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Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies

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Abstract

Archeologists' dissatisfaction with Service's band-tribe-chiefdom-state model of sociocultural complexity has resulted in the epistemological reexamination of hierarchy, the exploration of heterarchy, and the historical and contextual flux between them. This calculus of power relations within and between polities aids understanding of how power shifts occur and under what conditions various power distributions constitute stable and unstable configurations. Power relations, while predicated on systems of values, leave physical evidence when their importance is ranked and reranked by individuals, groups, and organizations as conditions change. The hierarchy-heterarchy relation offers a new approach to the study of agency, conflict, and cooperation.

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