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A World History of Ancient Political Thought$
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Antony Black

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199281695

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199281695.001.0001

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Early Communities and States

Early Communities and States

(p.6) 1 Early Communities and States
A World History of Ancient Political Thought

Antony Black (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

We can discover something about early, pre-literate social and political thought from archaeology, anthropology, and social biology. Humans evolved in small kin-groups, in which reciprocal altruism and tit-for-tat paid off. Larger, non-kin-groups necessitated morality and law. Language, symbolic systems, and religious beliefs facilitated transitions to larger societies. Hierarchy and property developed; wealth, status, and power were distributed more unequally than among other primates. Humans developed a strong sense of a distinction between insiders and outsiders. The first states, from Egypt to China, were sacred patrimonial monarchies, in which religious beliefs produced an appearance of family relationships. The king was supposed to embody justice and benevolence. The main exception was the Greek people-state.

Keywords:   small groups, reciprocal altruism, symbolic system, language, hierarchy, sacred monarchy

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