History of State Formation Prompt Us Term Paper

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¶ … history of state formation prompt us to reexamine our assumptions about what is natural or universal about social organization? In other words, knowing that we know things can be different, and that they are often different, how could we challenge the belief that western civilization is the cultural "peak?"

Studying the past is an important part of understanding the present. By understanding how states formed in the past, we are better able to contextualize the development of our own culture and nation-state system. Organized states are far from new, and the social stratification, organizational complexity, and diverse cultures and worldview which we tend to think of as particular to modernity also existed in early states. Some of these early societies, while not 'perfect' in and of themselves, also had distinctive features which we in the west are still striving for, such as a less clearly defined social caste system.

States have not developed in a linear fashion, becoming more 'progressive' as they developed. Some early states, such as the Aztec and Incan civilization were extremely hierarchical, while other native populations exhibited a far more equitable relationship between members of different social strata. Ancient Greece was more democratic in terms of its governance than ancient Rome, and during the Peloponnesian Wars between the city-states of Athens and Sparta, it was the less democratic Spartans who triumphed. Might does not always make right.

The reasons for certain states triumphing over other civilizations often had more to do with 'guns, germs and steel' to quote Jared Diamond's famous phrase. Technical superiority and also the 'luck' of confronting a population without immunity to commonly-transmitted European illnesses was the reason for European dominance over what became 'the colonies.' "Horses could charge, mounted soldiers could slay with brutal efficiency…to a people like the Inca, who had never seen humans ride animals before, the psychological impact of these alien mounted troops must have been huge," and the Europeans had guns and swords of steel. But most importantly, because of building up a tolerance to smallpox from years of farming, native populations fell victim to illnesses they had never encountered but to which the Europeans were immune: "up to 95% of the native population of the entire Americas were wiped out after the conquest" of the Spaniard Francisco Pizzaro (Episode 2, 2005, Guns, Germs, and Steel).

The triumph over or fall of one civilization to another did not have to do with moral or even constitutional superiority, although the European colonists interpreted their victory as proof of the inferiority of the native mind and body. Rather, victories are often due to exogenous and uncontrollable biological and technical circumstances. However, because the victors write history, the victors… [END OF PREVIEW]

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