From the earliest states to the Islamic State
There has been some controversy over whether ISIS, or the Islamic State, is truly a state. Even according to the standard definition of “territorial monopoly of force” (which I think is too restrictive anyway), it would be difficult at this point to justify not calling it a state, if something of a ragtag one.
And its rise as a state in the crucible of war in Iraq and Syria is a fairly typical one. For just as, in the words of Randolph Bourne, “war is the health of the state,” war is also the birth of the state.
This is not only true of states born amid already state-dominated societies, but also of the emergence of primordial states. This was exhaustively detailed by the great sociologist Franz Oppenheimer in his classic work The State (1908). He explained how land states in the Old World virtually always emerged out of war and conquest: specifically the conquest of nomadic herdsmen over settled peasants. The conquerors graduate from shortsighted wanton ravaging to prudentially-curbed extraction. They then evolve from alien tribute demanders to domestic tax collectors, and become progressively entangled with their subjects as a ruling class.
The great classical liberal philosopher Herbert Spencer also pointed to war as the crucible of the primitive state. In his The Man Versus the State (1884), he wrote:
“Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression and by aggression.”