The Social Basis of the Empire: The Rulers and the Ruled
What are these old and dried-up truths upon which we are feeding? One is that axiom according to which the lower classes, the masses, are the elite of the nation, that they constitute the People itself, and that the common man, with all his inexperience and imperfections, has the same right to pronounce judgment, to direct, and to govern as the few men of truly noble mind.
-- Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, Act IV
Even before the Incas consolidated their power, the pressure of population had obliged the Indians to improve their methods of agriculture by joint labor, irrigation, and the building of terraces. This was a task that had demanded constant and concerted toil and had favored the development of a centralization of which we find examples in Chimú and Tiahuanaco. A chief was needed for the tribes that lacked land and had to unite their efforts to draw sustenance from an unproductive soil, and their lives came to be governed by passive obedience.
When the sinchi, at first a temporary leader, achieved permanent status, he found men ready to submit to his rule. Breaking through geographical boundaries, he subdued the neighboring peoples by fair means or foul. Uprooting some of his subjects from the soil, he made them government officials and thus formed the nucleus of the class that was to be his mainstay.1 It may thus be