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Controlled Knowledge Is Power Essay

2789 words - 11 pages

The study of ancient societies and the elites’ legitimization of state power have been deliberated amongst many scholars. The elites in ancient complex societies were those that occupied the dominant positions and controlled a disproportionate amount of wealth and power. Their source of power was either objective, such as wealth and factors of production or symbolic, emphasizing ideology and ritual relating to fertility and societal cosmic renewal (Rice, 2009). The basis of this essay is a comparison of ancient societies and their legitimacy to power. The societies that will be focused on are the Classic Maya, the Aztec and the Inca. The foundation of elite state power and legitimacy was based on creating an illusion of control of time and the cosmos, achieved through strategic employment and manipulation of religious rituals. Together, these three civilizations are of theoretical and methodological interest and provide valuable comparative backdrop of the study of elite state power.
All societies have rules or patterns of behavior that govern the peoples’ actions and provide a framework for social order. Sometimes these rules are made into laws. However, more often than not, they are simply accepted by the members of a society. In complex societies such the Classic Maya, Incas and the Aztec, complexity denotes qualities of hierarchical differentiation (Adams, 2001). Combined evidence from archaeology, art, history and ethno history have shown that the Classic Maya society was stratified into two basic classes. These classes were the elite and non-elite (Sharer, 2006). The elites were distinguished from commoners by birth, membership that is strictly hereditary. They controlled land, labor and taxes, while the non- elites existed to serve them (Smith, 2012). The same can be attributed to the Inca and the Aztec. The social organization of the Inca is particularly interesting because of their success in ruling conquered people by using the existing political and social structures and that were already present in that society (Malpass, 1996). They viewed their relationship to the conquered people as an institutionalized reciprocity (Malpass, 1996). This meant that the conquered people would work for the Incas and in return, they would be provided with goods and services. This notion of reciprocity is discussed later as a continuous theme in Aztec, Inca and Classic Maya religious ideology. The state has a mechanism for organizing a stratified society. This mechanism is the state ideology that functions to resolve conflicts within society and at the same time protect the inequalities in wealth, privilege and power.
The role of ideologies plays an integral role in the development and maintenance of stratified societies. For an ideology to be effective, it must be sanctified. It must be linked to an irrefutably sacred proposition, which cannot be questioned (Hicks, 1996). Ideology according to Hicks (1996) has a dual sense. The first refers to the...

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