The traditional Eurocentric view of state formation and the rise of civilisation is vigorously challenged in this unusually broad-ranging up-to-date and innovative book. Bringing archaeological research into contact with the work of ethno-historians and anthropologists. It generates a discussion of fundamental concepts rather than a search for modern analogies for processes that occurred in the past. Constantly challenging trends in interpretation. State and Society offers analyses of the dynamics of political centralization and the nature of social inequalities in a diverse range of historical and geographical contexts. The book examines the developments and resistances encountered in state formation and the mechanisms which produce cumulative development on a world historical scale. More developed systems of civilisation, the nature of bureaucracy and role of literacy are given as much attention as other processes underlying the development of early states. Contribtutions on the impact of European colonialism and modern Third World state formation help to develop a more universal picture of the human experience which may clarify the nature of 'the West' itself.