Sneath argues that aristocratic power and statelike processes of administration were the true organizers of life on the steppe. Rethinking the traditional dichotomy between state and nonstate societies, Sneath conceives of a "headless state" in which a configuration of statelike power was formed by the horizontal relations among power holders and was reproduced with or without an overarching ruler or central "head." In other words, almost all of the operations of state power existed at the local level, virtually independent of central bureaucratic authority.
Sneath's research gives rise to an alternative picture of steppe life in which aristocrats determined the size, scale, and degree of centralization of political power. His history of the region shows no clear distinction between a highly centralized, stratified "state" society and an egalitarian, kin-based "tribal" society. Drawing on his extensive anthropological fieldwork in the region, Sneath persuasively challenges the legitimacy of the tribal model, which continues to distort scholarship on the history of Inner Asia.
|Publisher:||Columbia University Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Table of ContentsMaps
2. The Myth of the Kinship Society: Evolutionism and the Anthropological Imagination
3. The Imaginary Tribe: Colonial and Imperial Orders and the Peripheral Polity
4. The State Construction of the Clan: The Unilineal Descent Group and the Ordering of State Subjects
5. The Essentialized Nomad: Neocolonial and Soviet Models
6. Creating Peoples: Nation-state History and the Notion of Identity
7. The Headless State: Aristocratic Orders and the Substrata of Power
What People are Saying About This
David Sneath's The Headless State is a long-overdue challenge to the conventional picture of Inner Asian nomads divided up into kin-based 'tribes' and 'clans.' Classic histories and ethnographies are given a provocative new reading via an incisive history of social anthropological doctrines and dogmas. What emerges is both the centrality of the state in Inner Asia and the analytic dangers implicit in the state-society dichotomy. Boldly argued, The Headless State will place Inner Asia at the center of writing on state formation.
Christopher P. Atwood, chair, Central Eurasian Studies Department, Indiana University
In this provocative book, David Sneath provides a scrupulous and erudite critique of concepts such as pastoralism, kinship societies, tribalism, and the state as used in the analysis of Inner Asian polities. He argues instead for the presence of an aristocratic order; the existence of rulers and ruled as distinct social strata; and the presence of 'state relations' in societies that do not seem to match the older models of the centralized state. An important work that will be of interest to anthropologists and political theorists regardless of their regional specialization.
Signe Howell, professor of social anthropology, University of Oslo