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Chiefdom

A universal political formation?

Peter Skalník

This article addresses the question of the universality of chiefdom as a political form that displays surprising longevity as a viable alternative to the state. Data from research on Africa show that chiefdom is a suitable generic term for the political centralization, which comprises 'kingdoms'. A New Indirect Rule, based on a balance between the chiefdom-like structures and the post-colonial state, could be a truly democratic solution for the protracted crisis of modern statehood in areas where it was imposed on consesual communities. The chiefdom model should also be tested on data about face-to-face non-state politics in contemporary societies. The purpose of the article is to call for a new generation of research on politics liberated from the teleology of the state.

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Mette Louise Berg, Hülya Demirdirek, Albert Doja, Leyla J. Keough, Orvar Löfgren, Kacper Pobłocki, Peter Skalník, Gavin Smith, Banu Nilgün Uygun, Katherine Verdery, and Judith Whitehead

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