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What is the State, what's its Relationship to Civilization?
#11
(Mon, 16 Apr 2018 23:09:18 +0000, 11:09 PM)Odin Wrote: What exactly is it about civilization we are against? My guess is, it must have something do with social stratification (i.e. authority) more than with cities per se. Though we could certainly argue about the ecological problems with cities. But then we'd need to still define 'city' more carefully.
Authority as such is not inherently problematic. If I prevent a child from running into the street, or you from running off a cliff, that's not undesirable. If you want to construct a shelter, and value the advice of someone who's built lots of shelters over someone else, who haven't built lots of shelters, then that's just common sense. You can of course play the anarchist game of redefining authority into Authority*, and then explain in an incredibly detailed asterisk why all the cases that most people consider authority "aren't really authority", but that seems fruitless, as I trust we understand each other here.

What I am against is making codifying authority into static social relations, when it stops being flexible and dynamic; when we go from contextual natural influence to government and law and that whole business. Cities are in turn what happen when we stop being flexible and dynamic; i.e. when we stop moving.

I look at civilisation as an activity. And this activity is predicated on turning dynamic life into static constructs.

(Tue, 17 Apr 2018 00:23:17 +0000, 12:23 AM)Zhachev Wrote: And we've been defining cities in what way? Forgive me if I missed that. A place with permanent and sedentary human infrastructure?
The word "city" comes from "to lie down" or "to settle", if I am not mistaken. See my comment above.

(Tue, 17 Apr 2018 00:23:17 +0000, 12:23 AM)Zhachev Wrote: Maybe the State could be seen as a pre-requisite to (and way of managing) a large concentration of Homo sapiens in one geographic locale.

Sure. You clump a bunch of people together, a state happens sooner or later. It's all apart of this pacification to static life.
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#12
(Tue, 17 Apr 2018 20:07:39 +0000, 08:07 PM)alexander Wrote: Authority as such is not inherently problematic. If I prevent a child from running into the street, or you from running off a cliff, that's not undesirable. If you want to construct a shelter, and value the advice of someone who's built lots of shelters over someone else, who haven't built lots of shelters, then that's just common sense. You can of course play the anarchist game of redefining authority into Authority*, and then explain in an incredibly detailed asterisk why all the cases that most people consider authority "aren't really authority", but that seems fruitless, as I trust we understand each other here.

I'm sure we can agree that the word 'authority' can be used in more than one way, and thus can have more than one meaning, just like so many other words in the English language do.  So yes, I'm going to play the anarchist game of defining, not redefining, authority. There is authority in the political sense, and authority in the sense of knowledge or expertise. I don't see a problem with keeping these distinct, since we use them distinctly.

Saving a child from running into the street is the old Chomsky example of authority. Simply helping a child avoid serious injury or death is not political authority. The only way one could stretch that into such an example would be  if the person doing the helping was a cop. Otherwise, it has no political connotations. By the same token, it's not even expertise authority. It's not authority in any sense of the word.

Seeking the advice of someone with more knowledge than you to construct a shelter is not political authority. Though I agree that it certainly is expertise authority. Expertise authority, however, has no logical connection to political authority, even if in capitalist societies, this connection is often present.

When we talk about social stratification in the context of archaeology or anthropology, we are talking about political authority i.e. the political, economic, or social power, to control and influence others.

(Tue, 17 Apr 2018 20:07:39 +0000, 08:07 PM)alexander Wrote: What I am against is making codifying authority into static social relations, when it stops being flexible and dynamic; when we go from contextual natural influence to government and law and that whole business. Cities are in turn what happen when we stop being flexible and dynamic; i.e. when we stop moving.

I would say if there is political authority at all, it's going to be codified and static. That seems to be the nature of authority. Not sure if you are trying to draw a parallel between static social relations and static physical relations in cities, but it would do well to remember that even among some mobile hunter gatherers there are static codified authoritarian relations. Mobility isn't necessarily a bullwark against static social relations of authority.
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#13
I agree, there's no question most mobile hunter gatherers were/are egalitarian and had little social stratification. I am just trying to caution against the temptation to think in schemas in which certain subsistence and economic practices (e.g. hunting and gathering, mobility, sedentism, agriculture, cities, etc) actually determine or cause certain social relations (egalitarianism, social dominance hierarchy, static codified authority, etc). I think this is a fallacy carried over unconsciously from Marxian theories of base and superstructure.

Social dominance hierarchy goes way back, and is very primeval. All our hominim primate cousins are hierarchical e.g. chimps, bonobos, gorillas, etc. It's only humans who developed egalitarian ways of living. And not even all human societies. But even in human societies that are egalitarian some social dominance hierarchy still exists, making these societies develop ways of keeping social dominance in check through leveling mechanisms. Christopher Boehm calls this 'reverse dominance hierarchy' but I think this label is misleading and clumsy.

Both egalitarian and authoritarian tendencies exist and have existed within all human groups in a dynamic tension with each other since the very beginning. In some groups hierarchy and authority predominated, while in other groups egalitarian tendencies won out. For most of human evolution, egalitarian tendencies predominated, but there were always also plenty of hierarchical groups around.

There is a tendency within anti-civ and primitivist circles to see hierarchy and authority as relatively recent inventions associated only or mainly with domestication, agriculture and city living. But this is not really correct. Social dominance is very ancient and very virulent, which may explain why it persists today and is very hard to contain. Yet even in extremely authoritarian societies like ours, there are egalitarian elements. e.g. welfare state, health care, charity, notions of equal justice before the law, etc.

My main point is that domestication, agriculture, living in cities, etc, did not represent some sort of Fall or 'wrong turn'. I am currently writing an essay that will go into more detail explaining why this idea of a Fall or wrong turn is mistaken and why we need to rethink anti-civ views of origins.
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#14
Odin,

I have not seen any research suggesting all hominim primates are hierarchical, and that sounds unlikely to me. It also seems odd to say that all human societies always have some elements of hierarchy, as I don't think any research has suggested something quite so extreme. However, I don't think that authority or hierarchy is ultimately bad in itself—it would depend on how it manifests. (You, and anarchists, would likely disagree with the wording, because of what I would consider ardously wobbly definitions of authority and hierarchy, but not my intent.) As for authoritarian societies having welfare, then I think Ted Kaczynski covered that, in Industrial Society and Its Future, when he wrote about the role of stress-relieving mechanisms.

We are however in full agreement that there is no original sin. The problem, as I view it, is when these things become codified, which is a necessary consequence of mass society. I would say that Sedentism, property rights, what you call political authority, and so on, are all connected in that they all signify a move from dynamic nature to static social structures and agreements. All of which is closely connected to technology—which I think of in terms of a way of organising society, not as merely the products of such an organising. Technology results in alienation through domination—and when we're alienated from everything else, we're all that's left, and thus anthropocentrism occurs, and a feedback loop in which humanity mirrors itself in its artefacts. This feedback loop is now closing in on perfection; i.e. the end of nature.

The anarcho-primitivists (and others) tend to talk about domestication as the original sin, then observe that domestication is a relatively recent phenomena, and thus conclude that we're "meant" to live like we did pre-civ, because that is our "human nature". I find this ridiculous and reactionary. Pre-civ, as you've noted already, is varied. It would take a very naïve view on pre-civ to espouse this return to a way of pre-sin living. And "human nature" is merely what authoritarians call culture. There is no "human nature" apart from culture, endowment notwithstanding. To me, this anarcho-primitivist argumentation is merely the same as the nationalist/fascist feudal/tribal romantic, but taken one step further back. Admittedly, I find the anarcho-primitivist ideal a lot more attractive than the sexist and racist agricultural ideal of the nationalists, but my comparison wasn't meant to suggest they have similar ideals, merely that they have a similar way of idealising.

I am against what you call "political authority"—or at least I think so, if we are understanding each other. I am against what Vetlesen calls the denial of nature. I am against holy symbols. I am against static life. You'll find these things pre-civ too, albeit not to the same degree. I don't want to return to pre-civ life. That is a static ideal. I want to move forward to a dynamic and organic life. I want to tear down civilisation and carve out a drastically different way of life; not return to some point in time when everything was supposedly better.

I am looking forward to your essay, Odin. It sounds like it will be very interesting. And you're obviously knowledgeable, so it will likely be informative too.
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