Assessment of the nature of intrasocietal relationships in the context of the origin of state-level power is a critical area of study within anthropological archaeology. A well-established model of such emergent political relations (Wittfogel 1957) posits that differential access to land, coupled with intensification of agriculture, places common farmers in a position of inferiority, and thus subjects them to exploitation by the elite controllers of intensive agriculture. The central thesis of this article is that the initial relationship between the elite controllers and the common laborers in an intensive agricultural system was mutually beneficial, with the state only capable of exercising more exploitative power some generations after the establishment of intensive agriculture. I argue that the economic measure of marginal productivity may best reflect each farmer’s personal contribution to agriculture, and that, in a largely kin-based system, it is difficult for the emergent elite to exercise exploitative power when the marginal productivity of labor is high. I support the thesis on the basis of the simulated trajectory of marginal productivity, which indicates that marginal product increases with intensification. I explore the model further in a consideration of the rise of the Classic Maya kingdom of Copán, Honduras.