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Political Economy and Archaeology: Perspectives on Exchange and Production

Author(s): Kenneth G. Hirth


Source: Journal of Archaeological Research, Vol. 4, No. 3 (September 1996), pp. 203-239
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41053132
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Journal of Archaeological Research, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1996

Political Economy and Archaeology:


Perspectives on Exchange and Production
Kenneth G. Hirth1

Traditional approaches to the study of political economy are flawed in two


respects. First, traditional approaches have submerged political economy within a
discussion of political development and the evolution of complex society. Second,
they have emphasized single dimensions of the economy such as production or
distribution of resources as being the basis for political power. Current research
has demonstrated that political economies are a mix of many different resource
mobilization strategies that crosscut the production, service, and distribution sectors
of the society. Archaeologists must attempt to identify this mix of strategies as a
first step in reconstructing the structure of prehistoric political economy. Elites strive
to control and mobilize resources from as many different sources as possible and
invoke a common set of principles in doing so. These principles or components
of the political economy are the accumulation, context, matrix control, and
ideology principles. They are identified here as common mechanisms of resource
creation, manipulation, and expropñation that can be applied to societies at
different times and at different levels of organization.
KEY WORDS: political economy; cultural evolution; complex societies; prehistoric production;
prehistoric trade; prehistoric exchange; economic anthropology; archaeology.

INTRODUCTION

This review examines how archaeologists have perceived and modele


the political economy in their discussions of prehistoric culture change. Wh
archaeologists have been interested in the relationships between econom
control and political evolution since the middle twentieth century (Child
1942; Steward, 1949), emphasis often has been placed on identifying t
evolution of political organization rather than reconstructing the econo
relationships that underscore them. While inferences about political econom
are common in Americanist archaeology, the concept has rarely been defined
or evenly employed in the study of prehistoric societies.

department of Anthropology, 115 Carpenter Building, Pennsylvania State Universi


University Park, Pennsylvania 16802.

203

10594161/96/0900-02D3S09.50/0 © 1996 Plenum Publishing Corporation

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204 Hirth

I have se
discussion
opment.
political
ment of
result has
economie
number o
of exchan
1971; Ren
tensified
tion of b
1991; Ede
Although
role of ex
forms of
Political
strongly
tors of th
of politic
ranging i
goals. Fir
politicoec
tifies the
by archa
either st
dressed t
principle
discussion
omy. The
matrix-co

POLITICAL ECONOMY AND ARCHAEOLOGY

The concept of political economy as it is used in anthropology ca


traced to the work of Karl Marx (1964), who, along with early neocla
economists such as Adam Smith (1791), was interested in explaining
emerging economic structure of society. For Maix, political economy was
study of the structural relationships that defined the means of contr
wealth and creating inequality in state-level society. Within this fram
political economy was defined specifically in terms of the labor and excha
relationships found within bourgeois industrial society (Engels, 1969, p. 5

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Political Economy and Archaeology 205

In anthropology and archaeology the co


has been applied to discussions of both state an
1988). In general, these studies have emphas
broader interregional linkages within and
p. 43). It is also the case that archaeologi
economic and political structure of resour
specific relations of production as proposed
prehistoric political economy discussed in an a
a strongly Marxist perspective (Terray, 197
of substantivist economics (Polanyi et ai, 1
It is through substantivism, cultural ecolog
approaches that researchers have transform
political economy into a more general mat
all levels of social complexity. In anthropolo
redefined as "an analysis of social relatio
wealth and power" (Roseberry, 1989, p. 44).
tion that archaeological treatments of poli
economy is most often equated with the proce
control of scarce resources, which, in turn,
the development of complex society. Unfo
studies tend to focus on either production
ining all forms of resource control found w
The dominant view in archaeology is that po
proportion to their access to and control ov
1968). From this perspective the growth of pol
over people (labor), manipulated through kinsh
control of resources or the material means to
of labor and resource control may vaiy from
resources in the form of food, tools, and/or luxu
the expansion, integration, and administration
In a recent publication Johnson and Earle
litical economy as that sector of the economy
sistence households and that is used to finan
institutions administered by non-food-pro
Earle, 1987, p. 13). One way this process can
role that elites play in expropriating resour
through manipulation of the social and dem
1983). Elites can be identified archaeologically
remains (Abrams, 1987), mortuary context
goods assemblages (Havüand and Moholy-Nag
basis for resource control by elites is in turn in
political, and religious functions that they perf

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206 Hirth

In a rec
return to
of the ec
economy
the colle
Velde, 19
izational
vestment
blocks th
as societi
for comp
complexi
organizat
prehistor

ARCHAEOLOGICAL CHARACTERIZATIONS OF
POLITICAL ECONOMY

Archaeologists have not adopted a holistic perspective for stud


and reconstructing prehistoric political economy. Instead, we have f
on the relative importance of different aspects of the political econom
explaining the development of complex society. An a priori axiom
be that forms of political economy can be expected to vary over tim
space. Similarly, the economic basis of enduring political systems is
based upon a single resource or economic relationship; rather, they
based upon a mix of economic activities that are geared to expropri
array of resources for use in the sociopolitical arena.
Scholars interested in prehistoric political economy need to dev
research along two separate lines of inquiry: (1) the reconstruct
the mix of resource mobilization strategies employed by societies i
ferent places and at different points in time and (2) the identificat
common mechanisms of resource creation, manipulation, and expro
tion used in societies at different levels of organization. The first of
research questions is an empirical one and requires the archaeologis
determine the mix and relative weight of production, service, and
change activities in the structure of the political economy. The sec
research question is broadly comparative and requires the identifica
of the conditions under which certain strategies or mixes of activiti
prevalent.

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Political Economy and Archaeology 207

Unfortunately, review of the literatu


have not identified these two issues as sp
addressed. Instead, researchers have tend
omy in terms of three contrasting sets o
subsequently debated in terms of their r
standing the evolution of political system
exchange relationships, (2) food and comm
nomic and ideational linkages.
The first and longest debate in archaeolog
tance of production and exchange system
systems. Researchers following both Marxist
paradigms have long argued that control o
basis for political evolution. Conversely, inv
the work of Karl Polanyi and other subst
Polanyi et al, 1957) have emphasized the r
the control of exchange systems play in
litical authority (Rathje, 1971; Renfrew and
gence of world-systems theoiy (Hall and
has refueled this debate by stressing the
ships in creating large-scale social network
The production-exchange debate for th
occurs in several areas around the world whe
has been extensively researched. In the N
be found in Mesoamerica (Blanton et al,
and the American Southwest (Cordell, 198
respondingly, in the Old World this sam
development of political systems in Meso
Young, 1972) and Africa (Rowlands, 1979;
The error in this debate is not that co
tribution can have differential effects on
ciety, but that they should be seen as mutua
the same developmental sequence. Produc
of the same political coin and are used to
resources and exercise control over their
tionship has been accurately and eloqu
O'Shea (1989) in their analysis of risk min
at all levels of complexity. For them, pr
plementary components of the economy d
buffer different levels of subsistence risk
1989; O'Shea, 1989).

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208 Hirth

Second,
importan
other no
sized th
for polit
traced t
elite con
the Old
civilizati
support
Over th
have rep
in polit
1987; Ne
alternat
warfare
rison, 19
able quan
Scholars
trol ove
craft go
goods in
Earle, 19
trol of l
both reg
items fu
ply a net
for mut
1992; Re
words o
modities
which th
mization
that (1)
velopme
producti
Schwart
luxury i
The thi
organiza
strictly
controlle

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Political Economy and Archaeology 209

The rationale for this approach is that large p


resources than do smaller ones and, therefo
and perpetuate themselves. Conversely, op
proach see considerable political power ves
social structures (Conrad and Demarest, 19
perspective, ideology accounts for a great d
prehistoric economies.
As in most things, it is in the middle gr
ideational perspectives where the most com
While economic control provides the mate
bureaucracies, ideational systems provide the s
allow them to operate (Godelier, 1978; Sout
to the existence of the political system. Mo
economy is embedded in noneconomic inst
separate these into distinct spheres.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL MODELS OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

It is most often the case that archaeologists characterize political


economy as a limited set of specific relationships. In this section I summ
rize the models most frequently used by archaeologists as the basis for char
acterizing the political economy. These models overlap somewhat
content and differ in their depth of discussion of the economic structu
Furthermore, they all emphasize the accumulation of resources rather t
their use or consumption. While accumulation and consumption are lin
processes (Orlove and Rutz, 1989, p. 4), the perspective adopted here i
that it is generally more difficult to expand accumulation strategies th
to increase consumption. It is for this reason that most models of polit
economy have focused their discussion on the strategies governing resou
accumulation.
All archaeological models of political economy advocate one of three
economic activities that can be used to mobilize resources: production, serv-
ice, or distribution. Production strategies are concerned with the control
of surpluses generated in both food production and craft activity. Service
models stress payments to elite individuals for the specific functions they
provide for society. Distribution strategies focus on the direct and indirect
control of resources moving through both mobilization and exchange net-
works. To facilitate discussion, the archaeological models of political econ-
omy are grouped under one of these three economic activities.

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210 Hirth

Produc

Four pro
the basis
duction,
agement
first thr
productio

Intensi

This mo
expand th
utilize th
duction i
1993). In
nomenon
accumula
avenue fo
in scale a
wealth am
In aceph
hold, whe
tivity an
manifest
thropolog
itiatives,
explain t
the phys
Earle, 19
vidual ag
ing the d
and Blak
In Big-M
functions
surpluses
to increas
feasting
household
of resour
the who
individual

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Political Economy and Archaeology 211

It has been argued that, over time, Bi


into more formal redistributive economie
bution, surplus production is no longer t
household but is an obligation shared equa
provide supervisory, storage, and distribu
center of a clearly institutionalized social
Archaeologists have used both Big-Man an
plain the emergence of social hierarchy. Init
as competitive and linked to the control of s
diversified environments (Flannery and C
been cited as the initial stage of complex
et al, 1993, p. 58; Clark and Blake, 1994;
(Blitz, 1993), Africa (Hakansson, 1994), the n
(Spencer, 1994), Melanesia, and New Guine

Labor Mobilization and Assigned Pr

This type of system is created when la


available for normal household use, the harv
cial and specific usages within the communit
may be drawn from individual households
work groups or a rotational labor draft. The r
is the creation of surplus outside the domest
I am not referring to a system whereby a cer
within normal household subsistence activiti
This would correspond to a taxation or re
below). Instead, surplus is created by mobiliz
individual households. This distinction is imp
tion does not compete for, or intrude into,
directly as do mobilization strategies. While
nature of assigned production elevates the p
time budgets dedicated to staple food produc
(Blanton, 1983; Trigger, 1990).
Creation of surplus outside the household
propriation for broader social use. Owners
assigned lands is controlled by the elite or m
it is assigned. This system can evolve into pri
change from usufruct to private property r
crease in size, corvée labor may be replac
slave system. While most often associated wi
munal labor can also be used for certain type

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212 Hiith

Assigned
of comp
mented
1980), t
p. 118),
complex
(Rouse,
1946, p.
pertain t
to sugge
during e
Assigne
dom Egy
p. 235). I
in a com
and pub
1979). Th
chiefe to
benefit
1995; Ty
slaves or
(Miers a

Hydrau

Since th
bated th
and popu
chaeolog
economi
and main
the popu
needs. Si
vate, or
of produ
that the
that elit
producti
Researc
in the p

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Political Economy and Archaeology 213

the New Worlds. In the Old World large-s


component of the early states in Mesopo
Valley (Wheeler, 1966), and southern Chin
the New World, irrigation appears to have
velopment of early Andean civilizations in
cultural contexts (Moseley, 1992; Pozorsk
Nevertheless, research has documented
be important for subsistence and resourc
world, hydraulic management was not a n
for the emergence of political stratificati
Hunt, 1988). While small-scale irrigation w
tralization at Teotihuacan (Sanders and Ni
play a significant role in the developm
Mesoamerica (Blanton et al, 1993). Moreov
with the development of groups at or nea
United States Southwest (Crown and Ju
Haury, 1976), there are areas such as Bali
(Fernea, 1970, pp. 36-37) Ceylon (Leac
(Wiber, 1993) where extensive irrigations
of centralized political control (Hunt, 198

Craft Specialization Economies

This model has focused on the control o


for the political economy. Archaeologists
as both a dependent and an independent v
The appearance of craft specialists within
often viewed as dependent upon the gene
support them (Childe, 1950). Conversely,
variable, the control of craft production
private wealth (Jacobs, 1969).
Elite control over craft production may
plete control occurs through the establishme
between the controlling elite and dependent
persons may be attached to elite households
shops attached to temple or palace institutio
1991). Alternatively, control over production
multiple craftpersons in a sequential fashion
the origin of an item completely secret (Dill
where craftpersons are partially subsidize

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214 Hirth

their reso
duced in
Craft pr
utilitaria
establish
foreign i
power th
warfare
accumulat
manufact
control o
among t
braziers
featherw
D'Altroy
Old Worl
to temple
sculpture
1993; Re
glassware
of writin
and Shan
Control o
importan
build and
which the
condition
significan
for contac
goods and
the creat
mental fo
The exte
tered by
ciety. Elit
endeavore
(Sinopoli,
sibility of
of produc
to evaluat
economy

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Political Economy and Archaeology 215

Service Oriented Strategies

This aspect of the political economy r


accumulation of resources by elite for the
perceived as direct compensation or explicit
(Earle, 1991, pp. 71-72) rather than gener
specified set of activities carried out by th
ciety. Generalized reimbursement to elite is
it is unattached to a specific set of activities
mobilization strategy.
Examples of direct compensation for el
graphic record include collection of fines
and fees collected from sellers within the
(Polanyi, 1957). Also included in this cate
held in storage facilities under elite contr
leadership functions within the context of r
Elites monopolize these services because t
food and finished goods that they can use fo
selves, however, they never form the only
available to elites.
Archaeologists have recognized that elites provide services but, ex-
cept for resource storage functions (Earle and D'Altroy, 1982; Moseley,
1992), have not been able to identify many of them using archaeological
materials. Instead, resource accumulations by elites within service con-
texts are often linked to their participation in religious activities, where
reimbursements are generalized rather than direct compensation for spe-
cific activities.

'Exchange-Oriented Strategies

Four exchange strategies are most frequently cited by archaeologists


as the basis for political development: (1) elite distribution, (2) interregional
exchange, (3) world-system linkages, and (4) tribute/mobilization systems. A
wide array of items may move through these networks including food, raw
materials, and nonperishable finished goods, although the latter often are
considered to be the most prevalent and important for population
management.

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216 Hirth

Elite D

This is o
character
distribut
zation an
and (2) t
feasting
Archaeol
distributi
which th
modities
which th
(Service,
elites fro
economie
though st
litical eco
who show
economies
oriented r
ing. Neve
tion econ
accumulat
goods in
While in
nant way
(Earle, 19
omy. The
feast (Bli
tion as w
over tim
and mok
tribution
materials
rationaliz
duction
tributive
luxury go
craft pro
ticipation

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Political Economy and Archaeology 217

Redistribution and prestige-goods syste


community and the regional levels and are
organization associated with emerging socia
though Feinman and Neitzel (1984) have
cidence of redistribution in the Americas,
redistribution with the development of ch
gle and Andrews, 1988; Sanders and Price,
North America (Hudson, 1976; Peebles, 1
North America (Mitchel and Lleland, 198
et ai, 1981), and the Intermediate Area
Redistribution also has been linked by s
gence of social differentiation and comple
p. 167) and the Zagros Mountain region of
p. 60).
Redistribution also has been used as the model for the large,
pre-Columbian state-level economies found throughout the Andes (La
Lone, 1982) that achieved their maximal expression with the Inca state
(D'Altroy and Earle, 1985). Other applications to state-level societies
include the Teotihuacan economy in Mesoamerica (Manzanilla, 1992) and
the Sumerian palace economy in Mesopotamia (Oppenheim, 1957).
Nevertheless, most researchers working in the latter two state societies
feel that mercantile and market relationships predominated over
redistribution as the dominant form of distribution both at Teotihuacan
(Millón, 1973) and throughout ancient Mesopotamia (Stein and Blackman,
1993).
In the last 15 years archaeologists have recognized that prestige-good
distributions are very important in the control of labor within societies
(Webster, 1990) and the regulation of external political relationships within
both chiefdom and state societies (Dalton, 1977; Hicks, 1991). They clearly
were an important component of chiefdom societies (Friedman and Row-
lands, 1977) and have been documented for eastern North America (Cobb,
1991; Welch, 1991), Hawaii and other areas of Polynesia (Earle, 1977;
Kirch, 1989), Mesoamerica (Blanton et aL, 1993; Brumfiel, 1987), the In-
termediate Area (Helms, 1979), West Africa (MacGaffey, 1977), and
Bronze Age Europe (Gilman, 1987; Rowlands, 1980). Redistributive feasts
and prestige-good distributions are located at the opposite ends of the same
continuum and provide elites with the means of expanding their retinue of
supporters. Rather than being separate spheres of activity, gifts and lux-
ury-good distributions often are accompanied by the conspicuous consump-
tion of food and/or utilitarian goods.

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218 Hirth

Interr

Probabl
than the
litical e
1984; Dr
McKillop
Spielman
ferred t
(Price, 1
identity
are essen
tween tr
or in ne
ety of d
city (Ha
and raw
tablishin
1992), an
of conte
prestige
Interreg
analysis
dividual
and chie
1989) to
structur
1993). Si
cumulati
staple c
widely a
elites ac
the broa
Over th
the imp
historic
this are
wealth t
under th
bilized w
about w
able wea

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Political Economy and Archaeology 219

other members of society (Gregory, 1


viewed as a means through which elites bu
and expand the limit of their individual p
1987; Kirch, 1989). Because elites build a
gifts, grants, and formal prestations, inter
means to acquire prestige goods so import
tige-good economies (Welch, 1991).

World-System Linkages

In recent years the increase in populari


(Wallerstein, 1974) has changed the way in
interregional exchange as a model of polit
Dunn, 1993). World-systems theory looks b
ior of individual actors to the broader sys
interregional interaction. Moreover, it attem
of interregional interaction cutting across and
systems (Shannon, 1989).
The primary feature of the world-systems
linkages create a system that is much larger t
system located within it. The important point
linkages may or may not have a direct effe
political economies that they encompass. T
tually dependent interaction networks may, b
to changes in the political control of resou
may be indirect, significantly altering the pr
households without creating centralizing pr
ment entities (Wolf, 1982).
Despite these features, archaeologists
growth of world-systems with the develop
two ways. First, through the normal proce
trade goods are used by elites to build socia
increase their ability to control the produ
resources. Second, and more directly linked
mercantile networks, is the attempt by eli
of their direct political control through m
The latter situation is often correlated
chiefdom or state economic systems that
production and exchange relationships on
and Feinman, 1984; Edens, 1992; Santley an

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220 Hirth

Resour

Resourc
and fin
goods an
one of t
superstr
contribu
levies. In
mative u
terms of
Mobilize
labor. M
hierarchi
holds to
strategie
ligations
sanction
cive mea
zation in
System
1992) we
trial sta
broad ad
as a resu
labor to
tems can
and resh
terests w

THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

In general, archaeological reconstructions of political economy h


been flawed by their emphasis on single dimensions of resou
accumulation rather than identification of the mix of strategies empl
by prehistoric economies. Mary Helms (1993) recognizes the
complementarity of different accumulation strategies by equating control
over the production and trade of luxury goods as parallel strategies in the
accumulation of elite power. Most researchers, however, have tended to
characterize whole systems by their most prominent or visible resource
accumulation strategies rather than recognizing that resources are regularly

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Political Economy and Archaeology 221

mobilized through multiple combination


distribution sectors of the economy. As a
often reflect an incomplete understanding n
integration of individual political econom
principles of organization found at all levels
This section identifies four basic principles
of political economy among societies rangi
states. These principles are drawn from the
above and crosscut the production, sendee, a
to mobilize resources within societies at di
These four principles are identified as the accu
trol and ideology principles of political econ

The Accumulation Principle

Whatever the structure of the political e


is that it permits the accumulation of strat
be accumulated in private and/or public co
justified in terms of either public, private,
archaeological literature there are two disti
ditions and stimuli under which resource a
first of these conforms to what Brumfiel a
adaptationalist perspective. From this perspect
of resource-accumulation strategies found in
constant or cyclical pattern of resource shortf
mans must adapt. From this perspective, p
to have been designed, at least in their init
and more predictable supplies of resources.
The second view corresponds to what Bru
to as the political perspective and perceives
gies as a response to consumption practices,
of individuals to use resources for social rat
(Hayden, 1990, 1993). Resource-accumulation
not necessarily under conditions of resource
of resource abundance (Cowgill, 1975; Hayd
From either perspective, political econom
undertake the organization of production o
source-accumulation activities within society
rectly from these activities by having access
to attract a supporting clientage and build
1992, 1994). The basis for economic inequalit

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222 Hirth

to proce
ization of resource-accumulation mechanisms. While these mechanisms
may be rationalized in terms of the advantages or needs of society, they
are engineered to the socioeconomic and political benefit of their bene-
factors.
The economies of preindustrial societies from egalitarian bands to
large states are shaped around two primary constraints. The first of these
is a relatively inelastic demand curve at the household level that keeps pro-
duction low (Chayanov, 1966). Sahlins (1972) referred to this as the "prin-
ciple of underproduction, " where households try to minimize total work
expenditures by targeting production at subsistence levels. This rationale
accounts for the absence of large household production surpluses in most
societies (Harris, 1959) and provides the basis for an incipient political
economy. Large household surpluses may also be absent because of a desire
to reduce risk by practicing a subsistence strategy that emphasizes resource
diversity and predictability over total caloric yield (Halstead and O'shea,
1989). Nevertheless, Robert Netting (1990, 1993), in discussing adaptation
among small-scale farmers, has convincingly demonstrated that resource
shortages, household needs, and population pressure frequently encourage
some households to intensify agricultural production without political in-
tervention to do so. The result is the existence of inequality and surplus-
generating mechanisms at the household level that serve as the basis for
economic differentiation within small-scale societies.
The second weakness in most preindustrial societies is the existence
of poorly developed distribution systems. High transportation costs limit
the extent of regional distribution networks and the volume and type of
resources moving through them (Drennan, 1984). This, together with un-
differentiated and redundant production systems, makes it difficult to mo-
bilize food and other resources during times of resource shortfalls (Dalton,
1977) except in areas of sharp environmental diversity (Murra, 1980). Even
where distribution systems exist at the community and regional level, lim-
ited transportation technology usually restricts the area over which re-
sources may move (Drennan, 1984).
Political economies have developed in areas of both resource scarcity
and resource abundance and are a mechanism to produce, or procure
through exchange relationships, a greater amount of resources than they
would normally hope to consume during the normal resource cycle. While
resource accumulation benefits the accumulators, they are usually
accompanied by justifications and stipulations within the context of the
"moral economy" as to how resources may be used (Smith, 1991).
Resources produced or accumulated within the annual cycle are consumed
on a regular basis that validates their collection and creates a need for

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Politica! Economy and Archaeology 223

perpetual accumulation. From an economic p


overall risk, especially for societies occupyi
or widely fluctuating resource levels (Halst

The Context Principle

The context principle differs from the accu


concerned with where and how resource ac
process of resource accumulation can be org
different ways. Resources may be produce
of individual households or in special-purpo
for that purpose. These differences are imp
scale of resource accumulations and the wa
for their own use. While resources may be e
level, they may be more difficult to mobili
sources produced or accumulated in special c
of organization, the individual- and contex
economy are discussed below and illustrate
Individual-oriented accumulation systems
cumulations occur in multiple general-purpo
ciety. The general-purpose contexts where
often take place are at the level of househol
systems are found in both acephalous and h
and operate by requiring resource accumulat
of passage. Expenditures associated with ind
systems include bridewealth and dowry pay
sociated with birth and puberty naming ce
1967), blood-feud ceremonies (Dalton, 1977
the household and the lineage levels (Wein
What is most important about individ
systems is that centralized leadership to co
be weak or poorly developed. While t
entrepreneur behavior by many members of t
to mobilize resources from each of the resp
units depends upon the strength of their re
whether it is based on kinship obligation
coercion. When authority is weak, resourc
the needs of individual household or line
authority increases, as it does in ranked and
of elite to control resource accumulations
widespread presence of individual-orien

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224 Hirth

acephalou
in the w
a level ab
Context
produced
organizin
by defini
the comm
above ind
contribut
in a numb
generally
cient dist
tion to sp
at the com
and accum
They are
where re
versely,
must uti

The M

The deve
an oppor
of defini
and speci
ing and
that rein
their exp
Elites se
multiple
change ac
placing t
rectly th
these no
sources th
to craft
variety o
and a var

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Political Economy and Archaeology 225

The mix of resource-accumulation strate


growth potential of its political economy.
(e.g., hydraulic management, assigned produ
are often more stable and predictable than
is because in context-oriented systems, rela
tured within existing social hierarchies, wh
viduals interact as social equivalents. The re
structure of, and competition within, exchang
resource control, of course, is diversification
control all available resource networks.

The Ideology Principle

The growth of a political economy requires the emergence of ideolo-


gies about rank, status, and their validation within the society's broader
cosmology. Part of this process is the development of an economic ideology
that reinforces both the basis for the unequal accumulation of resources
and the structure in which it occurs. I am concerned here only with eco-
nomic ideologies that include beliefs about how the economic system is
structured and operates (Southall, 1991). In context-oriented systems this
ideology must be expanded to justify and legitimize the differential accu-
mulation and use of resources for nondomestic purposes by specific indi-
viduals. As a rule economic ideology is concerned with three basic themes:
ownership, end usage, and resource conversion.
Economic ideologies concerned with questions of resource ownership
and control are fundamental to the accumulation and expropriation of re-
sources (e.g., Köhler, 1992). These include rules concerning land tenure
relationships, rights to communal labor, usufruct versus individual owner-
ship of resources, and the rationale for tax and tribute relations. These
rationales have two important functions. First, they shape the accumulation
and flow of resources within a society. Second, they legitimize economic
inequality and the use of force to defend resource accumulations. Both of
these make it possible for elites to restrict access to resources when it is
in their self-interest to do so and to strengthen their control over their
respective populations.
All resource accumulations and expropriations are also rationalized in
terms of idealized end usages that are usually expressed with reference to the
population's general well-being. In ranked societies resource accumulations are
always validated in terms of specific usages or long-standing obligations ranging
from ritual gifts to obligatory reciprocal feasting. Whether all resources are
used for the stated purpose is another matter, but great emphasis is placed

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226 Hirth

on ensur
linked to
may be u
found in
lated res
promote
basis for
specific u
Distribu
change e
dition to
obligation
version an
ket syste
Convers
economie
stimulate
perishab
needs ari
of the po
1992). In
make it
over, the
is replac
cumulati

SUMMARY

The political economy is organized to generate surplus above that re-


quired for normal household subsistence purposes. It may operate either
through social structures without strong leadership positions or through co-
ordinators who take on the responsibility of organizing and managing a so-
ciety's social surplus. The latter of these are referred to here as being
context-oriented economies and are the ones in which differential control of
resources by elites is most likely to emerge. The important point is that ar-
chaeologists need to consider all strategies of resource mobilization in their
political analyses. Elites mobilize and control resources in all sectors of the
political economy. Elites are involved in controlling resource flows in both
production, service, and distribution sectors of the economy, and archaeolo-
gists should focus on defining the matrix of these relationships rather than
ascribing primacy to any one dimension of economic activity.

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Political Economy and Archaeology 227

Archaeologists also need to identify the con


mixes of resource-mobilization strategies occur
strategies have for broad evolutionary develop
conditions does exchange activity gain pred
service activities as the major means of accum
Although this paper has not attempted to add
exchange may become a major component o
four distinct conditions (1) where state expans
procurement of weapons through trade; (2) whe
goods, are differentially distributed throughout
some groups the ability to control their extra
(3) where elites have little direct control over
ence all forms of production through lineage
and (4) when societies have segmentary or wea
tures leading to intense intragroup competitio
influenced or structured the cultural evolution
of these four conditions is an issue that needs f
Processual archaeologists beginning in th
subject of the political economy as if it were s
political development. As a result, the models o
in use employ a very simplified view of po
symptom of this is the focus on single aspects o
or exchange relationships, as the basis for
identification of the multiple strategies that el
Nevertheless, when current models are exam
principles by which resources are mobilized wit
have been identified here as the accumulatio
ideology principles. Based on the review of
suggested that archaeologists interested in the
synthetic models that incorporate all the mech
mobilized for social expenditures. Elites attemp
resources as possible since resource control bro
control. It is logical, therefore, that archaeologi
attempt to include it in their reconstructions o

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