The Importance of Urbanization

Of all the primary characteristics that are attributed to the creation of a state I believe urbanization to be of chief importance. The rationale behind this decision is the agency urbanization plays in the transition between nomadic hunter-gather societies to those that are sedentary. Once a society has decided to become sedentary all other characteristics of a state may then proceed. It is through settlement that agriculture may ensue, which gives way to social stratification, which then leads to a complex economy, which then produces specialized occupations and activities. Although I do not believe that this relationship is definitively linear as I just previously stated, I do believe that there a progression in any order first occuring with urbanization. The basic premise of a civilization of that it is an adaptive response to a need, and therefore, progresses out of a decisive measure to transition from one way of life to another. In addition I assert that Marvin Harris’s model of cultural materialism supports to primacy of urbanization in progression from a band to a state. Bands begin as nomadic groups that are loosely associated with a territory. The next phase of complexity is a tribe. This society is composed of a group on bands. Here, one can see that a population is growing and is becoming increasingly inclined to a sedentary lifestyle. One of the chief caveats of urbanization is its population. As exemplified here the population is growing and its adaption is to reformulate its subsistence strategy, enter the beginning mark of agriculture. In the next phase of complexity is chiefdom. Population density is still continuing to expand which commands the need for an institution to coordinate the economic and social practices of the given community. As a result hierarchy enters into the society as an individual or elite group is required to administer such coordination. The last phase of Harris’s model concludes with a state. As this point the society has reached technological sophistication that allows for greater economic production, leading to greater economic gains, and thus also giving its citizens greater freedom of choice as activity levels increase and more occupations become available.


Although in this essay I have noted urbanization as the greatest influencer in the development of a state it is important to also note that each of the characteristics of a state of not mutually exclusive and therefore may not exist in their own right. Each of these characteristics are interrelated thus making distinctions difficult at times. It is also important to clarify that the progression of a state does not occur on any given trajectory where a clear-cut path may be determined. There are many factors that contribute to the building of state and as a result each state may take a different pathway to achieve their progress. Thinking unilaterally often gets those who employ this school of thought into trouble as to assert that there is are natural stages for societal progression. Moreover this is gives way to prejudice thinking where someone may discount the legitimacy of one society because they do not exhibit the complexities of another society.