Sovereignty without Nations

5 Feb

How do groups of people maintain order when there is no legal system. Its the issue that has taxed political theorists for many years. However there are more recent examples of groups living without nation-states which could provide some answers.

I have been reading Paul Moons ” A Savage Country ” – The untold story of New Zealand in the 1820s. Which is timely as Waitangi Day approached. Moon is a prolific historian and not without his critics. I was hopeful that this book would ofer a light on what “life ” was like in that era. As Moon explains there were very few Europeans at that time and the British government had little appetite to colonise. The churches led the way with missionaries and the traders with guns.

Unfortunately Moon seems to overemphasise the role of guns on tribes. Now im not dismissing it , but it becomes the main thread of the book. Guns turned tribal power. One tribe looking for a battle , at what is now the end of my driveway , were headed off 20 kms away and suffered great loses to the musket. Moon focuses a lot on inter tribal conflict and how those tribes jostled with each other to make gains and alliances. This would seem to substantiate much international relations theory. Theres also great asides around early French and Russian interest in colonising and in the stories of the first Pakeha-maori.

Where I feel short is how did tribes keep order, Moon gives me plenty of gore around “bad manners ” but litle on order or justice. I say this because it does intrigue me , how they managed to retain justice and order prior to the legal system and also because I have Jared Diamonds new book on my desk and it seems pre-colonial is the new black.

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