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The emergence of the state and the nature of cooperation

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Benoît Dubreuil (FNRS, Université libre de Bruxelles)

The grand theories concerning the emergence of the state have all come to the conclusion of a strong interrelation between demographic factors and social organization. How can this relationship be taken into account without exposing oneself to the classical critiques of functionalism in the social sciences? The present article argues that cognitive constraints limit the possibility of building large social units. The emergence of large scale societies is only possible through the creation of institutions which allow for a division of labor in the field of sanctioning, which in turn fosters stronger social differentiation and centralization of power.