After reviewing of the different primary and secondary characteristics of a state, I truly believe the most important characteristic of all is the practice of agriculture, particularly intensive agriculture. While the other characteristics such as urbanism, complex economy, stratification, and state authority are extremely important, I argue that without agriculture, these factors would not have emerged period.
I argue, first, that agriculture is the most important characteristic because it is involved in one of the four classic theories for the emergence of Ancient State. Irrigation agriculture was particularly important because hit allowed for high density populations, higher productivity, and higher efficiency of agriculture. In addition, agriculture combined with irrigation, requires an elite who can be in authority and tell people what needs to be done. With the utilization of agriculture, human populations were able to create a sedentary life style that allowed them to produce massive amounts of subsistence products in response to the increase in their population size. It was through agriculture that early populations learned how to create irrigation systems, such as canals, that eventually led to the emergence of a more complex society because management of the canals and water were controlled by the elite.
In other words, agriculture “births” the opportunities for other primary characteristics of states to come about:
URBANISM- with the practice of agriculture, groups of people were able to begin a sedentary life style. This allowed for the population density to increased because there was available food for all. Thus, in a way, agriculture allowed for urbanization to occur.
STRATIFICATION & SPECIALIZATION- through agriculture, stratification could occur at the same time as specialization because agriculture allowed civilizations to developed different specializations- whether it was specializations in farming, domesticating the animals which would help cultivate, or even the specialization of creating the tools/technology necessary to cultivate the crops. But as with any empire, when specializations occur, so does stratification. So therefore, the presence and practice of agriculture allowed for these other two characteristics to become more prominent.
COMPLEX SOCIETY- I also believe that agriculture allowed for the beginnings of a complex society to emerge. Through agriculture, states were able to not only grow enough crops for their use, but they were also able to grow enough surplus for trade. Having surpluses was incredibly important for the beginnings of trade.
STATE AUTHORITY- For agriculture to even be successful, irrigation canals had to be put in place to help give the crops a better opportunity to survive. According to class lecture, the presence of the irrigation canals alone allowed for the emergent of state authority because someone had to be in charge of them- for the production of them and for the management of them. In addition, surpluses were more common in agriculture societies and it was not uncommon for the state to demand some of the surpluses for taxes for example. These kinds of acts only enforce and strengthen the state authority. So again, I argue that agriculture provided the opportunities necessary for other characteristics of a state to emerge.
In my opinion, really all of the characteristics of a state relate to each other and are intimately connected in some way or another because when one occurs, another one follows. It is my belief that without agriculture, states would not exist at all because I believe agriculture was the catalyst for all characteristics to emerge.