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Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 203–239 | Cite as

Political economy and archaeology: Perspectives on exchange and production

  • Kenneth G. Hirth
Article

Abstract

Traditional approaches to the study of political economy are flawed in two respects. First, traditional approaches have submerged political economy within a discussion of political development and the evolution of complex society. Second, they have emphasized single dimensions of the economy such as production or distribution of resources as being the basis for political power. Current research has demonstrated that political economies are a mix of many different resource mobilization strategies that crosscut the production, service, and distribution sectors of the society. Archaeologists must attempt to identify this mix of strategies as a first step in reconstructing the structure of prehistoric political economy. Elites strive to control and mobilize resources from as many different sources as possible and invoke a common set of principles in doing so. These principles or components of the political economy are the accumulation, context, matrix control, and ideology principles. They are identified here as common mechanisms of resource creation, manipulation, and expropriation that can be applied to societies at different times and at different levels of organization.

Key words

political economy cultural evolution complex societies prehistoric production prehistoric trade prehistoric exchange economic anthropology archaeology 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth G. Hirth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park

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