pendulum periods

Sat, 22 Apr 1995 20:19:40 EDT

Bob Graber:
I look forward with interest to your book. But on pedulum periods,
have astronauts ever tried one on the surface of the moon? Or at the point
where the earth's and the moon's gravities are equal? I really don't know.
But don't we go to great extremes to avoid wind effects, magnetic effects and
loose children who suddenly decide to grab a ride on a swing? Yes, this is a
joke, but the point is the noteworthy success of the laboratory method is
proportional to (the square of?) ability to hold "everything else constant"!
In human social relations and culture, the variables we want to "fence out"
and eliminate are not easy to control. Your noting slipperyness in "cause" is

Now on the origins of states, I'm much more tentative, but will suggest a line
of reasoning which seems plausible to me: Aren't we still struggling to
escape the charm cast upon the nineteenth century by Egypt, Sumer, and China?
Carneiro does well, as I understand to pay close attention to New World
examples, specifically Peru. This demolishes the idea that irrigation turns
farming for food into a state. Carneiro's hypothesis is plausible, and I
grant great respect to it, but am not ready to consider it A SOLE CAUSE.
For instance, since I believe the cotton being raised in those Peruvian
coastal valleys was being traded into the highlands, might not "trade wars"
for access to markets have also precipitated wars for unification of one's
valley, and then of competition in adjacent valleys? Please note, I await the
data from others closer to the field, and am not in position to go search it
out myself. Note also, many Americanists seem to consider Cahokia a "pristine
state, even though a few of the "marks" are not fully confirmed; There's no
narrow confining valley there. What about the evidence of early warfare at
the point of Mississippian florescence? Then again, since the 1970's, I
understand that Anasazi specialists have been promoting Chaco Canyon as a
probable center of a "state"--small, vulnerable to climatic changes, and yet
with economic exchange spread quite widely, and probably some degree of
political unification of local villages. Now this is a very curious vari-
ant. Little indication of stratification, and apparently matrilineal kinship
(if we trust ethnographic indications of later Pueblo Indians as a reflection
of their reputed Anasazi ancestors).

Heretic that I am, how about the Iroquois and Hawaii? I's like to consider
them as "almost" pristine states, which at least expands our sample. Inter-
national law is not the same as anthropological theory, but isn't it suggestive
that when no major European power found either motive or commitment to
"suzerain" Hawaii successfully, they came to an agreement to admit it to
"the society of nations." The Hawaians were warlike, but were they over-
populated when with captured artillery the islands were unified? On the
war side, I'll concede them to Carneiro as a difficult case. The Iroquois
are more puzzling. Warlike, yes. But didn't the Confederacy come about
as a means of limiting warfare within itself, as well as elf-defense against
those outside? And note another matrilineal society in this widening sample!

Political philosophers of the past argued over whether the state originated
in contract or conquest. They too, were prisoners of the one cause/one effect
rhetoric. Are we not tending now to recognize a main basis of the state in
a "legitimate monopoly on the (most effective) means of coercion"? Does this
not imply that legitimacy may be achieved by either contract or conquest?
But anthropologists have argued over how an "emerging" state might arise from
Chiefdoms. Very good, but aren't we correcting the political philosophers
whose contract-or-conquest assumes a given moment, like Saul's annointing
of David, or the Norman Conquest?(Oops, neither Israel not England were
PRISTINE states, were they? But do we have any good historical reference to
the moment of origin a a PRISTINE state?) If we"re suggestion a longer
process of "emergence," perhaps we should
look at Hoebel's "Emergence or Law on the Plains"' where military/police lodges
actually begin passing legislation to change tradition. That's certainly not a
state, and my impression is that horse pastoralists/buffalo hunters are much
less likely to get it all together into a state that Hawaians or Iroquoian
farmer/hunters. But can we learn from playfully reflecting on these things?

Little of this is suggested as proof, but as suggestion that there are a lot
of variables incompletely explored. Here's for the legitimacy of playin
around with a multiple factor theory--it just might become useful.