The human history has evidenced various systems of hierarchy and power in different spheres of social life. The relations of hierarchy and power penetrate the whole of social life but naturally they are most visible in the political sphere. The careful study of each particular case of such relations is of great significance. In the meantime it is very important to see both the general features typical for all or most of the hierarchy and power forms, and their variation. Among all the systems of power and submission the ancient and medieval systems are of special interest in certain respects, as they are characterized by tremendous variation, and also because among them one can find especially pure cases of natural evolution of power and hierarchy structures. In this volume the relations of hierarchy and power are studied with respect to representative samples of pre-modern states and societies. These interesting and revealing cases cover a wide range both in time and space, as well as different types of the relations of hierarchy and power in the history of ancient and medieval civilizations.
The human history has evidenced various systems of hierarchy and power, various
manifestations of power and hierarchy relations in different spheres of social
life from politics to information networks, from culture to sexual life. A
careful study of each particular case of such relations is very important,
especially within the context of contemporary multipolar and multicultural
world. In the meantime it is very important to see both the general features
typical for all or most of the hierarchy and power forms, and their variation.
This set of issues has been treated by a series of international conferences
titled 'Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations' held in 2000-2006.
Most articles of this volume were originally presented at the 4th conference of
this series (Moscow, 2006). Needless to mention that all those presentations
have been substantially re-worked for the publication in this volume.
Notwithstanding the fact that the relations of hierarchy and power are relevant
for all the spheres as they penetrate the whole of social life, establishing a
sort of framework for the human agency, they are naturally most visible in the
political sphere. They existed long before the formation of the earliest states
- ethologists maintain that complex systems of hierarchy and power can be found
among many highly organized animals. Yet, this was with the formation of the
state and civilization when the power and hierarchy relations acquired their
Among all the systems of power and submission the ancient and medieval systems
are of special interest in some respects, as they are characterized by
tremendous variation; many of these systems do not exist any more and they are
not likely to re-appear in the future; as these systems were to a much smaller
extent than the modern ones influenced by humanistic ideologies, science, and
Utopian ideas, it appears more likely to find among them more pure cases of
natural evolution of power and hierarchy structures.
It is evident that the immense variety of those relations in the ancient and
medieval states and civilizations cannot be adequately described even within
dozens of edited volumes. In any case we will be only able to describe a more
or less representative sample of such cases. Hence, we do not aim at the
description of all those societies. Instead we have concentrated on just a few
interesting and revealing cases covering a wide range both in time and in
The present edited volume consists of three parts. The first section 'Ancient States of the Old World' considers a few cases of ancient and
classical civilizations. However, each case is treated within some novel
Anastasia Banschikova analyzes the evolution of the Pharaoh image in the
Egyptian literature. While the king is a common character in both Middle and
New Kingdom sources, his place in the literary tradition is different. Within
the New Kingdom tradition the Pharaoh is transformed into an active hero. In
addition to this, he becomes a subject of moral and ethic evaluation: the king
may be iniquitous, a liar or even a coward. Banschikova identifies this process
as a process of the 'humanization of the king'. From this point of view the
Ancient Egyptian royal ideology seems to be not as rigid and conservative as it
is usually believed to be.
Paul Kruger applies contemporary psychological and cultural approach
('labeling/stereotyping') to his analysis of the perception of 'otherness' in
the ancient Near East. Through the study of three forms of stereotyping (the
perception of ethnic 'otherness', the perception of social 'otherness', and the
perception of religious 'otherness') he analyzes how these forms were used in
constructing social and political hierarchies.
Leonid Grinin analyzes political organization of Classical Athens (and some
other Greek poleis) as well as the Roman civitas. The author
polemizes with the advocates of the idea of stateless polls (and civitas). It is natural that in the framework of the analysis of power and
hierarchy relations these discussions acquire a special significance. On the
one hand, the ancient civil communities can be considered as examples of
societies based not so much on hierarchical (like some centralized Asian
empires) as on communal and network principles. On the other hand, Grinin
contends that within these polities one can detect processes of the power
alienation from the population, redistribution of this power, and a rather
tough application of violence towards non-conformist oppositions. Grinin comes
to the conclusion that Athens (and most of the other democratic poleis)
as well as the Roman Republic should be identified as early states of a special
(democratic, heterarchical) type that was rather different from the monarchic
(hierarchical) type, which is analyzed in the present section of the volume on
the basis of the cases of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The second section ('Medieval Eurasian States: The Cases of ChinggisKhan
Empire and Old Russia') focuses on the two largest Medieval Eurasian polities.
The empire of Chinggis Khan, by contrast with the Greek poleis and Roman
civitas, was a hierarchically organized polity. However, some scholars
deny its state character and consider it to be a supercomplex chiefdom. From
this perspective hierarchy and state are not fully equal concepts, and power
can be based on horizontal relations as well as on hierarchy.
The problem of the Mongol conquests and the role of the Chinggis Khan empire in
the World System history has recently received a new sounding. The activization
of research in this topic was connected with the 800th anniversary of the
proclamation of the Mongol Empire that was celebrated in 2006. The fundamental
problem which is discussed in the contributions by Nikolay Kradin, Valentin
Golovachev, and Tatiana Skrynnikova is the structure of authority and hierarchy
in the empire of Chinggis Khan.
Nikolay Kradin reanalyzes political organization of nomadic empires. He
believes that the 'imperial confederations' of the nomads were not states but
supercomplex chiefdoms. The power of their rulers was based on military success
and gift-exchange economy. Symbolic exchange of gifts between chiefs of
different ranks and the khan tied loosely integrated tribes into one system.
Other mechanisms of integration included marriages, construction of
genealogies, collective feasts and ceremonies etc.
The paper by Valentin Golovachev is devoted to the questions of the Mongol
social structure. He argues that it was defined by prescriptive marriage system
in its dual and quaternary variants. Through this system the Chinggisids were
related to the Kongrat tribe. Following this tradition, only four sons of
Chinggis-khan from the borte of Kongrat became the founders of Alton
Urug (the Golden Lineage). The further history of Mongol Empire highlights the
importance of these principles.
Tatiana Skrynnikova offers another perspective. She believes that the early
political processes among the Mongol tribes were defined by the struggle of two
ethnic groups - the Tayijiuts and the Mongols.
The state formation among the East Slavs has always been a highly controversal
issue, and we believe that the paper by Evgeniy Shinakov would be very
interesting for our readers. The author proposes that the Ancient Russian state
was formed in two stages: (1) consolidation of different types of chiefdoms
into a complex 'barbarian' polity with a two-level hierarchy (the second half
of the 9th century), and (2) the transformation of the complex 'barbarian'
polity into the early state (the second half of the 10th century).
The third section 'The New World States: The Maya Case' focuses on the
variation in political organization of the Classic Lowland Maya. William Folan
and his colleagues summarize results of the recent multidisciplinary research
that combines the data from paleoclimatology and archaeology and describes the
2500 year evolution of the Maya society in Northern Peten around the metropolis
This 'big-site perspective' is complemented by the articles by Justine Shaw,
Dave Johnstone and Tatiana Zelenetskaya Young. They explore the dynamics of
power and hierarchy in the Cochuah region. Political transformations evidenced
in settlement pattern shifts were accompanied by the changes in religious
Finally, Julie Patrois explores political organization of Puuc, another
decentralized region in the Northern Maya Lowlands, through iconography. She
concludes that there were two contrasting political models: a principal system
based upon a sovereign, holding political and religious powers, and another,
collective, system within which the power was shared between several
It is rather clear that the theme of hierarchy and power in the ancient and
medieval societies is virtually unbounded, and, as we have already mentioned
above, in this edited volume we can naturally present the analysis of just a
few (though, we hope, quite relevant) cases of the preindustrial social and
state systems. Unfortunately, in this book we can only preliminarily consider
the issue of the social evolution's diversity and its alternatives, though this
issue is especially salient with respect to the hierarchical or
non-hierarchical/heterarchical types of sociopolitical organization. On the
other hand, we can refer those who are interested in this set of problems to
the materials of the previous four 'Hierarchy and Power' conferences, as well
as the other edited volumes prepared by the editors and authors of this volume
where they are analyzed in more detail (Bondarenko and Sledzevsky 2000;
Bondarenko and Frantsouzoff 2002; Beliaev, Bondarenko, and Frantsouzoff 2002;
Bondarenko and Nemirovskiy 2007; Bondarenko and Korotayev 2000; Grinin et al.
2004; Kradin, Bondarenko, and Barfield 2003; Kradin et al. 2000).
Bondarenko,D.M., and Korotayev,A.V. (eds.)
2000. Civilizational Models ofPolitogenesis. Moscow: Center for Civilizational
and Regional Studies, Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of
Grinin,L.E., Carneiro,R.L., Bondarenko,D.M., Kradin,N.N., and
2004. The Early State, Its Alternatives and Analogues. Volgograd: Uchitel.
Kradin,N.N., Bondarenko,D.M., and Barfield,T.J. (eds.) 2003. Nomadic
Pathways in Social Evolution. Moscow: Center for Civilizational and Regional
Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Kradin,N.N., Korotayev, A. V, Bondarenko,D.M., de Munck, V., and Wason, P.
2000. Alternatives of Social Evolution. Vladivostok: FEB RAS.
Hierarchy and Power Conference Proceedings
Bondarenko,D.M., and Sledzevsky,I.V. (eds.)
2000. Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations. International
Conference (Moscow, June 15-18, 2000). Abstracts. Moscow: Center for
Civilizational and Regional Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Bondarenko,D.M., and Frantsouzoff,S.A. (eds.)
2002. Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations. Additional Issue.
Moscow: Center for Civilizational and Regional Studies, Institute for African
Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Beliaev,D.D., Bondarenko,D.M., and Frantsouzoff,S.A. (eds.) 2002.
Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations. Abstracts. Moscow:
Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Alexeev,I.L., Beliaev,D.D., and Bondarenko,D.M. (eds.) 2004. Hierarchy
and Power in the History of Civilizations. Abstracts of the 3rd International
Conference (Moscow, June 18-21, 2004). Moscow: Center for Civilizational and
Regional Studies, Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Beliaev,D.D., and Bondarenko,D.M. (eds.)
2006. Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations. Abstracts of the 4th
International Conference (Moscow, June 13-16, 2006). Moscow: Center for
Civilizational and Regional Studies, Institute for African Studies of the
Russian Academy of Sciences.
Bondarenko,D.M., and Nemirovskiy,A.A. (eds.)
2007. Third International Conference 'Hierarchy and Power in the History of
Civilizations' June 18-21, 2004, Moscow. Selected Papers I. Alternativity in
Cultural History: Heterarchy and Homoarchy as Evolutionary Trajectories (pp.
167-183). Moscow: Center for Civilizational and Regional Studies of the Russian
Academy of Sciences.