Warfare and Society: Archaeological and Social Anthropological Perspectives

By Ton Otto; Henrik Thrane et al. | Go to book overview

17 Chiefs Made War and War Made States?
War and Early State Formation in
Ancient Fiji and Hawaii

CLAUS BOSSEN

The epigram ‘War made state and state made war’ seems to emblematically condense recent discussions of the emergence of the European nation-state.1 Various works indicate the close inter-relations between war, military organisation, and the development of medieval bureaucratic organisation, and the significance of these connections to the emergence of the territorially based nation-state with its (claimed) monopoly of violence (e.g., Giddens 1985; McNeill 1982; Porter 1994; Tilly 1990). That ‘… state made (and makes) war’ is beyond doubt when looking at European history. More generally, once an elite group has gained privileged access to basic resources and thus a position of power, it can employ military organisation to protect its interests internally and externally. But what about ‘War made state…’? Is there really a connection between the organisation for defence and attack and the emergence of the state? Does the search for protection against external threats result in complex organisation with internal subjugation, either by consensus or through warring leaders who use military organisation to suppress the people they were meant to protect? The coincidence of frequent, often prolonged wars and the rise of modern nation-states in Europe in the last millennium offers a good case through which to argue this in the affirmative. But the long-durée of this development also suggests that it was not the logical outcome of pre-set conditions. Various actors had to play their cards right in the right social structural conditions in the right historical context.

The dictum ‘War made state’ has a long history in European thought concerning the emergence of the early (‘archaic’) and European states.2 However, according to archaeological and anthropological evidence,3 while wars have been fought throughout human history, states remain rare occurrences in world historical terms. Depending on how one chooses to define a state, such political entities may only have emerged ten to twenty times before the European nation-state and its subsequent establishment of a global system of nation-states through commercial and military enterprise during the last two centuries (Mann 1986). War, conquest and military organisation are apparently not sufficient to cause state formation, and pre-state societies seem to have in-built anti-state features that discourage stratification and military leadership from developing into class division, a monopoly of means of violence, and a bureaucratic, political organisation.

In the following, I pursue the problematic of war and early state formation by focussing on what are now the two island groups of Fiji and Hawaii at the time of European contact around 1800. Fiji and

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