Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Different Picture of Prehistory

A fascinating article by David Graeber, Anthropologist and anarchy activist, attempting to upend our usual assumptions about prehistory. Cute title: How to Change the Course of Human History(at least, the part that already happened.) Graeber show how flimsy the evidence is for our picture of egalitarian small band to mildly hierarchical tribe to deeply hierarchical agricultural cities actually is - that hierarchy and inequality existed before agriculture, and egalitarianism sometimes existed after.  Also, that the change to agriculture was not linear.

He is using this data as a platform for advocating that it is possible to change our social structures now and make them more egalitarian without having to revert to hunter-gatherer beginnings.  Yet even if that is not so, his dismantling of the current prevailing belief among most educated people is interesting.

Given the other upendings we are reading about over a West Hunter, I suspect that anthropology is in for some serious remaking over the next generation.  We may, of course, simply adopt new myths.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

Jordan Peterson gets everyone excited over this same kind of issue by pointing out how many dominance-related neural circuits we share with lobsters. It is pretty amusing to see people speculate wildly about past utopias in which there was no dominance and hierarchy. It's as silly as imagining that we've never had any alternative social tools for softening or mediating hierarchies. Hooey, in other words.