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State legibility and mind legibility in the original political society

Buitron, Natalia and Steinmüller, Hans ORCID: 0000-0002-5921-421X (2022) State legibility and mind legibility in the original political society. Religion and Society: Advances in Research, 12 (1). pp. 39-55. ISSN 2150-9298

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Identification Number: 10.3167/arrs.2021.120104


In one of his last great provocations, Marshall Sahlins describes the ‘original political society’ as a society where supposedly ‘egalitarian’ relations between humans are subordinated to the government of metahuman beings. He argues that this government is ‘a state’, but what kind of state does he mean? Even if metahumans are hierarchically organized and have power over human beings, they lack two capacities commonly attributed to political states: systematic means to make populations legible and coercive means to identity the intentions of others. The nascent forms of state legibility and public mind reading that are present in Sahlins’s original political society are not unified and tied to particular agents. A discussion of the limitations of state and mind legibility points to the fundamental correlations between those two forms of legibility and their co-implication in whatever might be called ‘the state’.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2021 09:51
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 21:48

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