Modes of Control of Principals

Part of the Fundamental Issues in Archaeology book series (FIAR)

The role of the principal or principals, whether ruler, monarch, king, or some other category such as chief magistrate or ruling council (below, we use whatever terminology is most often found in each state’s literature), combines two primary dimensions of state power, the symbolic-cohesive, representing the polity as a whole, and the bureaucratic, as chief administrative officer(s) of the state (Eisenstadt 1956: 21). The potential for agency among principals represents a particularly difficult collective action problem and we can expect collective action process to be reflected in how this role is defined. For one, since principals serve as the primary symbolic objectification of the state their actions are key to the trust-building that is crucial in the functioning of a collective polity. As Levi (1988: 52-3, 56, 60-4) hypothesizes, quasi-voluntary compliance depends in part on whether taxpayers are confident that principals will honor their bargains. They are expected to govern transparently, use tax revenues to benefit the collectivity, develop and maintain effective systems of governance able to monitor and punish agency and free riding, and accept constraints on their potential for political agency and on their standard of living, the latter to confirm that revenues are not being used to support a “luxurious lifestyle” in the capital (Levi ibid.: 56). The theory predicts that in the more collective polities taxpayers assess the principal’s degree of commitment to the collective enterprise through public scrutiny, but trust comes also from knowing that when principals violate collective norms they can and will be held accountable.


Material Resource Ruler Control Moral Code High Official Council Meeting 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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