) formation, namely the role of circumscription. In our opinion, the main flaw of Carneiro’s original theory of state formation is that it implicitly assumes that every community dreamt to conquer its neighboring communities. We test the presence of various types of warfare (such as conquest warfare, land acquisition warfare, and plunder warfare) in societies with different degrees of political centralization. Quantitative cross-cultural tests reveal a rather strong correlation between political complexity and the presence of conquest warfare suggesting that conquest warfare was virtually absent among independent communities. Newer works by Carneiro propose a model explaining how simple chiefdoms could appear in the absence of conquest warfare. This model also includes circumscription, but our analysis suggests that it is unnecessary.

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