Human Agency, Biased Transmission, and the Cultural Evolution of Chiefly Authority
The dynamics of individual power-seeking and factional competition generate considerable leadership variability in uncentralized societies. A key issue is how the "sequential hierarchy" (in Johnson's terms) of achieved leadership is transformed into the "simultaneous hierarchy" of permanently institutionalized chiefly authority. An evolutionary perspective is needed, but one that takes into account the creative force of human agency as well as the structural constraints of cultural institutions, in line with Giddens's theory of structuration. It is suggested that key portions of Boyd and Richerson's dual inheritance theory of cultural evolution are consistent with a balanced consideration of agency and structure. Of particular relevance to chiefdom development is their concept of indirectly biased transmission. Archaeological cases from Mexico and Venezuela are examined in view of these considerations.