Preprint / Version 1

On the Emergence of the State


  • Ziqing Wang Keystone Academy



city-states, political theorists, history


Where does the state come from? What prompted people to build the earliest city-states? These are profound political questions debated for centuries by philosophers and political theorists. Thomas Hobbes claimed that life was nasty, brutish, and short. Individuals, hence, came together and submitted themselves to a greater authority to prevent the spread of violence. The fear of violence or the desire to live harmoniously as a collective group led to the creation of a state. However, using historical examples, this essay will point out an alternative explanation for the birth of a state. The first states were glued together not as shelters from violence, as Hobbes believed, but by economics. Economic needs in agricultural societies drove people to coalesce into more complex forms of organization that could serve such needs.


The Economist. “Where Does the Modern State Come From?”, 20 Dec. 2023, Accessed 25 Dec. 2023.

Allen, Robert C., et al. “The Economic Origins of Government.” The American Economic Review, vol. 113, no. 10, American Economic Association, Oct. 2023, pp. 2507–45, Accessed 25 Dec. 2023.