If the expansion and consolidation of state power simply undermined, homogenized, and ultimately destroyed the distinctive societies and ethnic groups in its grasp, as various acculturation or melting-pot theories would have it, the world would long ago have run out of its supply of diverse ways of life, a supply presumably created in the dawn of human time. To the contrary, state power must not only destroy but also generate cultural differentiation—and do so not only between different nation states, and between states and their political and economic colonies, but in the center of its grasp as well. The historical career of ethnic peoples can thus best be understood in the context of forces that both give a people birth and simultaneously seek to take their lives.
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