human history

adding page this day:

CK (@Ceeekerrr) tweeted at 5:39 AM – 3 Mar 2018 :

Fascinating stuff with vast implications https://t.co/PkQZ40vRLu (http://twitter.com/Ceeekerrr/status/969915139251146757?s=17)

How to change the course of human history by David Graeber and David Wengrow – mar 2 2018

The story we have been telling ourselves about our origins is wrong, and perpetuates the idea of inevitable social inequality. David Graeber and David Wengrow ask why the myth of ‘agricultural revolution’ remains so persistent, and argue that there is a whole lot more we can learn from our ancestors.

For centuries, we have been telling ourselves a simple story about the origins of social inequality. For most of their history, humans lived in tiny egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers. Then came farming, which brought with it private property, and then the rise of cities which meant the emergence of civilization properly speaking. Civilization meant many bad things (wars, taxes, bureaucracy, patriarchy, slavery…) but also made possible written literature, science, philosophy, and most other great human achievements.

Most see civilization, hence inequality, as a tragic necessity. Some dream of returning to a past utopia, of finding an industrial equivalent to ‘primitive communism’, or even, in extreme cases, of destroying everything, and going back to being foragers again. But no one challenges the basic structure of the story.

There is a fundamental problem with this narrative.

It isn’t true

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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. Still, even as researchers have gradually come to a consensus on such questions, they remain strangely reluctant to announce their findings to the public­ – or even scholars in other disciplines – let alone reflect on the larger political implications.

[..]

assumed story

200 000 yrs ago – begin human history

As the curtain goes up on human history – say, roughly two hundred thousand years ago, with the appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens – we find our species living in small and mobile bands ranging from twenty to forty individuals. They seek out optimal hunting and foraging territories, following herds, gathering nuts and berries. If resources become scarce, or social tensions arise, they respond by moving on, and going someplace else. Life for these early humans – we can think of it as humanity’s childhood – is full of dangers, but also possibilities.

hg child

Material possessions are few, but the world is an unspoiled and inviting place. Most work only a few hours a day, and the small size of social groups allows them to maintain a kind of easy-going camaraderie, without formal structures of domination.

affluence w/o abundance

Rousseau, writing in the 18th century, referred to this as ‘the State of Nature,’ but nowadays it is presumed to have encompassed most of our species’ actual history. It is also assumed to be the only era in which humans managed to live in genuine societies of equals, without classes, castes, hereditary leaders, or centralised government.

Alas this happy state of affairs eventually had to end. Our conventional version of world history places this moment around 10,000 years ago, at the close of the last Ice Age.

At this point, we find our imaginary human actors scattered across the world’s continents, beginning to farm their own crops and raise their own herds. Whatever the local reasons (they are debated), the effects are momentous, and basically the same everywhere. Territorial attachments and private ownership of property become important in ways previously unknown, and with them, sporadic feuds and war. Farming grants a surplus of food, which allows some to accumulate wealth and influence beyond their immediate kin-group. Others use their freedom from the food-quest to develop new skills, like the invention of more sophisticated weapons, tools, vehicles, and fortifications, or the pursuit of politics and organised religion. In consequence, these ‘Neolithic farmers’ quickly get the measure of their hunter-gatherer neighbours, and set about eliminating or absorbing them into a new and superior – albeit less equal – way of life.

To make matters more difficult still, or so the story goes, farming ensures a global rise in population levels. As people move into ever-larger concentrations, our unwitting ancestors take another irreversible step to inequality, and around 6,000 years ago, cities appear – and our fate is sealed. With cities comes the need for centralised government. New classes of bureaucrats, priests, and warrior-politicians install themselves in permanent office to keep order and ensure the smooth flow of supplies and public services. Women, having once enjoyed prominent roles in human affairs, are sequestered, or imprisoned in harems. War captives are reduced to slaves. Full-blown inequality has arrived, and there is no getting rid of it. Still, the story-tellers always assure us, not everything about the rise of urban civilization is bad. Writing is invented, at first to keep state accounts, but this allows terrific advances to take place in science, technology, and the arts. At the price of innocence, we became our modern selves, and can now merely gaze with pity and jealousy at those few ‘traditional’ or ‘primitive’ societies that somehow missed the boat.

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For Diamond and Fukuyama, as for Rousseau some centuries earlier, what put an end to that equality – everywhere and forever – was the invention of agriculture and the higher population levels it sustained. Agriculture brought about a transition from ‘bands’ to ‘tribes’.

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‘Large populations’, Diamond opines, ‘can’t function without leaders who make the decisions, executives who carry out the decisions, and bureaucrats who administer the decisions and laws. Alas for all of you readers who are anarchists and dream of living without any state government, those are the reasons why your dream is unrealistic: you’ll have to find some tiny band or tribe willing to accept you, where no one is a stranger, and where kings, presidents, and bureaucrats are unnecessary’.

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There is no reason to believe that small-scale groups are especially likely to be egalitarian, or that large ones must necessarily have kings, presidents, or bureaucracies. These are just prejudices stated as facts.

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Civilization invariably puts in charge a small elite who grab more and more of the pie. The only thing that has ever been successful in dislodging them is catastrophe: war, plague, mass conscription, wholesale suffering and death. Half measures never work

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We must conclude that revolutionaries, for all their visionary ideals, have not tended to be particularly imaginative, especially when it comes to linking past, present, and future. Everyone keeps telling the same story. It’s probably no coincidence that today, the most vital and creative revolutionary movements at the dawn of this new millennium – the Zapatistas of Chiapas, and Kurds of Rojava being only the most obvious examples – are those that simultaneously root themselves in a deep traditional past. Instead of imagining some primordial utopia, they can draw on a more mixed and complicated narrative. Indeed, there seems to be a growing recognition, in revolutionary circles, that freedom, tradition, and the imagination have always, and will always be entangled, in ways we do not completely understand. It’s about time the rest of us catch up, and start to consider what a non-Biblical version of human history might be like.

[..]

If so, then the real question is not ‘what are the origins of social inequality?’, but, having lived so much of our history moving back and forth between different political systems, ‘how did we get so stuck?’ All this is very far from the notion of prehistoric societies drifting blindly towards the institutional chains that bind them. It is also far from the dismal prophecies of Fukuyama, Diamond, Morris, and Scheidel, where any ‘complex’ form of social organization necessary means that tiny elites take charge of key resources, and begin to trample everyone else underfoot. Most social science treats these grim prognostications as self-evident truths. But clearly, they are baseless. So, we might reasonably ask, what other cherished truths must now be cast on the dust-heap of history?

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. In those parts of the world where animals and plants were first domesticated, there actually was no discernible ‘switch’ from Palaeolithic Forager to Neolithic Farmer. The ‘transition’ from living mainly on wild resources to a life based on food production typically took something in the order of three thousand 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.

[..]

Clearly, it no longer makes any sense to use phrases like ‘the agricultural revolution’ when dealing with processes of such inordinate length and complexity. Since there was no Eden-like state, from which the first farmers could take their first steps on the road to inequality, it makes even less sense to talk about agriculture as marking the origins of rank or private property. If anything, it is among those populations – the ‘Mesolithic’ peoples – who refused farming through the warming centuries of the early Holocene, that we find stratification becoming more entrenched; at least, if opulent burial, predatory warfare, and monumental buildings are anything to go by. In at least some cases, like the Middle East, the first farmers seem to have consciously developed alternative forms of community, to go along with their more labour-intensive way of life. These Neolithic societies look strikingly egalitarian when compared to their hunter-gatherer neighbours, with a dramatic increase in the economic and social importance of women, clearly reflected in their art and ritual life (contrast here the female figurines of Jericho or Çatalhöyük with the hyper-masculine sculpture of Göbekli Tepe).

Another bombshell: ‘civilization’ does not come as a package. The world’s first cities did not just emerge in a handful of locations, together with systems of centralised government and bureaucrati

[..]

Jared Diamond notwithstanding, there is absolutely no evidence that top-down structures of rule are the necessary consequence of large-scale organization. Walter Scheidel notwithstanding, it is simply not true that ruling classes, once established, cannot be gotten rid of except by general catastrophe.

[..]

The pieces are all there to create an entirely different world history. For the most part, we’re just too blinded by our prejudices to see the implications. For instance, almost everyone nowadays insists that participatory democracy, or social equality, can work in a small community or activist group, but cannot possibly ‘scale up’ to anything like a city, a region, or a nation-state. But the evidence before our eyes, if we choose to look at it, suggests the opposite. Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace. Egalitarian families and households are not. Once the historical verdict is in, we will see that

the most painful loss of human freedoms began at the small scale – the level of gender relations, age groups, and domestic servitude – the kind of relationships that contain at once the greatest intimacy and the deepest forms of structural violence.

If we really want to understand how it first became acceptable for some to turn wealth into power, and for others to end up being told their needs and lives don’t count, it is here that we should look. Here too, we predict, is where the most difficult work of creating a free society will have to take place

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Neal Gorenflo (@gorenflo) tweeted at 0:24 PM on Mon, Mar 05, 2018:
A long & winding exposition from @DavidGraeber abt why inequality isn’t inevitable from an anthropological perspective: https://t.co/rLWmxQImCaWorthwhile, but the lede is buried. Then again, it’s not a news story. It’s more like a long walk with an idiosyncratic friend.
(https://twitter.com/gorenflo/status/970741879401623552?s=03)

as it should be..

idio ness.. ie: idio-jargon as a language to get us back to us

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Michel Bauwens (@mbauwens) tweeted at 4:12 AM – 6 Mar 2018 :

How to change the course of human history | Eurozine https://t.co/zQfweqGoeE ; absolutely ESSENTIAL reading in the context of p2p hierarchy theory, based on the last decades of archeological evidence, thanks to DAVID GRAEBER !!! (http://twitter.com/mbauwens/status/970980425932988416?s=17)

Michel via fb:

the new essay by David Graeber on the history of hierarchy and egalitarianism, based on the newest archeologial findings and anthropological researchers is very important if not mind-blowing, and it not to be missed, essential reading.

I’ve extracted 3 long citations showing how it up-ends standard historical understandings,

this will be hugely important for re-formulating ‘p2p hierarchy theory’:

seasonal reversals of hierarchical structures (on p2p site):

https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Seasonal_Reversals_of_Hierarchical_Structures

David Graeber:

“from the very beginning, human beings were self-consciously experimenting with different social possibilities. Anthropologists describe societies of this sort as possessing a ‘double morphology’. Marcel Mauss, writing in the early twentieth century, observed that the circumpolar Inuit, ‘and likewise many other societies . . . have two social structures, one in summer and one in winter, and that in parallel they have two systems of law and religion’. In the summer months, Inuit dispersed into small patriarchal bands in pursuit of freshwater fish, caribou, and reindeer, each under the authority of a single male elder. Property was possessively marked and patriarchs exercised coercive, sometimes even tyrannical power over their kin. But in the long winter months, when seals and walrus flocked to the Arctic shore, another social structure entirely took over as Inuit gathered together to build great meeting houses of wood, whale-rib, and stone. Within them, the virtues of equality, altruism, and collective life prevailed; wealth was shared; husbands and wives exchanged partners under the aegis of Sedna, the Goddess of the Seals.

Another example were the indigenous hunter-gatherers of Canada’s Northwest Coast, for whom winter – not summer – was the time when society crystallised into its most unequal form, and spectacularly so. Plank-built palaces sprang to life along the coastlines of British Columbia, with hereditary nobles holding court over commoners and slaves, and hosting the great banquets known as potlatch. Yet these aristocratic courts broke apart for the summer work of the fishing season, reverting to smaller clan formations, still ranked, but with an entirely different and less formal structure. In this case, people actually adopted different names in summer and winter, literally becoming someone else, depending on the time of year.

Perhaps most striking, in terms of political reversals, were the seasonal practices of 19th-century tribal confederacies on the American Great Plains – sometime, or one-time farmers who had adopted a nomadic hunting life. In the late summer, small and highly mobile bands of Cheyenne and Lakota would congregate in large settlements to make logistical preparations for the buffalo hunt. At this most sensitive time of year they appointed a police force that exercised full coercive powers, including the right to imprison, whip, or fine any offender who endangered the proceedings. Yet as the anthropologist Robert Lowie observed, this ‘unequivocal authoritarianism’ operated on a strictly seasonal and temporary basis, giving way to more ‘anarchic’ forms of organisation once the hunting season – and the collective rituals that followed – were complete.” (https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/

from foraging to farming (on p2p site):

https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Transition_from_Foraging_to_Farming_Societies

David Graeber:

“Let us conclude, then, with a few headlines of our own: just a handful, to give a sense of what the new, emerging world history is starting to look like.

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. In those parts of the world where animals and plants were first domesticated, there actually was no discernible ‘switch’ from Palaeolithic Forager to Neolithic Farmer. The ‘transition’ from living mainly on wild resources to a life based on food production typically took something in the order of three thousand 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. In the time between, people in areas as far removed as Amazonia and the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East were trying farming on for size, ‘play farming’ if you like, switching annually between modes of production, much as they switched their social structures back and forth. Moreover, the ‘spread of farming’ to secondary areas, such as Europe – so often described in triumphalist terms, as the start of an inevitable decline in hunting and gathering – turns out to have been a highly tenuous process, which sometimes failed, leading to demographic collapse for the farmers, not the foragers.

Clearly, it no longer makes any sense to use phrases like ‘the agricultural revolution’ when dealing with processes of such inordinate length and complexity. Since there was no Eden-like state, from which the first farmers could take their first steps on the road to inequality, it makes even less sense to talk about agriculture as marking the origins of rank or private property. If anything, it is among those populations – the ‘Mesolithic’ peoples – who refused farming through the warming centuries of the early Holocene, that we find stratification becoming more entrenched; at least, if opulent burial, predatory warfare, and monumental buildings are anything to go by. In at least some cases, like the Middle East, the first farmers seem to have consciously developed alternative forms of community, to go along with their more labour-intensive way of life. These Neolithic societies look strikingly egalitarian when compared to their hunter-gatherer neighbours, with a dramatic increase in the economic and social importance of women, clearly reflected in their art and ritual life (contrast here the female figurines of Jericho or Çatalhöyük with the hyper-masculine sculpture of Göbekli Tepe).

Another bombshell: ‘civilization’ does not come as a package. The world’s first cities did not just emerge in a handful of locations, together with systems of centralised government and bureaucratic control. In China, for instance, we are now aware that by 2500 BC, settlements of 300 hectares or more existed on the lower reaches of the Yellow River, over a thousand years before the foundation of the earliest (Shang) royal dynasty. On the other side of the Pacific, and at around the same time, ceremonial centres of striking magnitude have been discovered in the valley of Peru’s Río Supe, notably at the site of Caral: enigmatic remains of sunken plazas and monumental platforms, four millennia older than the Inca Empire. Such recent discoveries indicate how little is yet truly known about the distribution and origin of the first cities, and just how much older these cities may be than the systems of authoritarian government and literate administration that were once assumed necessary for their foundation. And in the more established heartlands of urbanisation – Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, the Basin of Mexico – there is mounting evidence that the first cities were organised on self-consciously egalitarian lines, municipal councils retaining significant autonomy from central government. In the first two cases, cities with sophisticated civic infrastructures flourished for over half a millennium with no trace of royal burials or monuments, no standing armies or other means of large-scale coercion, nor any hint of direct bureaucratic control over most citizen’s lives.” (https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history

top down not necessary consequence of large scale org (on p2p site):

https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Top-Down_Structures_of_Rule_Are_Not_the_Necessary_Consequence_of_Large-Scale_Organization

David Graeber:

“Jared Diamond notwithstanding, there is absolutely no evidence that top-down structures of rule are the necessary consequence of large-scale organization. Walter Scheidel notwithstanding, it is simply not true that ruling classes, once established, cannot be gotten rid of except by general catastrophe. To take just one well-documented example: around 200 AD, the city of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico, with a population of 120,000 (one of the largest in the world at the time), appears to have undergone a profound transformation, turning its back on pyramid-temples and human sacrifice, and reconstructing itself as a vast collection of comfortable villas, all almost exactly the same size. It remained so for perhaps 400 years. Even in Cortés’ day, Central Mexico was still home to cities like Tlaxcala, run by an elected council whose members were periodically whipped by their constituents to remind them who was ultimately in charge.

The pieces are all there to create an entirely different world history. For the most part, we’re just too blinded by our prejudices to see the implications. For instance, almost everyone nowadays insists that participatory democracy, or social equality, can work in a small community or activist group, but cannot possibly ‘scale up’ to anything like a city, a region, or a nation-state. But the evidence before our eyes, if we choose to look at it, suggests the opposite. Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace. Egalitarian families and households are not. Once the historical verdict is in, we will see that the most painful loss of human freedoms began at the small scale – the level of gender relations, age groups, and domestic servitude – the kind of relationships that contain at once the greatest intimacy and the deepest forms of structural violence. If we really want to understand how it first became acceptable for some to turn wealth into power, and for others to end up being told their needs and lives don’t count, it is here that we should look. Here too, we predict, is where the most difficult work of creating a free society will have to take place.” (https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/

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@cblack__ @davidwengrow I think what we’re suggesting is that Rousseau is responsible for our emphasizing only the egalitarian aspects in small-scale societies and ignoring the other aspects, and doing the exact opposite in large-scale ones

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/979430421397110785

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Wilfredo E. Cespedes (@wecespedes) tweeted at 4:48 AM – 1 Aug 2018 :
@sibeledmonds @DianeDenizen @NewsBud_ So, the real Revolution is, as it has always been, a Revolution of Ideas, how are we to organize ourselves in such a way as benefit the many not just the few? Interview @davidgraeber to get context on our History as Human on this planet. (http://twitter.com/wecespedes/status/1024607772296601600?s=17)

human history

org deep enough to benefit all (has to be all.. not even just the many).. ie: 2 convos.. as infra

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human nature

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