agri surplus

adding page while reading Yanis Varoufakisto daughter about econ:


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

writing, debt, money, bureaucracy, war



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 debt/money/measuring.. no need to make things **trustworthy.. rather..we trust us

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..


first insight on how huge agri surplus was while reading James Suzman‘s affluence w/o abundance:


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

fromm spontaneous law


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. (


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. (


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:


did agri start ineq

How the Agricultural Revolution made us inequal

The history of trading equality for food.

These egalitarian qualities were not present in early agricultural societies. The big advantage of agriculture over hunting and gathering is that it enables the production of food surpluses. But agriculture is fickle. When the weather is unfavorable, or plants become diseased, hunter-gatherers shift to another food source. This can’t be done in agricultural societies, which rely on a small selection of crops produced on large scales. For a relatively recent example, consider the Irish Potato Famine.

Not only are food surpluses necessary for agricultural societies to survive, they also become highly desirable to control. In fact, recent research shows that ancient societies that had greater food surpluses tended tohave higher levels of inequality.

Not only are food surpluses necessary for agricultural societies to survive, they also become highly desirable to control. In fact, recent research shows that ancient societies that had greater food surpluses tended tohave higher levels of inequality.

Because somebody had to have control over surplus food, it became necessary to divide society into roles that supported this hierarchy. The roles of an administrator, a servant, a priest, and a soldier were invented. The soldierwas especially important because agriculture was so unsustainable compared to hunting and gathering. The fickleness of agriculture ironically encouraged more migration into neighboring lands in search of more resources and warfare with neighboring groups. Capturing slaves was also important since farming was hard work, and more people were working in these new roles.


Joey Ayoub إبن بالدوين (@joeyayoub) tweeted at 4:44 AM – 11 Oct 2018 :
So much of Made in Italy food products advertised as coming from some utopic land with some ‘authentic’ smiling farmer are in fact made by slave laborers deprived of the most basic human rights. (


Barefoot College (@BarefootCollege) tweeted at 7:01 AM – 12 Oct 2018 :
“It is only the soil that can make us free.”
This community in Burkina Faso thrives from its ecological farming. This documentary trailer is a preview into the inspiring world of Slow Food and resistance to corporate agribusiness.
#culturesofresistance (


from Jason Hickel‘s the divide:


unfortunately it is not likely degrowth will happen as quickly as we need it to. social change can be slow.. that said.. we might have a way out.. and it has to do w soil


soil is 2nd biggest reservoir of carbon on planet.. next to oceans.. it holds 4x carbon than all the plants and trees in the world..  but human activities… ie: deforestation and industrial farming.. are degrading our soils at breakneck speed.. killing the organic materials they contain..

scientists and farmers are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils (now 40%) by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods..  not just organic fertiliser, but also no tillage, composting and crop rotation.. regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet..  and produce higher yields  over long term.. by enhancing soil fertility and improving resilience against drought and flooding..  so may be our best bet for food security too.. it requires remembering some of the ancient wisdom that got our species thru the last 200 000 years.. on this point we have much to learn from people on the periphery of the world system – the ones our govt have so long referred to as ‘underdeveloped..

so.. like india farmers.. and ladakh farmers.. before we schooled them.. w agri surplus?

holmgren indigenous law


sumak kawsay: an indigenous quechua term that translates as ‘living in harmony and balance’.. calls us to recognise that we are interconnected..  part of a whole, that our well bein is inextricable from that of our ecosystems

ie: schmachtenberger meta law.. all the way to meadows undisturbed ecosystem


in india.. ‘ecological swaraj’..

manish et al

in middle east.. mtns of n iraq and in rojava .. experiment w similar ideas


once people begin to reject the single story of development, the future is fertile and rich w possibility.. we need only have thee courage to invent it

invent it.. as we (all of us) go.. ie: rev of everyday life

a nother way book


from David Bollier‘s think like a commoner

1- the rediscovery of the commons


during the green rev in 60s and 70s.. govts and foundations in the west made a big push to intro large scale commercial rice and wheat production in so called developing countries. this helped mitigate hunger in the short term, but also intro’d crops alien to many indian ecosystems.. and that require harmful/expensive pesticides.. also more vulnerable to drought and volatile market prices.. widely blamed for an epidemic of 200 000 farmer suicides over the past decade

farmer suicides

the women of erakulapally discovered the traditional crops are far more ecologically suited to semi arid landscape .. but to recover the old biodiverse ways of farming.. the women had to ask their mothers and grandmothers to search for dozens of old nearly forgotten seeds.. eventually, in attics and family safe boxes, they found enough seeds to do a planting, and finally, after many additional rounds of cultivation, revive their traditional ‘mixed crop’ agri..  planting 6 or7 diff seeds in same field which act as a kind of ‘eco insurance’..  no matter if there is too much or too little rain.. or too early/late.. some of the seeds will grow.. families will have enough to eat no matter the weather.. .. no need to buy expensive genetically modified seeds or synthetic pesticides and fertilizers

agri surplus


the recovery of traditional agri did not come thru ‘tech transfer’ or govt sponsored agri research . it came thru a do it yourself process of recovering the ‘people’s knowledge’ and deliberately encouraging social collab and seed sharing..

already in us.. holmgren indigenous law

‘our seeds our knowledge’.. every seed is a capsule of their knowledge.. no one is allowed to by or sell seeds; they can only be shared, borrowed or traded

seed freedom ness


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.

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


from David Graeber and David Wengrow talk on mar 2018 with on slavery rejection et al (notes of whole 1 hr talk on Wengrow‘s page):

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

yes that

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

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.

agri surplus


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

agri surplus.. testart storage law.. et al

jensen import law


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%. (


from kiss the ground (doc):

this is the vicious cycle of industrial agri.. and that cycle was developed because of war.. roots go back to german scientist named fritz haber.. invented product for making fertilizer that increased food production.. his other.. was creation of poison.. known as pesticides

haber used his pesticides as the first chemical weapons in history.. the he developed the poison used in the gas chambers of the holocaust..

14 min – when the war ended.. us chemical co’s brought haber’s poisons back to america and rebranded his toxic chemicals as pesticides for american farms

wow.. using gas chamber poison on our soil – for our food

maria rodale: when the war ended.. all the energy that went into fighting the enemies in the world.. went into fighting the enemies on the farm

kristin: all of a sudden.. chemical fertilizer.. nitrogen was available and (the war on bugs) .. farmers could toss that on their field and get a good crop for a while

together.. these war time innovations created the most powerful industrial food production system the world had ever seen

agri surplus


David Wengrow (@davidwengrow) tweeted at 11:36 AM on Fri, Oct 02, 2020:

Ecological take on why we’ve never lived in a “state of nature” – dovetails w. emerging picture of early hunter-gatherers consciously shaping their own social worlds, much as they did their environments; by @LucasStephens2 @erleellis and my mate @dqfuller


a completely different story of Earth’s transformation than is commonly acknowledged in the natural sciences. ArchaeoGLOBE reveals that human societies transformed most of Earth’s biosphere much earlier and more profoundly than we thought – an insight that has serious implications for how we understand humanity’s relationship to nature and the planet as a whole.

Just as recent archaeological research has challenged old definitions of agriculture and blurred the lines between farmers and hunter-gatherers, it’s also leading us to rethink what nature means and where it is. The deep roots of how humanity transformed the globe pose a challenge to the emerging Anthropocene paradigm, in which human-caused environmental change is typically seen as a 20th-century or industrial-era phenomenon. Instead, it’s clearer than ever before that most places we think of as ‘pristine’ or ‘untouched’ have long relied on human societies to fill crucial ecological roles. As a consequence, trying to disentangle ‘natural’ ecosystems from those that people have managed for millennia is becoming less and less realistic, let alone desirable.

Earth’s terrestrial ecology was already largely transformed by hunter-gatherers, farmers and pastoralists

The notion of a pristine Earth also pervaded the thinking of early conservationists in the United States such as John Muir. They were intent on preserving what they saw as the nobility of nature from a mob of lesser natural life, and also those eager to manage wilderness areas to maintain the trophy animals they enjoyed hunting. For example, the governor of California violently forced Indigenous peoples out of Yosemite Valley in the 19th century, making way for wilderness conservation. These ideas went hand-in-hand with a white supremacist view of humanity that cast immigrants and the poor as a type of invasive species. It was not a great leap of theorising to move from a notion of pristine nature to seeing much of humanity as the opposite – a contaminated, marring mass. In both realms, the human and the natural, the object was to exclude undesirable people to preserve bastions of the unspoilt world. These extreme expressions of a dichotomous view of nature and society are possible only by ignoring the growing evidence of long-term human changes to Earth’s ecology – humans were, and are still, essential components of most ‘natural’ ecosystems.

A clear-eyed appreciation for the deep entanglement of the human and natural worlds is vital if we are to grapple with the unprecedented ecological challenges of our times. Naively romanticising a pristine Earth, on the other hand, will hold us back.



kiss the ground (doc)

regeneration et al

creatures of place

suicide.. rahul‘s paper on farmer suicides



storage – testart storage law

food waste