The Nature of Stateless Societies
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

We would also disagree on Scott’s other argument. Though it is true that one can find harmonious stateless societies, the comparative ethnographic evidence also suggests two robust facts. First, historical human societies, including stateless ones and those which lacked a modern state, were far more, not less, violent than modern societies. Hobbes was actually right when he said that the state of nature was nasty, brutish and short. This is evident from contemporary nations, such as those in Somalia or South Sudan, which were built on-top of historically stateless societies. The modern state in Somalia collapsed 20 years ago and has never been re-constructed, and perhaps was never really constructed in the first place and the country has degenerated into continual violence. Though one hopes otherwise, it is quite likely that South Sudan is now headed in the same direction. One should not conclude from this that the stateless society of the Sudan clans or the Nuer and Dinka in the South Sudan was peaceful until the British and Italians turned up and tried to create arbitrary nation states. They were not. In Why Nations Fail we illustrated in Chapter 8 how the stateless societies of historical Somalia were unable to generate order let alone economic development. The same is shown about the Nuer and Dinka in Raymond Kelly’s great book The Nuer Conquest that documents the 200 year conflict which has taken place between these two stateless societies over territory and cattle.

Article originally appeared on Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (http://whynationsfail.com/).
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