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Chapter 2

POLI 212 Chapter 2: Spruyt - Reading Notes

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 212
Vincent Post

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Spruit, Hendrick Institutional Selection in International Relations: State
Anarchy as Order (Reading Notes)
1) Spruit is talking about historical changes that ended the feudal era and ushered in
the modern era. He describes the feudal era at some length starting at page 536. What
are the defining features of feudalism (Bale ch. 1)
o Decentralized political authority, private possession of the means of
violence, and the lack of any distinction between public and private
authority created an environment that greatly hindered commerce.
Feudal barriers to trade:
o Feudal organization lacked the absolute exclusion that we attach to
private property.
o Given that money was scarce, feudal obligations of necessity revolved
around in-kind tranfers. The very basis of feudal organization was
centered around the granting of land by a high lord or king to a lesser
o The legal system further hindered commercial transactions. Feudalism
evolved into a system of preferential birth and operated as a closed caste
system favoring the warrior aristocracy. This entailed preferential judicial
procedures such as trial by ordeal and combat and judgement by noble
peers rather than by inferior (not rational means of contract
o Transaction costs were raised further by the fact that secular and
esslesiastical lords used their own weights and measures. Manipulations
of such measures could yield tidy profits for local lords.
o Lords minted their own coins.
o All such matters made the conduct of business a highly speculative and
sometimes dangerous affair.
2) Spruyt argues that the sovereign state, over time, became the dominant form of
political organization. He explains what he means by a sovereign state starting on
page 540 (Bale ch. 1). What are the key elements of this model of political
3) Spruyt argues that the state eclipsed two other forms of political organization: city-
states (p.547) and city-leagues (p.543). What characterized these forms of political
organization? Look up the Hanseatic League and the Republic of Venice if you want to
know more.
City-states acknowledged territorial limits but often lacked clear internal
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