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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Knowledge of the period from the decline of Classic-period Teotihuacan to the rise of the Aztec Triple Alliance Empire is enriched by mythic-historical accounts of migrating Chichimecs and Nahua-speaking peoples who struggled to build polities and eventually an empire. However, mythic accounts must be viewed in light of theories of institutional change. Such theories were developed over the latter twentieth century but were informed by discredited nineteenth-century social evolutionist thinking and overemphasized the role of environmental causal variables. This chapter proposes an alternative collective action approach highlighting the importance of historical continuity from Teotihuacan while addressing the novel forms of collectively oriented institution-building that led to the formation of political confederacies and eventually the empire. This theory situates political change in relation to the development of a regional-scale market economy, the incorporation of the deity Tezcatlipoca into religious life, and a design for state-building referred to as the “Aztec Arrangement.”

Keywords: Aztec, state-making, empire, collective action theory, market economy, Aztec arrangement

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