Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bureaucracy linked to a nation's growth

Date:
April 20, 2010
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
"Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work," said Albert Einstein, sharing a popular view about bureaucracy grinding progress to a halt. But it now appears that the organizing functions of bureaucracy were essential to the progressive growth of the world's first states, and may have helped them conquer surrounding areas much earlier than originally thought.

Two of the conquest inscriptions on Building J (ca. 100 BC). Each inscription shows an upside down head with closed eyes signifying conquest on the bottom, a "hill" glyph signifying generalized place in the middle, and a third element on top that varies among inscriptions signifying specific place name.
Credit: Charles S. Spencer, AMNH, used with permission

"Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work," said Albert Einstein, sharing a popular view about bureaucracy grinding progress to a halt.

But it now appears that the organizing functions of bureaucracy were essential to the progressive growth of the world's first states, and may have helped them conquer surrounding areas much earlier than originally thought. New research conducted in the Valley of Oaxaca near Monte Albán, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site in southern Mexico, also implies that the first bureaucratic systems may have a lasting influence on today's modern states.

The research by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate, is published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"The earliest evidence of state organization is contemporaneous with the earliest evidence of long-distance territorial expansion," said lead researcher Charles Spencer, curator of Mexican and Central American Archaeology at the AMNH. "This pattern was consistent with the territorial-expansion model of primary state formation, which I have proposed in a number of publications over the years."

Spencer's territorial-expansion model argues that states arise through a mutual-causal process involving simultaneous territorial expansion and bureaucratization. Spencer's model breaks with previous ideas that suggest states rise through a protracted, step-by-step process--first the state forms, then an organizing bureaucracy takes hold, and sometime later, the state begins to expand into other regions in an "imperialistic" fashion, thus giving birth to an empire.

Archaeological research conducted by Spencer in an Oaxaca canyon some 50 miles north of Monte Albán suggests that the old distinction between state and empire probably is not useful.

In the Oaxaca Valley, Spencer found evidence of a royal palace and a multi-room temple dating to 300-100 B.C. Most Oaxaca archaeologists consider the royal palace to be evidence of a specialized ruling class and the multi-room temple to be evidence of a specialized priestly class.

Spencer notes that around 300 B.C., the first signs of state organization start to appear in the Oaxaca Valley where Monte Albán is situated. It also is the same time that the ancient Monte Albán state started conquering the surrounding regions.

Spencer suspects that all bureaucratic states--even modern ones--may be inherently predisposed, or "hard-wired," to engage in predatory expansion as a legacy of the original process of primary state formation.

The PNAS paper compares Spencer's work in Mesoamerica with archaeological data from five other states most anthropologists recognize as the only other locations of true primary state formation in history: Peru, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and China. Primary states are first-generation states that evolved without contact with other pre-existing states. In each case, Spencer's territorial-expansion theory holds. But he says more research needs to be done at the other locales.

"This result may provide a cautionary lesson as we think about international relations in our contemporary world," said Spencer. "Since the bureaucratic state as a political form originally evolved through a process of predatory expansion, we should not be surprised if states continue to have predatory tendencies, regardless of their particular ideologies."

Spencer said his research results could be seen as reason to support development of international organizations such as the United Nations to serve as a check on the expansionistic tendencies of individual states. "But, the administration of those organizations is also likely to be bureaucratic, so we should be watchful for predatory behavior from them as well," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. S. Spencer. Inaugural Article: Territorial expansion and primary state formation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1002470107

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Bureaucracy linked to a nation's growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419172857.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2010, April 20). Bureaucracy linked to a nation's growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419172857.htm
National Science Foundation. "Bureaucracy linked to a nation's growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419172857.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — The future of Aereo, an online service that provides over-the-air TV channels, hinges on a battle with broadcasters that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2014) — According to researchers at Albright College, women have the ability to make their voices sound sexier, but men don't. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins