Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2021
Rural sociopolitical complexity in premodern states was quite extensive but variable. However, archaeologists and cultural anthropologists have been slow to recognize and study institutional complexity in rural contexts. Much ink has been spilled regarding economic relationships, “centralized” control, and “imagined communities” (e.g., Davis-Salazar, 2003; Earle & Spriggs, 2015; Flannery, 1972; Isbell, 2000; Kirch, 2010; Paris, 2014; Sanders & Price, 1968; Wright, 1977; Yaeger & Canuto, 2000). But the development of infrastructural power, especially collective power, in rural settlements and its relationship with regional or macroregional political structures has received only scant attention. With respect to contemporary cases, which provide important theoretical frameworks, anthropologists have taken a back seat to political scientists (e.g., Ostrom, 2015; see Lansing, 2012 for an important [partial] exception), whose focus has been on the management of common pool resources – a topic generally ignored by archaeologists. Unfortunately, neither political scientists nor anthropologists have invested much in understanding cooperation and public goods provisioning in rural settlements and landscapes. Conversely, we have made some initial forays into the issue of rural institutional complexity in premodern states and civilization (Blanton & Fargher, 2008); and here we expand to some degree on that discussion.