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How to Change the Course of History
#11
I love JZ, but he still seems to think that certain subsistence modes necessarily lead to other modes, and that any and all forms of agriculture inevitably leads to civilization. I don't think he realizes that this would logically entail that all agrarian societies would therefore have to become civilizations, which obviously is not true. Most agrarian societies did not turn into civilizations, only some did. Many agrarian societies were conquered or encapsulated by nearby civilizations, but that is different than independently evolving into a civilization.

In South America for example, the first signs of agriculture were about 8,000 years ago. There were lots of agrarian societies scattered throughout the continent, and the first civilization was Norte Chico in Peru about 6,000 years ago. What's interesting about Norte Chico is that agriculture played only a minor role in their culture; fishing and other maritime resources were the main foundation. Out of all the agrarian societies throughout South America, only about a half dozen ever actually turned into full blown civilizations, concentrated mostly in the north/northwest countries of Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Agriculture also developed in New Guinea, but no civilization ever developed there.

Many Australian aborigines were horticulturalists, they planted, harvested, and stored grains to supplement their hunting and gathering, but none of them ever adopted full-blown agriculture. No cities or city states either.

Of course, civilizations emerged out of cities, and were dependent on agriculture, however, cities existed long before state control. Therefore we know cities (small scale) can exist without the state, as can agriculture.

There is no single deterministic evolutionary direction. It's more complicated than that. Hunter gatherers can be hierarchical or egalitarian--and stay that way, just like farmers can be egalitarian or hierarchical--and stay that way. The former does not necessarily lead to the latter, even if sometimes it does.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2...textbooks/

Nor does agriculture lead to the 'domination of nature'. Although, it depends what one means by 'domination'. All hunter gatherer societies (except perhaps the arctic Inuit) alter their environments. Many H-G groups manage their landscapes through burning, planting, irrigation, etc. By the time European explorers came to North America, South America, and Australia, in all cases, what they saw was not a virgin untouched wilderness, but a carefully managed ecosystem created to maximize usable flora and fauna. Even the most mobile hunter gatherers were/are not simply passive foragers who left no impact. They were actively shaping and sculpting their environments to suit their needs.
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#12
It's unclear where horticulture ends, and agriculture begins. But in any case, JZ would still have a point about agriculture being a turning point. Perhaps some agricultural societies would not develop civilisation. It matters nothing if some still do. For those that do, will roll right over those that don't. So we have the same issue as when anarchists suppose Revolutionary Catalonia did nothing wrong.

As for cities without a state, I remain sceptical that's existed. I suspect that at some point—some amount of people—hierarchical relations become codified. I haven't read anything to convince me to the contrary. When Græber/Wengrow write "there were egalitarian cities", it reads more like an opinion than a fact. So unless they (or others) have elaborated their premises somewhere, that I've missed, I remain unconvinced.

Your point about the domination of nature is an interesting one. Of course agriculture at some point turns into sedentism, in which domination seems to tend towards… well… the collapse of the biosphere, eventually. I recently had lunch with a philosopher called Arne Johan Vetlesen (author of The Denial of Nature), who had recently talked about humanism and anthropocentrism, and how it drives technology, and makes us look at nature as a resource reservoir that we freely indulge in without qualms (this is the case Heidegger makes in his technology essay). My counter-suggestion is that technology drives humanism and anthropocentrism. That the way a technological society is necessarily structured in terms of social relations is inherently anthropocentric. I won't go too deeply into my argument here in this thread, but to say that I am very interested in how we can have conscientious technology, science, &c. Can we have horticulture? Can we make trails and shelters, and various other things that nomadic groups did? It seems that, yes, we can. But what of those that go further? As mentioned above, they, the technologically advanced, obliterate the technologically ignorant—so it seems likely they would obliterate the technologically conscientious too. It's like a game of Sid Meier's Civilization. The civilisation that gets ironclads first, wins.
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#13
Yes, it will be interesting to see more evidence from Graeber and Wengrow regarding egalitarian cities. However, they are not the first to make this claim. I've read similar opinions by other archaeologists.

Agriculture is definitely a turning point in human evolution, no question. It's an important one. I think it's also important to keep in mind that agriculture was one of several other turning points. e.g. the use of fire, tool-making, symbolic culture, moving out of Africa, adoption of clothing, building stone monuments, going from animism to religion, sedentism, living in cities, etc.

So which one should we say is THE turning point? Which one represents represents the Fall?  Maybe it's not agriculture, but possibly living in cities? Or perhaps technology? Also, why should we pick just one turning point as being the culprit? Maybe civilization can only come about as a result of multiple social practices coming together in ways that usually do not? This goes back to what you were saying before about a confluence of factors.

I feel it's also worth questioning our tendency to think of all these elements as suddenly appearing out of nowhere. One minute we are happy hunter gatherers, and the next minute we are domesticating plants and animals and 'dominating' nature. Or, one minute we are living an unmediated existence, and the next we are alienated with symbolic thought. Or, one minute we are making tools, and the next we are making commodities with technology. We tend to forget that these practices are all based and built on previous ones within processes that change gradually over time. It was hunter gatherers, after all,  who built Stonehenge and Gobekli Tepe. It was hunter gatherers who first planted seeds, and it was hunter gatherers who settled into city living. These things did not come about through some alien force from outer space. Hunter gatherers (some at least) changed themselves into civilization over time. Technology, for example, arose out of a previous division of labor that already and always existed within hunter gatherer societies. The basic elements of these transformations were already there, they did not come out of nowhere. They simply intensified and morphed over time.

So I think the question of origins has to be rethought. What is the 'origin' of civilization? How far back do we go? And how do we determine what exactly is an 'origin' point? How do we, or can we, know which one of these many changes is the one that lead us down the garden path? Which one was the actual misstep? Or is this even the right question?
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#14
(Fri, 27 Apr 2018 05:29:41 +0000, 05:29 AM)Zhachev Wrote:
Quote:I've read similar opinions by other archaeologists.

Citations? Thanks.

There have been a few scholars who contended that early Mesopotamia, for example, was mostly egalitarian, at least in terms of wealth.

Frank Hole: Upon this Foundation: The Ubaid Reconsidered. 1989
Hole claims that early prehistoric Mesopotamia was economically egalitarian, and the only authority was in the religious sphere of priests.

And to some extent David Oates in The Rise of Civilization 1976

Gil Stein argues more or less the same thing in Chiefdoms and Early States in the Near East: The Organizational Dynamics of Complexity 1994.

More recently, Jason Ur has argued that ancient Mesopotamia was based on the metaphorical extension of the household and kinship system, and not on bureaucratic elites.

Households and the Emergence of Cities in Ancient Mesopotamia - Jason Ur.

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handl...sequence=1

This is a minority position within archaeology. Most believe that early cities were stratified from the beginning. But we'll see if Graeber and Wengrow can provide more evidence. Not sure when their book is coming out. I suspect not until next year.

If you think about it though, it does make some kind of sense. When egalitarian hunter gatherers started living together in larger groups, settled down, and more hunter gatherer groups came to join them, then you would expect them to try and keep their egalitarian ethos. As their residences turned into cities, they would have likely tried to hold onto their anarchist tendencies as long as they could, until some other factors (perhaps scale, craft specialization, trade, or religion? etc) began to converge, influencing social relations into a more hierarchical direction. I think its entirely possible that there was a delayed effect from urbanization, that some time after organizing themselves into early cities, it still took hunter gatherers a while to gradually lose their egalitarian ways.

So when JZ writes: ""We know that given a choice, humans prefer to remain hunters and gatherers; we do not settle permanently into the toil of farming until it is forced upon us," I have to ask, 'forced on us' by who? Aliens? It was hunter gatherers themselves who decided to start planting crops. lol

"https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/john-zerzan-origins-of-the-one-percent-the-bronze-age
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#15
(Mon, 05 Mar 2018 21:31:36 +0000, 09:31 PM)Odin Wrote: A further elaboration of David Graeber and David Wengrow's earlier Farewell to the Childhood of Man.

https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/

It's pretty interesting, and I don't have a problem with rethinking the stage theory of social evolution. Some hunter gatherer groups were stratified societies, some almost state-like. And many early agricultural societies and even most early cities were actually egalitarian. If that's what the evidence indicates, I'm fine with it.

The claim that agriculture in and of itself represents the downfall of man (i.e. Jared Diamond) seems to be on shaky ground now.

One thing I have a problem with is where Graeber states:
"it’s very difficult to imagine eliminating ‘inequality’. In fact, it’s not obvious what doing so would even mean, since people are not all the same and nobody would particularly want them to be."

Well, not quite sure what he means here. I don't think anyone (except right wing ideologues) are arguing that since people are not the same (in some ontological sense?), therefore equality is difficult, or a pipe dream. How do mobile foragers manage to create equality? Who is arguing that people are the same? Who wants everyone to be the same? Why would everyone have to be the same in order to achieve equality? Makes no sense.

(I'm arguing with Graeber about this  in the comment section under the name 'Ju/'Hoansi)

It would be nice if we as a global society were more egalitarian in nature.:)
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#16
(Mon, 05 Mar 2018 21:31:36 +0000, 09:31 PM)Odin Wrote: A further elaboration of David Graeber and David Wengrow's earlier Farewell to the Childhood of Man.

https://www.eurozine.com/change-course-human-history/

It's pretty interesting, and I don't have a problem with rethinking the stage theory of social evolution. Some hunter gatherer groups were stratified societies, some almost state-like. And many early agricultural societies and even most early cities were actually egalitarian. If that's what the evidence indicates, I'm fine with it.

The claim that agriculture in and of itself represents the downfall of man (i.e. Jared Diamond) seems to be on shaky ground now.

One thing I have a problem with is where Graeber states:
"it’s very difficult to imagine eliminating ‘inequality’. In fact, it’s not obvious what doing so would even mean, since people are not all the same and nobody would particularly want them to be."

Well, not quite sure what he means here. I don't think anyone (except right wing ideologues) are arguing that since people are not the same (in some ontological sense?), therefore equality is difficult, or a pipe dream. How do mobile foragers manage to create equality? Who is arguing that people are the same? Who wants everyone to be the same? Why would everyone have to be the same in order to achieve equality? Makes no sense.

(I'm arguing with Graeber about this  in the comment section under the name 'Ju/'Hoansi)
Well written Odin perhaps a more egaltarian way of life is best, look at Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. Both anarchial idealists. Perhaps hunting and gathering according to John Zerzan may be a better survival tactic than your typical 10,000 year old agricultural crop growing.

Relic83
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#17
(Sun, 29 Apr 2018 13:25:16 +0000, 01:25 PM)Zhachev Wrote:
(Thu, 31 Oct 1974 21:19:38 +0000, 09:19 PM)Odin Wrote: ...

This is all science fiction. The conjuration of historical and social "fact" by anthropologists is never anything more.
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#18
(Thu, 26 Apr 2018 20:15:19 +0000, 08:15 PM)Odin Wrote: Yes, it will be interesting to see more evidence from Graeber and Wengrow regarding egalitarian cities. However, they are not the first to make this claim. I've read similar opinions by other archaeologists.

Agriculture is definitely a turning point in human evolution, no question. It's an important one. I think it's also important to keep in mind that agriculture was one of several other turning points. e.g. the use of fire, tool-making, symbolic culture, moving out of Africa, adoption of clothing, building stone monuments, going from animism to religion, sedentism, living in cities, etc.

So which one should we say is THE turning point? Which one represents represents the Fall?  Maybe it's not agriculture, but possibly living in cities? Or perhaps technology? Also, why should we pick just one turning point as being the culprit? Maybe civilization can only come about as a result of multiple social practices coming together in ways that usually do not? This goes back to what you were saying before about a confluence of factors.

I feel it's also worth questioning our tendency to think of all these elements as suddenly appearing out of nowhere. One minute we are happy hunter gatherers, and the next minute we are domesticating plants and animals and 'dominating' nature. Or, one minute we are living an unmediated existence, and the next we are alienated with symbolic thought. Or, one minute we are making tools, and the next we are making commodities with technology. We tend to forget that these practices are all based and built on previous ones within processes that change gradually over time. It was hunter gatherers, after all,  who built Stonehenge and Gobekli Tepe. It was hunter gatherers who first planted seeds, and it was hunter gatherers who settled into city living. These things did not come about through some alien force from outer space. Hunter gatherers (some at least) changed themselves into civilization over time. Technology, for example, arose out of a previous division of labor that already and always existed within hunter gatherer societies. The basic elements of these transformations were already there, they did not come out of nowhere. They simply intensified and morphed over time.

So I think the question of origins has to be rethought. What is the 'origin' of civilization? How far back do we go? And how do we determine what exactly is an 'origin' point? How do we, or can we, know which one of these many changes is the one that lead us down the garden path? Which one was the actual misstep? Or is this even the right question?
I've read several claims, but I have not reviewed any literature to understand how they substantiate those claims, beyond "I would like this to be true, so therefore maybe it is".

I would say that there is no one turning point, nor that it was sudden. And I agree that there is sometimes a tendency to think like this, no doubt influenced by the simplifications made by popular books from the likes of Jared Diamond. The origin of civilisation is us. This misstep/original sin way of thinking is, to me, missing the point, and setting up an unfavourable and reactionary "how do we reverse it?" discourse. I think it is time to recognise that civilisation is the result of our activity, and that society has, through thousands of years, been systemically reinforcing activities of a certain kind. Viz., civilisation is picking up speed, and we have allowed it to take this trajectory, as a species. It is time for a conscientious humankind, if there is to be a humankind at all.

(Fri, 27 Apr 2018 21:16:27 +0000, 09:16 PM)Odin Wrote: There have been a few scholars who contended that early Mesopotamia, for example, was mostly egalitarian, at least in terms of wealth.

Frank Hole:  Upon this Foundation: The Ubaid Reconsidered. 1989
Hole claims that early prehistoric Mesopotamia was economically egalitarian, and the only authority was in the religious sphere of priests.

And to some extent David Oates in The Rise of Civilization 1976

Gil Stein argues more or less the same thing in Chiefdoms and Early States in the Near East: The Organizational Dynamics of Complexity 1994.

More recently, Jason Ur has argued that ancient Mesopotamia was based on the metaphorical extension of the household and kinship system, and not on bureaucratic elites.

Households and the Emergence of Cities in Ancient Mesopotamia - Jason Ur.

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handl...sequence=1

This is a minority position within archaeology. Most believe that early cities were stratified from the beginning. But we'll see if Graeber and Wengrow can provide more evidence. Not sure when their book is coming out. I suspect not until next year.

If you think about it though, it does make some kind of sense. When egalitarian hunter gatherers started living together in larger groups, settled down, and more hunter gatherer groups came to join them, then you would expect them to try and keep their egalitarian ethos. As their residences turned into cities, they would have likely tried to hold onto their anarchist tendencies as long as they could, until some other factors (perhaps scale, craft specialization, trade, or religion? etc) began to converge, influencing social relations into a more hierarchical direction. I think its entirely possible that there was a delayed effect from urbanization, that some time after organizing themselves into early cities, it still took hunter gatherers a while to gradually lose their egalitarian ways.

So when JZ writes: ""We know that given a choice, humans prefer to remain hunters and gatherers; we do not settle permanently into the toil of farming until it is forced upon us," I have to ask, 'forced on us' by who? Aliens? It was hunter gatherers themselves who decided to start planting crops. lol

"https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/john-zerzan-origins-of-the-one-percent-the-bronze-age
Thank you for this list. I have some reading to do! And I agree on your point against JZ's rhetoric.
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#19
There is competition for resources namely, Darwinism, we were naturally selected, hence 7 billion of us going strong. I digress, I'm not so sure there is no god either, anyways, as for egalitarianism, there ought to be more of it in the hunter gatherer sense of the word. I really recommend reading John Zerzan's "Future Primitive." Excellent read. He basically states at one point women did most of the gathering for their tribes and well were in charge of making the decisions for the herd.
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