Crossing the Killing Zone into Statehood
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to flesh out more completely the relationship between the emergence of an external threat and the rise of the state. It begins by recognizing that combat is a team good. Whenever a combatant chooses to fight, he confers a positive externality on his comrades in arms. This fact encourages every combatant to shirk. Necessarily, any pre-state community’s ability to supply external defense was intimately connected to its ability to internalize this externality. The theory of the firm prescribes hierarchical direction. Pre-state societies implemented alternative mechanisms (costly rituals and physical restraints). These mechanisms worked as long as external defense could be secured by engaging in raids, surprise attacks and open-field ritual battles. Ritual battles consisted of opposing combatants arraying against each other in open-order parallel lines exchanging uncoordinated masses of missile weapons. Opposing combatants were reluctant to close the distance between each other. At some point, however, a pre-state community’s survival hinged upon its ability engage in pitched battles in which organized files of men had to do just that. This paper theorizes that the desire to cross the “killing zone” motivated some pre-state societies to adopt a hierarchical military organization. Moreover, this organizational innovation had the tendency to spread into other areas of their social life facilitating the emergence of the state.