the production of agricultural surplus gave birth to the following marvels that changed humanity forever: writing, debt, money, states, bureaucracy, armies, clergy, technology and even the first form of biochemical war..t
we know from archaeologists that the first forms of writing emerge in mesopotamia (where iraq and syria are now).. but what did they record? the quantity of grain each farmer had deposited in a shared granary.. such a system required some sort of receipt.. so that each individual could prove what quantity they had stored
ever since econ was invented, following the agri revolution 12 000 years ago, and the creation of the firstsurplus.. it was about credit.. virtual payments..
debt, money, faith, and state all go hand in hand. w/o debt there is no easy way to *manage agri surplus.. as debt appeared, money flourished. but for money to have value, an institution, the state, had to make it **trustworthy. when we talk about the economy, this is what we are talking about: the complex relations that emerge in a society w a ***surplus..t
so.. no *manage ness.. no debt..?
so.. no ***surplus.. no energy loss..?
as we examine these relations, what also becomes clear is that a state could never have been born w/o surplus, since a state requires bureaucrats to manage public affairs, police to safeguard property rights, and rulers who.. for better or for worse.. demand a high standard fo living.. none of the above would be conceivable w/o a hefty surplus to sustain all these people w/o them having to work in the fields…. t..
nor could an organized army exist w/o a surplus.. and w/o an organized army the power of the ruler, and by extension the state, could not be imposed, and the society’s surplus would be more vulnerable to external threats..
bureaucracies and armies were made possible by agri surpluses..t.. which in turn created the need for bureaucracies and armies.. the same was true of the clergy…. surplus begat org’d religions…
there was tech before agri (fire, et al).. but agri surplus gave tech a gigantic boost by giving rise to new tech needs.. and by concentrating resources in hands of powerful few.. t
surplus also creates deadly bacteria/viruses (ie: tons of wheat piled in granaries surrounded by people and animals.. waste)… bodies had not evolved to cope with resulting diseases.. at first many died.. slowly.. people managed to adjust..became more resistant.. but not tribes/communities not yet develop agri.. so.. handshake was enough to wipe most of the tribespeople out.. .. in both australia nd america many more of the native populations dies from contact w bacteria/viruses carried by invading europeans than from cannonballs, bullets, and knives.. .. i some cases european raiders even engaged knowingly in biochem war.. ie: giving blankets knowingly seeded w smallpox virus..
the story of southern africa’s bushmen encapsulates the history of modern homo sapiens from our species’ first emergence in sub saharan africa thru to the agricultural revolution and beyond. it is and incomplete story, one pieced together from fragments of archaeology, anthropology, and most recently genomics. taken together, these fragments offer a sense of how hunter gatherers came to exemplify elements of keynes’s utopia and how,
since the invention of agriculture,our destiny has been shaped by our preoccupation with solving the ‘economic problem’..t
the glue that holds these fragments together.. the ju/’hoansi of namibia.. meaning.. real people.. between 8 and 10 thousand alive today.. i focus mostly on them in the book.. best documented of all bushman peoples.. and of all 20th cent foraging peoples..
by becoming farmers, our ancestors changed from foragers to producers and from hunters to makers, a process that ultimately paved the way for our transition from being the cleverest mammal to the most dominant species of any kind at any point in our planet’s history..t
agri was much more productive than h & g and enable populations to grow rapidly.. also created surpluses..
and w surpluses came hierarchies and systems of tribute and hierarchies and tributes, in turn, nurtured an urge to gather more resources, to expand and conquer..t
they complained in particular how the bushmen’s tendency ‘to live in the moment’ was ill-suited to wage labor and farming in particular.. t
because almost every job on the farm was future-oriented and the rewards for labor were only ever harvested long after the hard work was done
surpluses were transformed into debt, wealth, and money, and, for those who controlled their distribution and circulation, power.
unlike in the resettlement camps, there is a sense of disquiet among ju/’hoansi in kanaan. for although kanaan may be marginal, it is not remote, and no one here ever falls prey to the illusion tha their hunger has anthying to do with a scarcity of food.
w/in walking distance.. nearly half a dozen shops w shelving that groans under the weight of food. et al..
this small-town environment is much more abundance than the bush ever was, but if you don’t have money, it is far from provident.
and the ju/’hoansi here wonder why it is that they must continue to live on the edge of starvation when there is so much food nearby..t
for the first time since the neolithic revolution we live in an era where more than enough food is produced for everyone on the planet to eat well.. so much that around 440 pounds of food per person currently alive ends up in landfills every year.. enough again to adequately nourish another 5 bn or so of us for a a year..
keynes viewed capitalism as an ugly means to an ultimately beneficial end.. he believe that w/o it *the ‘econ problem’ could never be solved..
to vinay – hoping to clean up capitalism.. if anyone can it would be him.. but *the problem we need to solve is not the econ problem.. we have to go deeper.. get to the energy of people that we’re missing..
Skoll Foundation (@SkollFoundation) tweeted at 6:15 AM – 27 Jun 2018 :
Seventy percent of Africans make their living from agriculture, but most smallholders still don’t have adequate food through the year. @myAgroFarms helps smallholders end the cycle of poverty. https://t.co/JpMr6a9q1c https://t.co/Wl3wv3Tv00 (http://twitter.com/SkollFoundation/status/1011946056995823617?s=17)
Joey Ayoub جووي أيوب (@joeyayoub) tweeted at 4:55 AM – 28 Jun 2018 :
“The world lost tree cover the size of Italy in 2017 as forests were cleared using fire to make way for farms from the Amazon to the Congo Basin, an independent forest monitoring network said on Wednesday.”
Joey Ayoub جووي أيوب (@joeyayoub) tweeted at 5:04 AM – 28 Jun 2018 :
“Vast areas continue to be cleared for soy*, beef, palm oil and other globally traded commodities. Much of this clearing is illegal”.
* Most of the world’s soy crop is used to feed animals raised for slaughter, especially cattle. https://t.co/n23yHe5luC (http://twitter.com/joeyayoub/status/1012290611565776897?s=17)
Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) tweeted at 6:06 AM – 2 Jul 2018 :
One key way industrial agriculture hides its own barbarism & savagery is by deceitfully self-branding as (what people perceive to be) the bucolic beauty of the family farm. But now they’re killing off family farms, leaving morally reprehensible factory farms as the only reality: https://t.co/ICbg6GNyAs(http://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/1013755866733056001?s=17)
did agri start ineq
How the Agricultural Revolution made us inequal
from Lewis Mumford’s myth of the machine (shortly after )
from David Wengrow:
David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 2:11 PM on Wed, Nov 21, 2018:
Could never see why the Origins of the State required an Agricultural Revolution. Hunting is the one cultural obsession of political elites that transcends every major ideological rupture, from Ashurbanipal to Vladimir Putin.
(@AnnemiekeMiks): doesn’t shift to elitism of hunting require agriculture first? Without agriculture/sedentism/domestication, hunting is just a necessary part of everyday subsistence. It becomes supplementary w/ shift to agriculture
(@davidwengrow): But what do you make of hunter/fisher/forager groups like the NW Coast Kwakiutl, Tsimshian, and so on who had aristocratic households, kept slaves, etc. all without agriculture? Or cases like the Calusa of Florida Keys where this led to full-blown monarchy, but still no farming..
(@davidwengrow): Or Amazonian groups where hunting and capturing other people to make them “pets” is a basic way of establishing power relations – my friend Luiz Costa has a great new book on this called “The Owners of Kinship.”
Through a comprehensive ethnography of the Kanamari, Luiz Costa shows how this relationship is centered around the bond created between the feeder and the fed.
imagining – if we all were part of the feeding.. so that all are fed (which .. 1\ all aren’t fed today 2\ if all part of feeding.. less feeling obliged to ie: bs jobs .. in order to pay the feeder)
(@elliot_sperber): Non-sedentary, non-agricultural people are able to walk away from coercive power? (i.e., hunter class exploits agricultural class, and that’s why they love hunting/hunting symbolism, asserting their dominance, isn’t that the idea?)
(@davidwengrow): Well it’s one part of the story but let’s recall that (non-agricultural) hunting peoples have just as often preyed on each other for tribute, slaves, etc. While on the other hand we have examples of agrarian cities with no evidence of predatory elites taking control.
(@elliot_sperber): Could it be that agriculture is a necessary but insufficient factor?
(@davidwengrow): I don’t think so. Take the Calusa of pre-columbian Florida. Sacred monarchy, slaves, well organised military and industry. No farming.
(@elliot_sperber): Were they sedentary? Maybe that’s it, and sedentariness is conflated with agriculture?
(@davidwengrow): Unless you’re an agro- pastoralist ;) We’re going in circles. I guess the point is it’s silly to try and organise human history by modes of subsistencebut people still do it, despite the obvious objections
(@elliot_sperber): Well yes, it’s silly, but an agricultural revolution makes for a pretty good origin story, especially as it flatters “civilization,” so it’s very potent ideologically. As ideology it makes sense that it would persist despite objections
(@bschlatter): I think I’ve read an essay once on compared mythology, in which you could see traces of hunter societies actually imposing coercion over agricultural ones in stories like Perseus and other warriors-wanderers defeating snake-goddesses and such. It was a compelling point.
(@davidwengrow): Yes it’s amazing how all this gets ignored in the usual version of social evolution based on “modes of subsistence”
(@flintsparc): Economic surplus that can be hoarded us a requirement for specialized classes aristocrats and professional soldiers. Agriculture is the easiest way to achieve that. Hunting surplus tends to very geographically specific.
(@davidwengrow): But again this ignores all the evidence for storage, surplus, and stratification in foraging societies: check responses elsewhere in thread. And of course you can also exert power directly over people by capturing, raiding, taking slaves, tribute – quite common among hunter-gs
(@davidconstable6): Hunted from their country estates, didn’t they? Estates that were primarily agricultural? Their hunting was what Marshal McLuhan called an obsolete technology becoming a hobby craft for those who could afford it…the content (hunting for fun) of the new technology (agric).
(@davidwengrow): There always seems to be much more to it politically than just fun or magic. Thomas Allsen wrote a book called “The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History” about it. Or Vidal-Naquet’s “The Black Hunter”.
(@davidconstable6): My thinking was they did not hunt because they had to, because of needs like ,say, pre 1850 bison people in North America’s plains. I can see hunting as replaying identity like a legendary hunter of yore., not need for food, tools and clothing. Thanks for the book titles!
2 days later
David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 2:56 PM on Fri, Nov 23, 2018:
In fact the relationship is stronger. Key elements of the State are Sovereignty and Bureaucracy, transferable skills from Hunting (outsiders, criminals) and Gathering (information, taxes). The myth that food production drives history blinds us to these transformations. https://t.co/RDosd4mhLm
food production. .or food surplus. .? which also requires bureaucracy as violence et al
(@davidwengrow): Thanks – yes it’s something I’m trying to think through for the book I’m writing with
@davidgraeber – still thinking through the implications of this point so this feedback is useful
1:07 – (philippe descola) – ineq not on shift to agri but on stockpiling/accumulation.. whether thru agri or foraging.. the control of the stock becomes the central point precisely not interpreted in terms of the immediate ecological analysis.. but the point to understanding the emergence of social control/protection
referencing alain testart
1:08 – w: yes.. i can see that .. but at the same time i find it very hard to envisage.. how a situation of endemic raiding between relatively small scale foraging groups could ever have produced a farming economy.. because you never have the kind of stability that would lead to incremental return on investments.. which is implied by agri.. so i think the point (testart) makes that really interested me was actually about another schismogenetic possibility (which is something we’re working on) .. testart made a fascinating observation in the 80s which seems to have been completely ignored (anglaphone lit) and he seems to have worked quite a lot w archeologists.. and we’re certainly aware of head-taking and head-focused rituals and skull poachings .. he said ritual wasn’t necessarily meaning they were doing that violence.. what would be interesting is to see if there was that (violence) in contemporary foraging societies.. which increasingly i think might be the case.. so once again you could have rituals which are really about the care of the head juxtaposed to something which is .. it’s just a theory we’re playing with
1:11 – g: one theory .. seems almost reverse.. rather than agri leading to ie: class structures.. you have something like a stratified society already emerging.. and it’s quite possible that the agri people are just sort of running away from that.. 1st agri more egalitarian esp women
1:12 – g: and one of the most cogent signs of this you can actually see is their attitudes toward heads.. just seems like there’s a lot of severed heads/sacrifice.. and at same time.. carefully nurturing heads of ancestors
w: what testart seems to have done is make the pre historians confront this increasingly compelling evidence for extremely violent raiding and slave holding way back into pre history.. it goes back as far as you want to look.. but the scale of it in pre history in europe is really quite striking.. mass burials.. particularly in germany and i think there ‘s a lot of thinking to be done about generally the role of slavery.. which is something not much talked about because it seems too hypothetical but the evidence now is so compelling in terms of body mutilation .. mass burial.. and evidence of warfare
New Humanist (@NewHumanist) tweeted at 4:27 AM on Mon, Jan 14, 2019:
“Our species did not, in fact, spend most of its history in tiny bands; agriculture did not mark an irreversible threshold in social evolution; the first cities were often robustly egalitarian.” @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow on early human society https://t.co/2ZMbnle2y3
article from jan 2019 (previous from march 2018)
The first bombshell on our list concerns the origins and spread of agriculture. There is no longer any support for the view that it marked a major transition in human societies.
..The “transition” from living mainly on wild resources to a life based on food production typically took something in the order of 3000 years. While agriculture allowed for the possibility of more unequal concentrations of wealth, in most cases this only began to happen millennia after its inception.
from Robert Sapolsky‘s behave:
(on criticisms – ie: all kinds of hg – nomadic et al) which bring us to agri.. i won’t pull any punches – i think that its invention was one of the all time human blunders.. agri makes people dependent on a few domesticated crops and animals in stead of hundreds of wild food sources, creating vulnerability to droughts and blights and zoonotic diseases.. agri makes for sedentary living, leading humans to do something that no primate w a concern for hygiene and public health would ever do, namely living in close proximity to their feces.. agri makes for surplus and this almost inevitably the unequal distribution of surplus, generating socio econ states differences that reward anything that other primates dodo up w their hierarchies
over last half millennium people have arguably gotten a lot less awful to one another
Michel Bauwens (@mbauwens) tweeted at 5:19 AM – 31 Jul 2019 :
According to the Canadian group ETC, small farmers, mainly women, are feeding today 70% of the people on Earth, while agribusiness, which owns or controls more than half of world’s food resources, feed only 30%. (http://twitter.com/mbauwens/status/1156524739239862272?s=17)