Tag Archives: secondary characteristics

Characteristics of a State

On the second day of class we learned there are six important/primary characteristics that make a state: urban, agriculture, specialization, complex economy, stratification, and state authority.  Secondary characteristics are usually evident in some combination of the following: monumental public works, writing, metallurgy, tribute/taxation, mass production of goods, state religion, state art, and epidemic disease and malnutrition.  While both primary and secondary characteristics are important for the classification and study of states, I believe that the primary characteristics are most important.
Allow me to elaborate.  The secondary characteristics are important as well, but I feel that those characteristics cannot be reached, or achieved, by the community until the primary characteristics are met.  In the following paragraphs, I will indicate how each one of the primary characteristics leads to some of the secondary characteristics being achieved.
For the urban characteristic to be applied, it must be a densely populated, permanent settlement; non nomadic living.  Without this dense population, other secondary characteristics could not be met.  For instance, there would be a greatly reduced risk of epidemic diseases.  The monumental public works would not be completed because the work force would be so spread out that it would be difficult to get enough people in one location.
The agriculture required is intense agriculture, providing for many people, not just a family.  This large production of crops can be used in taxation/tribute, depending on how the state organizes the system.  Mass production can also involve crops and food stuffs.
A group is considered to implement specialization when the population is split up for occupations; only part of the population is involved in food production, health care, security, clothing production, etc.  This specialization could be implemented in metallurgy, the creation of decorative or warfare metal objects.  The mass production of goods can also include specialization, in determining who is producing what objects and making sure the necessary variety is produced.
A complex economy involves long trade routes and large-scale trading of goods.  Mass production of goods can be required if a state has a high demand from the areas/states it trades with.  Epidemic diseases could also be introduced into a state through the interaction with other areas that a complex economy encourages.  Tribute and/or taxation are also involved in a complex economy, by helping ensure it has enough resources to function.
I believe stratification and state authority are linked closely to one another; stratification is essentially the presence of a hierarchy or social classes in a state, and state authority is the implementation of decision-making processes decided upon by the state (and a ruling body to carry out those decisions).  Usually the ruling body that carries out the state authority is part of the elite class present in stratification.  The state can then implement a state religion or state art (or similar fields like astrology).  The state authority can dictate the rules and amount of tribute/taxation for the citizens, and could even have a hand in the distribution of jobs and food.  Monumental public works are perhaps one of the most visible indicators of the presence of state authority; all of the workers required to build something so impressive must be coordinated by someone.
Taking all of this into consideration, I believe that the primary characteristics of state are more important.  Without the primary ones, a state cannot achieve the secondary characteristics.