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 mature forms.
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 space.
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 perspective.
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 of Calakmul.
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 system.
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 individuals.
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 Sciences.
Grinin,L.E., Carneiro,R.L., Bondarenko,D.M., Kradin,N.N., and Korotayev,A.V. (eds.) 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. K. (eds.) 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.