Front Page Titles (by Subject) (c) peoples preceding the state: herdsmen and vikings - The State
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(c) peoples preceding the state: herdsmen and vikings - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
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(c) peoples preceding the state: herdsmen and vikings
Herdsmen, on the contrary, even though isolated, have developed a whole series of the elements of statehood; and in the tribes which have progressed further, they have developed this in its totality, with the single exception of the last point of identification which completes the state in its modern sense, that is to say, with exception only of the definitive occupation of a circumscribed territory.
One of these elements is an economic one. Even without the intervention of extra-economic force, there may still develop among herdsmen a sufficiently marked differentiation of property and income. Assuming that, at the start, there was complete equality in the number of cattle, yet within a short time, the one man may be richer and the other poorer. An especially clever breeder will see his herd increase rapidly, while an especially careful watchman and bold hunter will preserve his from decimation by beasts of prey. The element of luck also affects the result. One of these herders finds an especially good grazing ground and healthful watering places; the other one loses his entire stock through pestilence, or through a snowfall or a sandstorm.
Distinctions in fortune quickly bring about class distinctions. The herdsman who has lost all must hire himself to the rich man; and sinking thus under the other, become dependent on him. Wherever herdsmen live, from all three parts of the ancient world, we find the same story. Meitzen reports of the Lapps, nomadic in Norway: “Three hundred reindeer sufficed for one family; who owned only a hundred must enter the service of the richer, whose herds ran up to a thousand head.”6 The same writer, speaking of the Central Asiatic Nomads, says: “A family required three hundred head of cattle for comfort; one hundred head is poverty, followed by a life of debt. The servant must cultivate the lands of the lord.”7 Ratzel reports concerning the Hottentots of Africa a form of “commendatio”: “The poor man endeavors to hire himself to the rich man, his only object being to obtain cattle.”8 Laveleye, who reports the same circumstances from Ireland, traces the origin and the name of the feudal system (système féodal) to the loaning of cattle by the rich to the poor members of the tribe; accordingly, a “fee-od” (owning of cattle) was the first feud whereby so long as the debt existed the magnate bound the small owner to himself as “his man.”
We can only hint at the methods whereby, even in peaceable associations of herdsmen, this economic and consequent social differentiation may have been furthered by the connection of the patriarchate with the offices of supreme and sacrificial priesthood if the wise old men used cleverly the superstition of their clan associates. But this differentiation, so long as it is unaffected by the political means, operates within very modest bounds. Cleverness and efficiency are not hereditary with any degree of certainty. The largest herd will be split up if many heirs grow up in one tent, and fortune is tricky. In our own day, the richest man among the Lapps of Sweden, in the shortest possible time, has been reduced to such complete poverty that the government has had to support him. All these causes bring it about that the original condition of economic and social equality is always approximately restored. “The more peaceable, aboriginal, and genuine the nomad is, the smaller are the tangible differences of possession. It is touching to note the pleasure with which an old prince of the Tsaidam Mongols accepts his tribute or gift, consisting of a handful of tobacco, a piece of sugar, and twenty-five kopeks.”9
This equality is destroyed permanently and in greater degree by the political means. “Where war is carried on and booty acquired, greater differences arise, which find their expression in the ownership of slaves, women, arms and spirited mounts.”10
The ownership of slaves! The nomad is the inventor of slavery, and thereby has created the seedling of the state, the first economic exploitation of man by man.
The huntsman carries on wars and takes captives. But he does not make them slaves; either he kills them, or else he adopts them into the tribe. Slaves would be of no use to him. The booty of the chase can be stowed away even less than grain can be “capitalized.” The idea of using a human being as a labor motor could only come about on an economic plane on which a body of wealth has developed, call it capital, which can be increased only with the assistance of dependent labor forces.
This stage is first reached by the herdsmen. The forces of one family, lacking outside assistance, suffice to hold together a herd of very limited size, and to protect it from attacks of beasts of prey or human enemies. Until the political means is brought into play, auxiliary forces are found very sparingly; such as the poorer members of the clan already mentioned, together with runaways from foreign tribes, who are found all over the world as protected dependents in the suite of the greater owners of herds.11 In some cases, an entire poor clan of herdsmen enters, half freely, into the service of some rich tribe. “Entire peoples take positions corresponding to their relative wealth. Thus the Tungusen, who are very poor, try to live near the settlements of the Tschuktsches, because they find occupation as herdsmen of the reindeer belonging to the wealthy Tschuktsches; they are paid in reindeer. And the subjection of the Ural-Samojedes by the Sirjaenes came about through the gradual occupation of their pasturing grounds.”12
Excepting, however, the last named case, which is already very state-like, the few existing labor forces, without capital, are not sufficient to permit the clan to keep very large herds. Furthermore, methods of herding themselves compel division. For a pasture may not, as they say in the Swiss Alps, be “overpushed,” that is to say, have too many cattle on it. The danger of losing the entire stock is reduced by the measure in which it is distributed over various pastures. For cattle plagues, storms, etc., can affect only a part; while even the enemy from abroad can not drive off all at once. For that reason, the Hereros, for example, “find every well-to-do owner forced to keep, besides the main herd, several other subsidiary herds. Younger brothers or other near relatives, or in want of these, tried old servants, watch them.”13
For that reason, the developed nomad spares his captured enemy; he can use him as a slave on his pasture. We may note this transition from killing to enslaving in a customary rite of the Scythians: they offered up at their places of sacrifice one out of every hundred captured enemies. Lippert, who reports this, sees in it “the beginning of a limitation, and the reason thereof is evidently to be found in the value which a captured enemy has acquired by becoming the servant of a tribal herdsman.”14
With the introduction of slaves into the tribal economy of the herdsmen, the state, in its essential elements, is completed, except that it has not as yet acquired a definitely circumscribed territorial limit. The state has thus the form of dominion, and its economic basis is the exploitation of human labor. Hence-forth, economic differentiation and the formation of social classes progress rapidly. The herds of the great, wisely divided and better guarded by numerous armed servants than those of the simple freemen, as a rule, maintain themselves at their original number: they also increase faster than those of the freemen, since they are augmented by the greater share in the booty which the rich receive, corresponding to the number of warriors (slaves) which these place in the field.
Likewise, the office of supreme priest creates an ever-widening cleft which divides the numbers of the clan, all formerly equals; until finally a genuine nobility, the rich descendants of the rich patriarchs, is placed in juxtaposition to the ordinary freemen. “The redskins have also in their progressive organization developed no nobility and no slavery,∗ and in this their organization distinguishes itself most essentially from those of the old world. Both arise from the development of the patriarchate of stock-raising people.”15
Thus we find, with all developed tribes of herdsmen, a social separation into three distinct classes: nobility (“head of the house of his fathers” in the biblical phrase), common freemen and slaves. According to Mommsen, “all Indo-Germanic people have slavery as a jural institution.”16 This applies to the Arians and the Semites of Asia and Africa as well as to the Hamites. Among all the Fulbe of the Sahara, “society is divided into princes, chieftains, commons and slaves.”17 And we find the same facts everywhere, as a matter of course, wherever slavery is legally established, as among the Hova18 and their Polynesian kinsmen, the “Sea Nomads.” Human psychology under similar circumstances brings about like conditions, independent of color or race.
Thus the herdsman gradually becomes accustomed to earning his livelihood through warfare, and to the exploitation of men as servile labor motors. And one must admit that his entire mode of life impels him to make more and more use of the “political means.”
He is physically stronger and just as adroit and determined as the primitive huntsman, whose food supply is too irregular to permit him to attain his greatest natural physical development. The herdsman can, in all cases, grow to his full stature, since he has uninterrupted nourishment in the milk of his herds and an unfailing supply of meat. This is shown in the Arian horse nomad, no less than in the herdsman of Asia and Africa, e.g., the Zulu. Secondly, tribes of herdsmen increase faster than hordes of hunters. This is so, not only because the adults can obtain much more nourishment from a given territory, but still more because possession of the milk of animals shortens the period of nursing for the mothers, and consequently permits a greater number of children to be born and to grow to maturity. As a consequence, the pastures and steppes of the old world became inexhaustible fountains, which periodically burst their confines letting loose inundations of humanity, so that they came to be called the “vaginæ gentium.”
Moreover we find a much larger number of armed warriors among herdsmen than among hunters. Each one of these herdsmen is stronger individually, and yet all of them together are at least as mobile as is a horde of huntsmen; while the camel and horse riders among them are incomparably more mobile. This greater mass of the best individual elements is held together by an organization only possible under the ægis of a slave-holding patriarchate accustomed to rule, an organization prepared and developed by its occupation, and therefore superior to that of the young warriors of the huntsmen sworn to the service of one chief.
Hunters, it may be observed, work best alone or in small groups. Herdsmen, on the other hand, move to the best advantage in a great train, in which each individual is best protected; and which is in every sense an armed expedition, where every stopping place becomes an armed camp. Thus there is developed a science of tactical maneuvers, strict subordination, and firm discipline. “One does not make a mistake,” as Ratzel says, “if one accounts as the disciplinary forces in the life of the nomads the order of the tents which, in the same form, exists since most ancient times. Every one and everything here has a definite, traditional place; hence the speed and order in setting up and in breaking camp, in establishment and in rearrangement. It is unheard of that any one without orders, or without the most pressing reason, should change his place. Thanks to this strict discipline, the tents can be packed up and loaded away within the space of an hour.”19
The same tried order, handed down from untold ages, regulates the warlike march of the tribe of herdsmen while on the hunt, in war and in peaceable wandering. Thus they become professional fighters, irresistible until the state develops higher and mightier organizations. Herdsman and warrior become identical concepts. Ratzel’s statement concerning the Central Asiatic Nomads applies to them all: “The nomad is, as herdsman, an economic, as warrior, a political concept. It is easy for him to turn from any activity to that of the warrior and robber. Everything in life has for him a pacific and war-like, an honest and robber-like, side; according to circumstances, the one or the other of these phases appears uppermost. Even fishing and navigation, at the hands of the East Caspian Turkomans, developed into piracy . . . . The activities of the apparently pacific existence as a herdsman determine those of the warrior; the pastoral crook becomes a fighting implement. In the fall, when the horses return strengthened from the pasture and the second cropping of the sheep is completed, the nomads’ minds turn to some feud or robbing expedition (Baranta, literally, to make cattle, to lift cattle), adjourned to that time. This is an expression of the right of self help, which in contentions over points of law, or in quarrels affecting dignity, or in blood feuds, seeks both requital and surety in the most valuable things that the enemy possesses, namely, the animals of his herd. Young men who have not been on a baranta must first acquire the name batir, hero, and thus earn the claim to honor and respect. The pleasure of ownership joined to the desire for adventure develops the triple descending gradation of avenger, hero and robber.”20
An identical development takes place with the sea nomads, the “Vikings,” as with the land nomads. This is quite natural, since in the most important cases noted in the history of mankind, sea nomads are simply land nomads taking to the sea.
We have noted above one of the innumerable examples which indicate that the herdsman does not long hesitate to use for marauding expeditions, instead of the horse or the “ship of the desert,” the “horses of the sea.” This case is exemplified by the East Caspian Turkomans.21 Another example is furnished by the Scythians: “From the moment when they learn from their neighbors the art of navigating the seas, these wandering herdsmen, whom Homer (Iliad, XIII, 3) calls ‘respected horsemen, milk-eaters and poor, the most just of men,’ change into daring navigators like their Baltic and Scandinavian brethren. Strabo (Cas., 301) complains: ’since they have ventured on the sea, carrying on piracy and murdering foreigners, they have become worse; and associating with many peoples, they adopt their petty trading and spendthrift habits.’”22
If the Phænicians really were “Semites,” they furnish an additional example of incomparable importance of the transformation of land into “sea Bedouins,” i.e., warlike robbers; and the same is probably true for the majority of the numerous peoples who looted the rich countries around the Mediterranean, whether from the coast of Asia Minor, Dalmatia, or from the North African shore. These begin from the earliest times, as we see from the Egyptian monuments (the Greeks were not admitted into Egypt),23 and continue to the present day: e.g., the Riff pirates. The North African “Moors,” an amalgamation of Arabs and of Berbers, both originally land nomads, are perhaps the most celebrated example of this change.
There are cases in which sea nomads—that is to say, sea robbers—arise immediately from fishermen, with no intermediate herdsman stage. We have already examined the causes which give the herdsmen their superiority over the peasantry: the relatively numerous population of the horde, combined with an activity which develops courage and quick resolution in the individual, and educates the mass as a whole to tense discipline. All this applies also to fishermen dwelling on the sea. Rich fishing grounds permit a considerable density of population, as is shown in the case of the North-west Indians (Tlinkit, etc.); these permit also the keeping of slaves, since the slave earns more by fishing than his keep amounts to. Thus we find, here alone among the redskins, slavery developed as an institution; and we find, therefore, along with it, permanent economic differences among the freemen, which result in a sort of plutocracy similar to that noted among herdsmen. Here, as there, the habit of command over slaves produces the habit of rule and a taste for the “political means.” This is favored by the tense discipline developed in navigation. “Not the least advantage of fishing in common is found in the discipline of the crews. They must render implicit obedience to a leader chosen in each of the larger fishing boats, since every success depends upon obedience. The command of a ship afterward facilitates the command of the state. We are accustomed to reckon the Solomon Islanders as complete savages, and yet their life is subject to one solitary element, which combines their forces, namely, navigation.”24 If the Northwest Indians did not become such celebrated sea robbers as their likes in the old world, this is due to the fact that the neighborhoods within their reach had developed no rich civilization; but all more developed fishermen carry on piracy.
For this reason, the Vikings have the same capacity to choose the political means as the basis of their economic existence as have the cattle raiders; and similarly they have been founders of states on a large scale. Here-after, we shall distinguish the states founded by them as “sea states,” while the states founded by herdsmen—and in the new world by hunters—will be called “land states.” Sea states will be treated extensively when we discuss the consequences of the developed feudal state. As long, however, as we are discussing the development of the state, and the primitive feudal state, we must limit ourselves to the consideration of the land state and leave the sea state out of account. This treatment is convenient, since in all essential things the sea state has the same characteristics, but its development can not be followed through the various typical stages as can the development of the land state.
[∗]This statement of Lippert is not quite correct. The higher developed domiciled huntsmen and fishermen of Northwest America have both nobles and slaves.
[6.]Siedlung und Agrarwesen der Westgermanen, etc. Berlin, 1895, I, p. 273.
[7.]l. c. I, p. 138.
[8.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 702.
[9.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 555.
[10.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 555.
[11.]For example with the Ovambo according to Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 214, who in part “seem to be found in slavelike status,” and according to Laveleye among the ancient Irish (Fuidhirs).
[12.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 648.
[13.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 99.
[14.]Lippert, Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit. Stuttgart, 1886, II, p. 302.
[15.]Lippert, l. c. II, p. 522.
[16.]Römische Geschichte. Sixth Edition. Berlin, 1874, I, p. 17.
[17.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 518.
[18.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 425.
[19.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 545.
[20.]Ratzel, l. c. II, pp. 390-1.
[21.]Ratzel, l. c. II, pp. 390-1.
[22.]Lippert, l. c. I, p. 471.
[23.]Kulischer, “The history of the development of interest from capital.” Jahrbücher für National konomie. III series, vol. 18, p. 318, Jena, 1899: (Says Strabo: “Plunderers and from the scant supplies of their native land covetous of the lands of others.”)
[24.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 123.