Pathways to Power

Principles for Creating Socioeconomic Inequalities
  • Brian Hayden
Part of the Fundamental Issues in Archaeology book series (FIAR)


It has been commonplace to describe relatively simple forms of nonegalitarian societies as “tribal” or “ranked.” However, these terms were formulated without reference to causal models and they are vague. My goal is to establish a better understanding of how nonegalitarian societies emerged from an egalitarian hunter gatherer base. This topic has captured the attention of a wide range of scholars over the past several decades, and there exist a number of excellent syntheses of the endeavors directed toward understanding the emergence of complexity (Arnold 1993; Coupland 1988; Earle 1987, 1989; Feinman and Neitzel 1984; Johnson and Earle 1987; Tolstoy 1989). The principal contending schools of interpretation in archaeology view complexity as developing due to population pressure, needs for more efficient management of risk or information; economic efficiency (redistribution), the monopoly of long-distance trade routes; manipulation of social or ideological factors; the simple hiving off of daughter communities resulting in community hierarchies; circumscription (social or geographic), coercive exploitation, ritual values, external threats, labor-intensive investment in productive facilities, other means of controlling resources including irrigation; scalar effects related to increasing community sizes or population densities; storage. There are structuralist and cognitive explanations as well. Rather than review these earlier contributions, I will proceed directly to a discussion of some other questions and data that I have gleaned from both archaeological and ethnographic data.


Socioeconomic Inequality Corporate Group Northwest Coast Contractual Debt Grave Good 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Hayden
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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