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fencerman t1_jdtyah3 wrote

Any kind of stable social group at low technology levels would need a fairly egalitarian model simply because everyone was essential. Anyone simply refusing to cooperate anymore would be a massive harm to the whole group.

One factor to bear in mind is communities would effectively be in a state of permanent manpower shortage - effectively needing to take every step they could to prevent fragmentation and preserve unity.

Undemocratic institutions are unsustainable over the long term under those conditions.


naptiem t1_jdubhom wrote

Curious about your thoughts here. By "low technology", are you referring to sticks and stones? Bronze age? "Low" seems relative. Or is it just a perceived "low technology" by the group when they compare to other groups?

Also, can you clarify what you mean by "fairly egalitarian"? Is the historically pervasive belief that some humans can be considered less than others (slavery, child labor, prejudice) part or not part of the "fairly" egalitarian definition?


kushal_141 t1_jdumc2t wrote

I would think here "low technology" would mean having no machines to leverage, for example, a tractor can do the work of 20 people with 1 person, in such situations person who is in control of such technology (here tractor) doe not need to depend on other people can can refuse cooperation


robothistorian t1_jdurotq wrote

What about a plough? A fulcrum? Let's say both made or, more accurately, fashioned out of wood. Would that be indicative of "machines" or lack thereof? Or, what about a hammer (or something that works as one - like, say, a big stone)? What about arrow heads shaped out of stone/flint or even wood?


Arstanishe t1_jduscmm wrote

I'd rather talk in terms of existence of high concentrations of people. If the level of technology is maintained by a small, 30 person isolated community - then i guess it's the level of technology the above poster is talking about. This is bone, leather, stone tools, an occasional copper or gold knife, and so on.

Bronze is much more high-tech, because it requires 3 different ores, from different regions, which means trade needs to happen, which means there should be cities for sending caravans over to


robothistorian t1_jdvqj3d wrote

Well, my response was to query how the poster was determining "levels of technology" and/or what qualifies as "technology" in his/her assessment.

Arguably, "fire", the stirrup, the plough, wood and stone implements, the concept of the lever, the concept of "the wheel" may all be considered to be "technology", indeed foundational technologies that preceded the "Age of Metal".

I should also point out - a fact that you are also aware of - that trade was not contingent on the development/existence of cities. Trade routes existed between pre-urban (and even between nomadic systems) human habitations, which may or may not have been permanent.


1nfernals t1_jdv5jvo wrote

Hunter gather societies generally held regular seasonal meetings where multiple groups would converge on a single ritual site, where knowledge, tools, resources and culture could be shared and bartered.

You do not need established cities or caravans


Arstanishe t1_jdvbzi6 wrote

What to you mean? Sure, they "held regular seasonal meetings where multiple groups would converge on a single ritual site" but how that means they did not need caravans?

Do you even know from where the ingridients for bronze were brought from in bronze age? all the way from turkey and afganistan.
How do you imagine hunter-gatherers carrying rocks from afganistan to egypt or middle east for no reason?
Why do you think bronze age had bronze? Because they had resources to direct to metal works. What resources? Food and time for people who dedicated themselves to metalworks. The hunter gatherers just could not invest the required effort for researching how to work metals. Only something like golden nuggets, or maybe sometimes using meteor iron. But there is a catch - there is too little of both for everyone. So gold/iron knife or arrow point remained a local and very treasured tool - but never led to other metals in hunter-gatherer societies


1nfernals t1_jeecp7j wrote


You're playing down the extent of the number of groups that would participate, the distances they would travel and the cultural significance these annual festivals had.

You understand that bronze existed before the bronze age? Because in order to successfully complete a sufficient bronze tool you do not need an entire metal works or trade caravans. Hunter gatherer groups absolutely had the time, resources and knowledge to locally produce metal tools as they needed them.

You're falling into the trap of classifying human behaviours under specific periods, bronze wasn't discovered in one place, where the bronze age began, but in many places simultaneously and over time became more significant within human society. Furthermore the existence of bronze age bronze works does not disprove the existence or practice of metal working in an earlier period.

You can build a furnace out of river mud, light it with fuel, and now all you need is the metal, which you probably would have sourced before lighting the fire. The reason bronze was valuable was because it was more ideal than copper, which is primarily the most accessible ore for hunter gatherers, since similarly to gold it can sort of be "found" in the environment. Gathering a specific resource for alloying would be more difficult without centralised population centers or long distance trading, but not impossible as some people would have lived in regions where both resources were accessible, such as Cornwall for example.

Moving away from the idea that human civilisation started when we stopped to build cities is more reflective of the archaeological evidence we have


Arstanishe t1_jeeeb2c wrote

Yeah, it did, because people smelted the natural copper ores that have tin or arsenic in them.That is not the same as deliberately producing bronze, and the scale of those early bronze artifact production was much let's say one place which had those ores on the ground would produce the bronze instruments, whereas all the other places around could not.What would be the impact of that happening? Pretty much negligient.Otherwise, why would actual smelting of different ores start only at around 3000 BCE (when bronze-age civilizations were already there?)

As for downplaying - in my opinion it's you who downplay a drastic change in human civilization that happened with agriculture. Raising crops and cattle allowed for a completely different way of living, with smelting bronze from separate ingridients (so you could combine much more abundant copper with tin and arsenic, instead of looking for a very rare natural combination of both), trade, and food surplus that lead to people being more specialized.

All you hunter-gatherer society fans say is that somehow life in those times was better, because people were all equally living in precarious conditions.
Sure, maybe early settlers in agricultural societies were not that happy with their life, but they had way less problems every year with food shortages, had some kind of state to protect them, and were capable of creating city culture, which we are all part of now.
While hunter-gatherers could be wiped by a hostile tribe at every given moment, every winter-spring could lead to starvation, and the amount of resources to spend on anything except survival was miniscule


vgodara t1_jduvarb wrote

From what I read in college the argument was that when weapon for fight become easy to manufacture you will have more egalitarian societies because revolt is always around the corner. But if weapons can't be mass produced easily you will have authoritative state. However the the Philosopher in question was American so he might have been biased towards that particular idea


1nfernals t1_jdv5bmz wrote

This is not consistent with modern insight into hunter gather societies, they were generally speaking more compassionate than we are today, if you want to measure compassion based off of a groups willingness to spend resources on social care.

Hunter gather societies, especially neanderthals, spent a much larger portion of their limited resources caring for their sick and disabled group member than we do today


vgodara t1_jdv7lg2 wrote

>Hunter gather societies

I was not talking about hunter gather. I am taking about full blown civilization with Cities.

>they were generally speaking more compassionate than we are today

This is very recent developments we trying to commercials every thing. From mentor to friendship every thing can be bought and sold. And on being generous they were only generous to in group members because they expected same kind of generosity in return. Which is commonly known as barter system.


Ill_Sound621 t1_jdvk9r7 wrote

Those two things go with eachother.

Like op said. When there is a need for Manpower You cannot aford to treat other like "less like".

For example durango WW2 many women went to work while the men were at war. The needs of war outweight the centuries of disctimination.

In the same way disctimination can only happens when there is structure to wrap around. Everyone can chop a tree the same way but only a few would be able to make a good pot.


rattatally t1_jdusc3e wrote

>Anyone simply refusing to cooperate anymore would be a massive harm to the whole group.

Not just those refusing cooperation, but also people not capable of it, like those born with a disability.


fencerman t1_jdva34h wrote

There is nothing about people born with a disability that makes them incapable of cooperation.


rattatally t1_jdwq1cy wrote

In our world? Sure. But in a state of nature without our level of technology, no. I'm not saying this to be a dick. That was just the reality of things.


fencerman t1_jdx7qwo wrote

No, that isn't the reality of things at all. That's just factually wrong - and historically wrong since we know lots of early hominids took extensive care of disabled members of their communities.


WillNonya t1_jdv05p0 wrote

This analysis seems particularly flawed and wishful. It ignores the likelihood that force, physical or coercive, applied by the few over the many is much more likely to resolve non-compliance than expecting individuals to simply look out for the group.

Statements like "Undemocratic institutions are unsustainable over the long term" ignore both recorded history and studies of more primitive cultures which still exist today. Superficially they may appear to support the inferences you make until you understand rhe actual dynamics of the group.


hellure t1_jdv40g0 wrote

It's my understanding that by 'fairly egalitarian' it is meant that democratic practices were common at most times, but there was usually some hierarchy of authority in place too. So that if say another community invades, or there's a sudden decrease in resources, there's somebody for the community to look to for direction.

Sometimes those were elder councils, sometimes one person, like a war chief or shaman... But it would understandably vary on occasion and over time, as early and primitive societies weren't bound by unchangeable rules.

Perhaps for many years the elders of a tribe are very inclusive of others in decision making, but then several die from illness and one psychopath rises to power as a warchief and bullies the few remaining into following their lead, until they and many males die in battle and the community falls back into a more egalitarian state led mostly by the remaining elder women.

There are countless variations of these themes that could play out over time within the millions of primitive communities that have existed over the history of the human race.

But from what I've encountered, while studying these things as a personal curiosity, is that when these societies were at their healthiest, as judged by peace and sustainability of resources, they tended to be pretty damn egalitarian. And most didn't exactly have a name for that, it's just the way things were, they saw and thought of themselves as one unit. You are me, I am you, we are equals--respecting and caring for you is respecting and caring for myself.

Individuals who didn't exhibit this kind of inclination would be understandably seen as broken, dysfunctional, and dangerous--a threat to the community.


fencerman t1_jdv9yx5 wrote

> It ignores the likelihood that force, physical or coercive, applied by the few over the many is much more likely to resolve non-compliance than expecting individuals to simply look out for the group.

No, it just means that a small number of individuals have very few resources to prevent people from simply leaving without a larger state apparatus.

>Statements like "Undemocratic institutions are unsustainable over the long term" ignore both recorded history and studies of more primitive cultures which still exist today.

"Primitive" cultures that exist today are almost always highly egalitarian compared to even modern "democratic" cultures.


Ill_Sound621 t1_jdvl43y wrote

Even on the societies that are based on "force" You still need to have complience from the masses. Otherwise your structure crumbles.

Even in dictatorships You still have some democratic participation by desing.


publicdefecation t1_jdwna7k wrote

How would this account for societies that practice ritual human sacrifice and cannibalism? If manpower was so precious wouldn't we not observe these norms among low technology societies?


Ma3Ke4Li3 OP t1_jdsk9cp wrote


How did humans live before the origin of the state? Such questions about the “state of nature” are used in social contract theories as a backdrop to political philosophy.

While some philosophers, like David Hume, regard this such questions about the “state of nature” as mere thought experiments, most of the original theorists on the state of nature - such as Rousseau and Locke - showed significant interest in information about indigenous people. Therefore, many philosophers have taken interest in the question of what modern archaeology and anthropology suggest about life before organised states.

Anthropologist Vivek V Venkataraman argues that we have a pretty good idea about the political organisation in this “state of nature”: humans were largely living as political equals, with proto-democratic practices. This suggests that democracy is older than the state: communal decision-making precedes organised statehood.

In this episode, Venkataraman explains the relevant research and responds to critics of the relevant methodology.


Throwmedownthewell0 t1_jdu52sw wrote

Early Socialist authors all basically deduced the same thing, even with their limited anthropology at the time.


mbfunke t1_jdturif wrote

I’d call most of human tribal life anarcho-communist, but I’m open to being corrected by someone with more anthropological experience.


thx1138inator t1_jdwomub wrote

Maybe you've read "The Dawn of Everything" by the two David's? At least one of them is an anarchist (I assume as result of his archaeology studies).


mbfunke t1_jdwpfq6 wrote

Nope, I haven’t read it, but maybe I’ll check it out. Personally I don’t think anarcho-communism scales to millions or billions of people. We need other systems for large scale organizations, but those aren’t the systems we adapted for evolutionarily. I think this disconnect helps to explain much of our social malaise.


thx1138inator t1_jdws0os wrote

Exactly - What if the scale of our organizations is the root of the problem with modern humanity? The smaller the scale, the smaller the problems.


mbfunke t1_jdx30wz wrote

It’s kind of unavoidable with the current population. We just have to find institutions that more closely approximate our inherited dispositions while conscientiously engaging in self-creation to match our new environment. I say “just” because it’s conceptually a straightforward problem, the actual implementation is huge lift.


thx1138inator t1_jdx4ysu wrote

My thoughts are that we should be shifting political power into smaller groups. So, currently in the USA, there is significant power concentrated at the federal level. But, why should health care administration, for example, happen at the federal level rather than the state level? Human health concerns are really quite local (pandemics being an exception). Why not administer most health delivery/payment purely at the state level? The USA would get more diversity and innovation that way. We should really reconsider allowing concentration of so many decisions in the hands of so few people.

Counter point- we benefit from efficiency of scale. But man, when things go wrong at scale, they really go wrong!


mbfunke t1_jdxprwj wrote

States are fucking huge by anarcho-communist standards. Self rule at that level is like an apartment complex population. We can’t effectively run equitable services at the apartment complex level. We’re stuck with massive agencies and federal bureaucracy. States aren’t better and are arguably much worse.


thx1138inator t1_jdxtmu4 wrote

Depends on the state. I am quite happy with the government of the state of MN. I want others to be happy with the states they live in as well. I don't understand what southerners want but, I hope they get it for their sake (unless it causes damage to shared resources like the atmosphere).
But ultimately I think Americans should spend more time imagining the political structure they want to live under. Inequality will always exist. But what is a fair level? These are questions that have been pondered by humans for most of their history. I am a bit uncomfortable with the current, ossified nature of our political organization.


artaig t1_jdt0iee wrote

"Democracy" and "political equality" are far removed from modern liberalism or whatever status quo we have in current times. I don't recall exactly at which point people started using "democracy" as a substitute for "representative government elected through limited suffrage" but there is more than a few written evidence about how the word was repudiated by non others than the "founding fathers".

Yes, old societies were (proto) democracies. No, ours aren't, aren't close to be, and could never be in the current system.


fitzroy95 t1_jdt2fr0 wrote

No, old societies were largely male dominated tribal groups, whether those groups were feudal, religious/theocratic, or any other hierarchical form. That model has been fairly consistent from human as ape down to modern times.

Direct democracies and representative democracies, are largely recent inventions from within a few individual societies over the last 2000 years.


oasisnotes t1_jdtvqop wrote

> old societies were largely male dominated tribal groups

Lots of anthropological evidence suggests otherwise. For most of human history, societies weren't necessarily patriarchal or matriarchal, but they were matrilineal (i.e. descent was tracked through the female line). This is because in these societies the only parent you could truly know was yours was your mother. Women didn't necessarily 'rule' these societies in a sense that we would understand it, but they did exercise influence over family and tribal life in a way that could, in many cases, cause quotidian existence to revolve more around them. IIRC societies didn't tend to become male dominated until there was an emergence of food surplus and specialized labor.


applejackhero t1_jdu2lia wrote

I’m actually pretty sure prehistoric tribal groups were /very loosely/ matriarchal. I can dig up some reading if you want, it basically:

  1. women access to/association with reproduction

  2. physiologically, women women are better suited to hunter-gatherer life styles and tended to live longer, and in a hunter-gather society experience is crucial

I say /very loosely/ because our ideas of matriarchy and patriarchy barely apply


Luklear t1_jduar1w wrote

At least in some Native Americans or First Nations peoples as we call them in Canada, this was not the case.


xmorecowbellx t1_jdu5fuk wrote

Kind of makes sense since most of these groups would have been very small, and a small group can teach a rough form of consensus or pseudo-consensus (just family heads or similar) and a lot invested in each other’s viability.


Silent0n3_1 t1_jdvdaym wrote

Has anyone read The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow?

Their argument is simply - people, going back into the archeological record as far as it can be taken, seem to organize themselves into various forms of group dynamics based off of a balance of environmental needs, individual and group choice, and also tradition which spring from the mix. Through history those conditions can and do change, and so new choices and forms are adopted. Sometimes, even changing organizational dynamics depending upon the time of year between small "egalitarian and democratic" bands to large and cohesive proto-states complete with rigid hierarchies. Also, examples of the exact opposite occuring are presented, depending upon the time period and the groups being examined.

They also argue that anyone stating that previous societies were "politically equal" or "egalitarian" or any such "proto" term tend to simply make caricatures off of small sample sizes and/or outdated archeological evidence.

Modern theorizers who tend to make such sweeping statements often seem to use cherry-picked, outdated data in order to support their own modern, current political views in order to advance the narratives for their preferred agendas.


Rethious t1_jdubzzb wrote

IIRC most recent anthropological/archaeological evidence regarding early human society is fairly pessimistic. Evidence suggests life was much more Hobbes than Rousseau. ie, an egalitarianism of violence.


exceptionalfish t1_jduusu9 wrote

It's almost like, the more centralized states became with the global and regional rise in population, the less equality there was. I wonder what weird, backwards justifications people will make for this.


pkstr11 t1_jdw5zvn wrote

They should read the Epic of Gilgamesh. Will blow all of those ideas away.


itsokayt0 t1_je91l4c wrote

The Epic of Gilgamesh was written tens of thousands of years later than the first human tribes.

Agricultural revolution and the Bronze Age are a hell of a drug.


pkstr11 t1_je9drma wrote

Gosh life must be exciting when you've no idea when anything happened.


grimorg80 t1_jduhg3o wrote

In fact, the evolution of human civilization goes hand in hand with the evolution of cooperation. All the way to the current mega-coordinated system we call global economy. What it really is, is billions of people working together to provide everything to everyone, and every sector is dependent on the others.


Hawk52 t1_jdvkamo wrote

Perhaps in the time of hunter-gatherers where every person had to pull their own weight we were equality driven but even then, I doubt it. A variation of equality? Sure, but we were still likely dominated by strong central figures of authority. Otherwise, the establishment of states and major cities lead by singular kings wouldn't have become our defacto political organizational method for most of our recorded history.

It's a nice idea to want to believe that equality and fairness are at the root of our nature as a people but when it comes to governmental systems everything points to the exact opposite; that we're drawn to authoritarianism for one reason or another from personal feelings to your average person simply not caring all that much as long as it doesn't affect themself.


snowylion t1_jdwwlw0 wrote

Isn't this kinda painfully obvious to anyone who ever visited a village?


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GyantSpyder t1_je1jyuw wrote

It's easy to make broad assertions about peoples and time periods from whom you have no written records.

It shouldn't be so easy, and yet it is.


Background_Dog_2534 t1_je2f9sn wrote

Most people seem fairly happy with their local situation, less so with our disfunctional federal government. Change is needed, but is extremely difficult to implement.


bringsmemes t1_jdus46m wrote

yes, indeed, wewere tribepeople


Petal_Chatoyance t1_jdsy79w wrote

This is bullshit. We know how humans lived, because some barely contacted tribes still live that way to this day. We also have all the records of contact with aboriginal peoples.

The human 'natural' way is a tribal group with a central leader figure. Basically a warlord. Do what the chief says, or his lieutenants will beat or kill you. Just like apes. Because humans are apes. They live in a dictatorial hierarchy, just like the apes they are.

Equality and democracy had to be invented just like agriculture and any other technology. The rise of humanity is fighting to do something different than the ape genes demand. The only hope for humanity is being as 'unnatural' as possible.


AlgorithmHunter t1_jdtby2h wrote

I’m sorry but this is nonsense. The luitenant would kill you? Is this how you think social animals live? I’m not saying elephants are casting ballots but what you’re missing here is the social structures are not just reinforced by threat of death.


Peter_deT t1_jdt9uld wrote

This is pretty much nonsense. We have a lot of knowledge of forager societies (there are none now that live in a 'pre-contact' way), and none were run like dictatorships. A very common pattern is that any male who tried that path was killed - usually by the entire band so that no one person was responsible. There were people - mostly male - who were acknowledged as the best warrior or shaman or hunter, but they had to be careful not to push the boundaries. Not that societies were equal - arrangements varied, but males were ahead of females, and elders over the younger, and adults over children.


nickallanj t1_jdtgmcc wrote

Egalitarian hunter-gatherers are extremely well established across the global archaeological record, and the pattern for how populations go from that to state-level societies is equally well trodden scholarly soil.

Generally speaking, societies went from having decision-making power shared between individuals and family units; to recognizing one "big man," typically a charismatic leader figure who pops up during crises. His family didn't retain recognition after he died, but once they did, chiefdoms arose. State-level societies arise as the needs of a population become too complex to handle with just crowd logic.

The apes are an even worse analogy. Bonobos, who as far as primatologists are concerned are more closely related to us than Chimpanzees are, live in massive polycules and are well recorded to be non-violent. While we can get some evolutionary info about ourselves based on their modern behavior, we're just working on a different wavelength.

Take an intro to anthropology course.


QiPowerIsTheBest t1_jdth34z wrote

Show us where these records show this is a universal form of governance in hunter-gatherer societies.


Bassoon_Commie t1_jdtgeyl wrote

You should tell the Hadza that their society is defined by hierarchy.


foxxytroxxy t1_jdtzoyv wrote

Not sure why somebody hasn't said this yet, but it doesn't follow that even if 100% of all known hunter gatherer groups lived in the same way today (they don't!), we could then be certain about the ways in which any have lived besides that.

But even disregarding that, this is not supported by the evidence


GarrettGSF t1_jduia3y wrote

We have all the records of aboriginal people? Of people that did not posses scripture? Where all traditions are transmitted orally from generation to generation. Provably never changed a bit in human history. And even then, it wouldn’t mean that this was an universal truth. What might be the case in modern Australia might be different in other parts of the world because of various factors…


Answer-Altern t1_jdu2y1y wrote

You’re talking about one stage earlier where it was all about competition for survival. Civilized societies are the next stage, the result of cooperation