Front Page Titles (by Subject) (d) the primitive feudal state of higher grade - The State
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(d) the primitive feudal state of higher grade - 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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(d) the primitive feudal state of higher grade
Growth in itself conditions important changes; and the young state must grow. The same forces that brought it into being, urge its extension, require it to grasp more power. Even were such a young state “sated,” as many a modern state claims to be, it would still be forced to stretch and grow under penalty of extinction. Under primitive social conditions Goethe’s lines apply with absolute truth: “You must rise or fall, conquer or yield, be hammer or anvil.”
States are maintained in accordance with the same principles that called them into being. The primitive state is the creation of warlike robbery; and only by warlike robbery can it be preserved.
The economic want of the master group has no limits; no man is sufficiently rich to satisfy his desires. The political means are turned on new groups of peasants not yet subjected, or new coasts yet unpilfered are sought out. The primitive state expands, until a collision takes place on the edge of the “sphere of interests” of another primitive state, which itself originated in precisely the same way. Then we have for the first time, in place of the warlike robbery heretofore carried on, true war in its narrower sense, since henceforth equally organized and disciplined masses are hurled at one another.
The object of the contest remains always the same, the produce of the economic means of the working classes, such as loot, tribute, taxes and ground rent; but the contest no longer takes place between a group intent on exploiting and another mass to be exploited, but between two master groups for the possession of the entire booty.
The final result of the conflict, in nearly all instances, is the amalgamation of both primitive states into a greater. This in turn, naturally and by force of the same causes, reaches beyond its borders, devours its smaller neighbors, and is perhaps in its turn devoured by some greater state.
The subjected laboring group may not take much interest in the final issue of these contests for the mastery; it is a matter of indifference whether it pays tribute to one or the other set of lords. Their chief interest lies in the course of the particular fight, which is, in any case, paid for with their own hides. Therefore, except in cases of gross ill treatment and exploitation, the lower classes are rightly governed by their “state-consciousness” when, with all their might they aid their hereditary master group in times of war. For if their master group is vanquished, the subjects suffer most severely from the utter devastation of war. They fight literally for wife and children, for home and hearth, when they fight to prevent the rule of foreign masters.
The master group is involved completely in the issue of this fight for dominion. In extreme cases, it may be completely exterminated, as were the local nobility of the Germanic tribes in the Frankish Empire. Nearly as bad, if not worse, is the prospect of being thrust into the group of the serfs. Sometimes a well-timed treaty of peace preserves their social position as master groups of subordinate rank: e. g., the Saxon nobility in Norman England, or the Suppans in German territory taken from the Slavs. In other cases, where the forces are about equal, the two groups amalgamate into one master group with equal rights, which forms a nobility whose members intermarry. This, for instance, was the situation in the Slavic Territories, where isolated Wendish chieftains were treated as the equals of the Germans, or in mediæval Rome, in the case of prominent families from the Alban Hills and Tuscany.
In this new “primitive feudal state of higher grade,” as we shall call it, the ruling group may, therefore, disintegrate into a number of more or less powerful and privileged strata. The organization may show many varieties because of the well-known fact, that often the master group separates into two subordinated economic and social layers, developed as we saw them in the herdsmen stage: the owners of large herds and of many slaves, and the ordinary freemen. Possibly the less complete differentiation into social ranks in the states created by huntsmen in the new world, is to be assigned to the circumstance that in the absence of herds, the concomitants of that form of ownership, and the original separation into classes, were not introduced into the state. We shall, later, see what force was exerted on the political and economic development of states in the old world by the differences in rank and property of the two strata of rulers.
Similarly, as in the case of the ruling group, a corresponding process of differentiation divides the subject group in the “primitive feudal state of a higher grade” into various strata more or less despised and compelled to render service. It is only necessary to recall the very marked difference in the social and jural position occupied by the peasantry in the Doric States, Lacedæmon and Crete, and among the Thessalians, where the perioiki had clear rights of possession and fairly well protected political rights, while the helots, in the latter case the penestai, were almost unprotected in life and property. Among the old Saxons also we find a class, the liti, intermediate between the common freemen and the serfs.52 These examples could be multiplied; apparently they are caused by the same tendencies that brought about the differentiation among the nobility mentioned above. When two primitive feudal states amalgamate, their social layers stratify in a variety of ways, which to a certain extent are comparable to the combinations resulting from mixing together two packs of cards.
It is certain that this mechanical mixture caused by political forces, influences the development of castes, that is to say, of hereditary professions, which at the same time form a hierarchy of social classes. “Castes are usually, if not always, consequences of conquest and subjugation by foreigners.”53 Although this problem has not been completely solved, it may be said that the formation of castes has been very strongly influenced by economic and religious factors. It is probable that castes came about in some such way as this: state-forming forces penetrated into existing economic organizations, and vocations underwent adaptation, and then became petrified under the influence of religious concepts, which, however, may also have influenced their original formation. This seems to follow from the fact that even as between man and woman there exist certain separations of vocation, which, so to say, are taboo and impassable. Thus among all huntsmen, tilling the ground is woman’s work, while among many African shepherds, as soon as the oxplow is used, agriculture becomes man’s work, and then women may not, under pain of sacrilege, use the domestic cattle∗ .
It is likely that such religious concepts may have brought it about that a vocation became hereditary, and then compulsorily hereditary, especially where a tribe or a village carried on a particular craft. This happens with all tribes in a state of nature, where intercourse is easily possible, especially in the case of islanders. When some such group has been conquered by another tribe, the subjects, with their developed hereditary vocations, tend to form within the new state entity a pure “caste.” Their caste position depends partly upon the esteem they had heretofore enjoyed among their own people, and partly upon the advantage which their vocation affords their new masters. If, as was often the case, waves of conquest followed one another in series, the formation of castes might be multiplied, especially if in the meantime economic development had worked out many vocational classes.
This development is probably best seen in the group of smiths, who, in nearly all cases, have occupied a peculiar position, half feared and half despised. In Africa especially, since the beginning of time, we find tribes of expert smiths, as followers and dependents of shepherd tribes. The Hyksos brought such tribes with them into the Nile country, and perhaps owed their decisive victory to arms made by them; and until recent times the Dinka kept the iron working Djur in a sort of subject relation. The same applied also to the nomads of the Sahara; while our northern sagas are filled with the tribal contrast to the “dwarfs” and the fear of their magical powers. All the elements were at hand in a developed state for the formation of sharply differentiated castes.54
How the coöperation of religious concepts affects the beginning of these formations may be well illustrated by an example from Polynesia. Here, “although many natives have the ability to do ship-building, only one privileged class may exercise the craft, so closely is the interest of the states and the societies bound up in this art. All over the archipelago formerly, and to this day in Fiji, the carpenters, who are almost exclusively ship-builders, form a special caste, bear the high sounding title of ‘the king’s workmen,’ and enjoy the prerogative of having their own chieftains. . . . Everything is done in accordance with ancient tradition; the laying the keel, the completion of the ship, and the launching, all take place amidst religious ceremonies and feasts.”55
Where superstition has been strongly developed, a genuine system of castes may come about, based partly on economic and partly on ethnic foundations. In Polynesia, for example, the articulation of the classes, through the operation of the taboo, has brought about a state of affairs very like a most thorough-going caste system.56 Similar results may be seen in Southern Arabia.57 It is unnecessary at this place to enlarge on the important place which religion had in the origin and maintenance of separate castes in ancient Egypt and in modern India∗ .
These are the elements of the primitive feudal state of higher grade. They are more manifold and more numerous than in the lower primitive state; but in both, legal constitution and political-economic distribution are fundamentally the same. The products of the economic means are still the object of the group struggle. This remains now as ever the moving impulse of the domestic policy of the state, while the political means continues now as ever to constitute the moving impulse of its foreign policy in attack or in defense. Identical group theories continue to justify, both for the upper classes and the lower, the objects and means of external and domestic struggles.
But the development can not remain stationary. Growth differs from mere increase in bulk; growth means a constantly heightening differentiation and integration.
The farther the primitive feudal state extends its dominion, the more numerous its subjects, and the denser its population, the more there develops a political-economic division of labor, which calls forth new needs and new means of supplying them; and the more there come into sharp contrasts the distinctions of economic, and consequently of social, class strata, in accordance with what I have called the “law of the agglomeration about existing nuclei of wealth.” This growing differentiation becomes decisive for the further development of the primitive feudal state, and still more for its conclusion.
This conclusion is not meant to be, in any sense, the physical end of such a state. We do not mean the death of a state, whereby such a feudal state of the higher type disappears, in consequence of conflict with a more powerful state, either on the same or on a higher plane of development, as was the case of the Mogul states of India or of Uganda in their conflicts with Great Britain. Neither does it mean such a stagnation as that into which Persia and Turkey have fallen, which represents for a time only a pause in development, since these countries, either of their own force or by foreign conquest, must soon be pushed on the way of their destiny. Neither have we meant the rigidity of the gigantic Chinese Empire, which can last only so long as foreign powers refrain from forcing its mysterious gates∗ .
The outcome here spoken of means the further development of the primitive feudal state, a matter of importance to our understanding of universal history as a process. The principal lines of development into which this issue branches off are twofold and of fundamentally different character. But this polar opposition is conditioned by a like contrast between two sorts of economic wealth each of which increases in accordance with the “law of agglomeration about existing nuclei.” In the one case, it is movable property; in the other, landed property. Here it is the capital of commerce, there property in land, accumulating in the hands of a smaller and smaller number, and thereby overturning radically the articulation of classes, and with it the whole State.
The maritime State is the scene of the development of movable wealth; the territorial State is the embodiment of the development of landed property. The final issue of the first is capitalistic exploitation by slavery, the outcome of the latter is, first of all, the developed feudal State.
Capitalistic exploitation by slavery, the typical result of the development of the so-called “antique States” on the Mediterranean, does not end in the death of states, which is of no importance, but in the death of peoples, because of the consumption of population. In the pedigree of the historical development of the State, it forms a side branch, from which no further immediate growth can take place.
The developed feudal State, however, represents the principal branch, the continuation of the trunk; and is therefore the origin for the further growth of the State. Thence it has developed into the State governed by feudal systems; into absolutism; into the modern constitutional State; and if we are right in our prognosis, it will become a “free citizenship.”
So long as the trunk grew only in one direction, i.e., to include the primitive feudal State of higher grade, our sketch of its growth and development could and did comprise both forms. Henceforth, after the bifurcation, our story branches and follows each branch to its last twig.
We begin, then, with the maritime states, although they are not the older form. On the contrary, as far back as the dawn of history clears the fog of prehistoric existence, the first strong states were formed as territorial states, which then, by their own powers, attained the scale of developed feudal States. But beyond this stage, at least as regards those States most interesting to our culture, most of them either remained stationary or fell into the power of maritime states; and then, infected with the deadly poison of capitalistic exploitation through slavery, were destroyed by the same plague.
The further progress of the expanded feudal states of higher grade could take place only after the maritime states had run their course: mighty forms of domination and statescraft these became, and they subsequently influenced and furthered the conformation of the territorial states that grew from their ruins.
For that reason the story of the fate of maritime states must be first traced, as these are the introduction to the higher forms of state life. After first tracing the lateral branch, we shall then return to the starting point, the primitive feudal State, follow the main trunk to the development of the modern constitutional State, and anticipating actual history, sketch the “free citizenship” of the future.
the maritime state
The course of life and the path of suffering of the State founded by sea nomads, as has been stated above, is determined by commercial capital; just as that of the territorial State is determined by capital vested in realty; and, we may add, that of the modern constitutional State by productive capital. The seanomad, however, did not invent trade or merchandising, fairs or markets or cities; these preëxisted, and since they served his purpose, were now developed to suit his interests. All these institutions, serving the economic means, the barter for equivalents, had long since been discovered.
Here for the first time in our survey we find the economic means not the object of exploitation by the political means, but as a coöperating agent in originating the State, one might call it the “chain” passing into the “lift” created by the feudal state to bring forth a more elaborate structure. The genesis of the maritime State would not be thoroughly intelligible, were we not to premise a statement concerning traffic and interchange of wares in prehistoric times. Furthermore, no prognosis of the modern state is complete, which does not take into account the independently formed economic means of aboriginal barter.
[∗]Similarly there are North Asiatic tribes of huntsmen, where women are definitely forbidden to touch the hunting gear or to cross a hunting trail.—Ratzel I, page 650.
[∗]Besides, it seems that the rigidity of the Indian caste-system is not so harsh in practise. The guild seems as often to break through the barriers of caste as the converse.—Ratzel II, page 596.
[∗]Had we the space, a detailed exposition of this exceptional development of a feudal state would be tempting. China would be well worth a more detailed discussion, since, in many aspects it has approached the condition of “free citizenship” more closely than any people of Western Europe. China has overcome the consequences of the feudal system more thoroughly than we Europeans have; and has made, early in its development, the great property interests in the land harmless, so that their bastard offspring, capitalism, hardly came into being; while in addition, it has worked out to a considerable degree the problems of cooperative production and of coöperative disturibution.
[52.]Inama-Sternegg, Deutsche Wirtsch.-Gesch. I, Leipzig, 1879, p. 59.
[53.]Westermarck, History of Human Marriage, London, 1891, p. 368.
[54.]Cf. Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 81.
[55.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 156.
[56.]Ratzel, l. c. I, pp. 259-60.
[57.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 434.