Sample Research Paper on The Distribution of Power in a Chiefdom and Pre-Modern State and Likelihood of Corruption and the Necessary ‘Dark Side’ Of Power


A chiefdom refers to a social category, continuous with non-stratified social groups and states. Chiefdoms resemble groups and tribes in being mainly egalitarian societies. Nevertheless, chiefdoms vary in having a more or less permanent, fulltime leader with power to come up with key decisions for their societies. Chiefdoms are defined in terms of a developing political economy that gathers resources utilized in financing institutions of rule and social stratification.A chief is a political player whose objective is to manage the essentialstrengths of the economy, warrior might, and philosophy. After the establishment of states, chiefs still function as sub-state actors managing interstitial spaces in competition and collaboration with apredominantstate(Earle 27).

Chiefdoms symbolize a developing competence of concentrating power and extending it to millions of individuals. Additionally, a chiefdom is a society linked to a chief’s polity. The social forms of chiefdoms can normally be hierarchical, implying that competing hierarchies and scopes of action are present as between political, religious, and social hierarchies, between the regional institution and constituent communities and kin groups, and between ethnic and gendered divisions(Earle 31).

The relationships of chiefs among themselves and other members in their chieftainciesas well as associations are civil, conditional, and negotiable. The level of official political institutional development in chiefdoms is restricted and unsteady, forming a continuous cycling of political structures. “Though chiefs regard themselves as centers of firm and persistent states, the reality is structural instability”(Bodley par. 15).

The Chief as A Political Actor

The chief has authority due to his/her ability to access, centrally control, and utilize elemental power using his/her personalized chieftaincy of followers. Additionally, political approaches depend on a developing political economy, and every multifaceted society, both chiefdoms and states, need financesgrounded on their economies. Moreover, comprehending the nature of political intricacy needs an explanation of the currencies, means, and changes in the flows of goods utilized in finance, especially in an explanation of bottlenecks whereby flows of currencies can be banned and mobilized to support and institutionalize political power. The currencies of finance in chiefdoms and states can be staples, including cereal grain and domestic animals, and wealth like metal display items,arms and currency(Earle 32).

The sovereignty of a chief is centered on elemental authorities emanating from the economy, warrior strength, and philosophy. These powers are essential because of the fact that they are apparent without complaint from social actors. Furthermore, chiefs with this kind of powers make requests that are easily accepted. The economic power focuses on the capability ofproviding or denyingessential and required goods, which comprise foodstuff, accommodation, and statureproducts and affluence. Furthermore, “goods mobilized from the political economy support different actions of the chief, as he/she distributes his/hergenerosity to the followers” (Bodley par. 16).

Warrior power focuses on the capability of coercing or the retreat of force. Additionally, no individual challenges armed muscle as “Fear is maintained by a dread of punishment, which never fails”(Earle 33). Moreover, power focuses on the ability to present followers with religiously,authorized narratives for obedience and support. With the development of states, leaders form ‘permanent’(lasting) institution of governance, bureaucracies and law, and these establishments offer a fourth source of political power established on the essential three(Earle 33).

Elemental powers are distributive, implying that they can spread out uniformly and broadly across society individuals. Therefore, a landowner farmer can act essentially as an independent agent in charge of defending the family, animals, and other properties. Furthermore, attempts to concentrate power are difficult: sometime back in humankindantiquity, headshipbeing small scale, group endorsed and mainly situational. For ademocratic society that existed then before the rise of stronger chiefs, people had a free or corporately indorsedadmittance to all supremacies to maintain independence of action. Furthermore, the ideology of theAmerican governance emphasizes the same values summarized in the freedom of allow arms, free markets, and religious freedoms. The framers of the constitution identified the iniquities of leading state powers and therefore soughtfor the constitutional restrictions on their interruption into private and local areas. The political opposition to a state is a reappearance to the primitive based on the nature of power. Nevertheless, in the political process, all leaders centralize authoritythroughdirectingaccess to itsbases. They regulate economies, restrictaccess to weapons, and establish religions, but their competences to monopolize accessthe sources of elemental power depend on the allocation and inventive shaping of bottlenecks in the political economies on which power is centered (Earle 33).

Bottlenecks or choke points refer to restrictions to flows of resources, workforces, and knowledge. In an economy, bottlenecks are formed when production is limited by the technological acquaintance or resourcesobtainable, or when trade must move in constrictedways along roads, caravan paths indeserts, or a few main rivers.

Chiefs implement a business blockage operating as immobilethieves or buccaneersin need of payments for secure passage. In addition, commodity chains define the extremelycapriciouspaths, along which merchandises are manufactured and transported. Due to the highly-detachedstate of several commodity chains, production and trade is normally hard to control, but conditions emerge that make control possible. Moreover, systems of property, for instance, offerperfect bottlenecks in the agricultural base, ordinary to many prime (autonomouslydeveloping) kingdoms and states. For warrior power, bottlenecks are created by constraint, where natural or political boundaries restrain chances of escaping(Acemoglu and Robinson 5).

The institutionalization of religion with intricateritualsand aconstructed site of shrines and sanctuaries also form limits on who has access to or clarification of sacred information and its meaning. The sources of influence become narrowlylinked by movements of resources, employees, and understanding. Therefore, surplus obtained from an economic bottleneck can be invested in coaching and supporting specialized warriors who guard the chief and his ownership over lands. The warriors are supervised by their chief’s patronage with superior weapons and training. Moreover, finance of ceremonial occasions and temple construction additionally createthe chief’s control over religion that authenticates rule; religion forms social order as well asthe rightconfiguration of belongingspossession and warrior allegiance. The power tactics of the chief entail a creative and continually varying connection of flows based on bottlenecks for control that maximize surplus extraction, military strength, and religious legitimacy (Earle 34).

The Chief as A Sub-State Actor

Chief-like leaders holdconsiderable power by both cooperating with and opposing modern states. According to an evolutionary prototypical, a multi-scalar society for states is anticipated; extensive companies gather and only partlycontrol the present sociopolitical formations. The legend of the modern state liesin the uniqueness of territorial control, a monopoly of force, and efficient judiciaries and bureaucracies. Based on these measures, every state is in some conditions of failing. These perfect principles of governance are an unrealizedvision of state bureaucracies. Rather,states are strengthened with varying dominion over space and actions of numerous scales. Different aspects of normal life as well as political and economic actions are handed over to sub-state players. Rulersoccupy these interstitial places, where the kingdoms are either are not in position to chooseor do not to exercise control. The majority of theseplaces are prohibited, as for example, in the flow and existence of drugs, guns, sex activities, and untaxed goods. Onceitpronouncesanappropriate thing illegal, the state forms unconceivable challenges in the implementation of ideal opportunities for chieftaincies-like Mafia. Therefore, the state unintentionally forms bottlenecks that current chiefs can manipulate with impunity (Earle 44).

Additionally, several functions within the state are challenging for it to manage or control directly. These are handed over to sub-state, chief-like entrepreneurs, who efficiently govern outside of the established order. Moreover, overseeing the collaged of sections and zones within a state seems impossible. Modern states entail expandingscopes of compact urban cores, nearby rural areas, and far regions in which the state presence is usually representational or irregular. Modern age chiefs, each with unique features, function within these spheres of state control: corrupt government leaders within the core, weakly controlled regional governors and distant allied operatives. Chiefs are similar because of the highly opportunistic, personal, and non-bureaucratic nature of their power (Acemoglu and Robinson 18).

Additionally, distance may make the heart affectionate, but it forms absurddefies for state constructions and openings for modern-day chiefs. In the contemporary state, the access of state police and bureaucracy is incomplete and chances of corruption are high. Within democratic Latin American states, for instance, chief-like autocratic governors who exchange regional political backing for state incomes that are redistributed to assist a chieftaincy govern areas outside the core(Mungiu 87).

At greater distances, as in current Afghanistan, local control is a combination of local institutions and associations of interests between tribal groups, commanders, and jihadist revolutionaries in antagonism to orin coalition with the state and its returns from the West. On the road to operate economies in the current age, many of nations’ wealth flows independently of the state apparatus, forming capacity for chiefs to consider themselves as generals, drug aristocrats, machine statesmen, and oligarchs.

Comprehending the functioning of current states necessitatesunderstanding the working of chieftaincies, stories that fill the daily newspapers. For example, a recent New York Timesarticledemonstrates the political tactics of modern chieftaincies. The article is about insurgent Taliban, which functions as a decentralized and greatly efficient organization that rapidly andinnovativelyadjusts to new NATO armedactivities. Talibanlitheness is oddlycomparable to chiefly combinationsthatwere presenttraditionally in Europe outside Greek or Roman canon. At the Taliban base, in the same manner as in any chieftaincy, is its capacity to finance its political strategies. “The Taliban in Afghanistan are operating a complicated financial network to pay for their insurgent operations, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from illicit drug trade, kidnappings, extortion, and foreign donations….” (Earle 45). The significant factor is their aptitude to acknowledge and seize automaticincomeforecasts. The article discusses how every step in the opium trade forms revenue opportunities for the Taliban’s political economy:

At the farm: “Taliban commanders charge poppy farmers a 10 percent tax, and Taliban fighters can make extra money harvesting poppy fields”(Earle 45).

At the lab: “The Taliban get taxes from traders who collect opium paste from farmers and take it to labs, where it is turned into heroin. The Taliban are also paid to protect the labs”(Earle 45).

On the road: “Truckers pay the Taliban a transit tariff on opium paste or heroin as it is smuggled out of the country”(Earle 45).

At the top: “Drug trafficking organizations make large regular payments to the Quetta Shura, the Taliban governing body”(Earle 45). (Source: Senate Foreign Relations Committee. NYT 10.19.09).

Eachphase in this unlawfulproductsequence has manageable bottlenecks controlled by the Taliban: the farms and labs are exposed since their lastingsitesseparatefrom the established state control (needed to evade state conquest) make them in requirement of ‘guard’.The infrastructures are restricted to few routes capable of carrying trucks to carry the crop; and exports need peaceful transshipment spots where foreign traffickers can take drugs without unwarranted fear of prohibition. The Western association’s desire to conquer drug traffic has had the unintentionalconsequence of forming idealprospects for the Taliban to provide their services. Any time new opportunities come up, the chieftaincyspeedily steps in to drum up resources to aid and increase its activities. This example is applicable to failed states as typify areas of Central Asia and Africa(Jain 7).

Chiefs within the structures of modern states signify several dignitaries, who creatively establish changing relationships to the state. The above example exemplifies only one extreme, the prehistoric chieftaincies, but contemporary chief-like figures entail a range from mutual resentmentto cautious accommodation with the state, as witnessed, for instance, from thechieftains of disastrous states, the tribal front-runners of mosaic state, the mafia, and urban gangs, to the corrupt officials and oligarchs operating within lenient regulatory environments. Chieftaincies that begin as illicit operations quickly look for ways of investing in modifying the state to their needs and in lawful business to legalize and increase their financial base(Earle 47).

Chieftaincies reach up to the state to corrupt and alter legal structures to coerce their benefits, but a state also reaches down to utilize its entrenched chieftains to subcontract state duties to satisfy the needs and wishes of its population. Additionally, the relations between chiefs and the state repeatedlytransforms through negotiated power resulting from the economic and political terrain. The goal of the chieftain is creating freedom to function efficiently with minimum supervision. The objective of the state is to overcome and at times co-opt the aggressive and creative plans of the chiefs, whose ability to swiftly move around the controlled actions of state bureaucracies is legionary(Earle 47).


Societies are regarded as diverse networks of social relationships and arenas of power. Concentration and institutionalization of the power is usually challenging, but some people normally try to push their agenda. Chiefs are influential political actors, developing in prehistory and continuing with the broken reality ofancient and contemporary states.To comprehend the political process of chiefs, numerous components are combined: increased flexibility and individualized relations that chiefs utilize in constructing to a loyal team, the main objective of maximizing power advantage against competitors by resourcefullybuilding power tactics that transform with changing conditions, and the eventual dependence on their political economy. Chieftaincies possess innate growth, as wealth is capitalized to enhance their access to new revenue sources and power. They are stopped only by restrictions to their sources of power, as it occurs either in the character of the political economy or the efficient rule of a state structure.



Works Cited

Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. Paths to Inclusive Political Institutions. Working Paper, 2015.

Bodley, John H. “Growth, sustainability, and the power of scale.” Dimensions of Sustainable Development-Volume II 2 (2009): 308.

Earle, Timothy. “Chiefs, chieftaincies, chiefdoms, and chiefly confederacies: power in the evolution of political systems.” Social Evolution & History 10.1 (2011).

Jain, Arvind K., ed. The political economy of corruption. Vol. 2. Routledge, 2002.

Mungiu, Alina. “Corruption: Diagnosis and treatment.” Journal of democracy17.3 (2006): 86-99.