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  1. Mar 2023
  2. Jan 2022
    1. early cities followed the opposite trajectory, starting withneighbourhood councils and popular assemblies and ending up being ruledby warlike dynasts, who then had to maintain an uneasy coexistence witholder institutions of urban governance. Something along these lines tookplace in Early Dynastic Mesopotamia, after the Uruk period: here again theconvergence between systems of violence and systems of care seemscritical

      the drivers of present systems

    2. At the very least,these were simply the logical outcome of our first freedom: to move awayfrom one’s home, knowing one will be received and cared for, even valued,in some distant place. At most they were examples of ‘amphictyony’, inwhich some kind of formal organization was put in charge of the care andmaintenance of sacred places. It seems that Marcel Mauss had a point whenhe argued that we should reserve the term ‘civilization’ for great hospitalityzones such as these.

      None of these orgnisation setups had staying value in time

    3. Domus, the Latin word for ‘household’, in turn gives us not only ‘domestic’and ‘domesticated’ but dominium, which was the technical term for theemperor’s sovereignty as well as a citizen’s power over private property
    4. Whilethey spent their public lives making sober judgments as magistrates, theylived their private lives in households where they not only had near-totalauthority over their wives, children and other dependants, but also had alltheir needs taken care of by dozens, perhaps hundreds of slaves

      would be interesting to know what is the history of the development of Roman law when Rome was a tiny state starting out.

    5. The three basic freedoms have gradually receded, tothe point where a majority of people living today can barely comprehendwhat it might be like to live in a social order based on them

      Are there no other societies enjoying these freedoms in the same period as "Turtle isalanders"

    6. We have made the case that private property firstappears as a concept in sacred contexts, as do police functions and powersof command, along with (in later times) a whole panoply of formaldemocratic procedures, like election and sortition, which were eventuallydeployed to limit such powers

      What was the reason for the genesis of sacred contexts is not addressed in DOE itself.

    7. ll this might seem like an oddly clumsy projection of Freudian theory,but for one thing. The text is from 1649. It was written by a certain FatherRagueneau in a Jesuit Relation, precisely 250 years before the appearanceof the first edition of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), an eventwhich, like Einstein’s theory of relativity, is widely seen as one of thefounding events of twentieth-century thought.


    8. One problem with evolutionism is that it takes ways of life that developedin symbiotic relation with each other and reorganizes them into separatestages of human history

      How the formation of what we now call states was not straight forward as history seems have been written.

    9. Empires wereexceptional and short-lived, and even the most powerful – Roman, Han,Ming, Inca – could not prevent large-scale movements of people into andout of their spheres of control.

      point 3 about the limitations of even pretty famous empires

    10. from about 3000 BC to AD 1600 was a fairlymiserable one for the bulk of the world’s farmers, it was a Golden Age forthe barbarians, who reaped all the advantages of their proximity to dynasticstates and empires

      point 2 about how what I believe - stage 1 state like entities became stage 2 states.

    11. he grain-based kingdomswere fragile, always prone to collapse under the weight of over-population,ecological devastation and the kind of endemic diseases that always seemedto result when too many humans, domesticated animals and parasitesaccumulated in one place

      another end result of cereal agriculture

    12. Cereal agriculture did notcause the rise of extractive states, but it was certainly predisposed to theirfiscal requirements

      Another difference with agriculture in general and cereal agricuture.

    13. Once again, was it not just a matter oftime before one of those kingdoms (or, as it turned out, a small collection ofthem) came up with a successful formula for world conquest – just the rightcombination of guns, germs and steel – and imposed its system oneverybody else

      The justification that the obviousness of the standard history may differ from the real details but in the end they reach the same general sequence as in reality.

    14. thinkers who do seek to knit together the findings of specialists, to describethe course of human history on a grand scale, haven’t entirely got past thebiblical notion of the Garden of Eden, the Fall and subsequent inevitabilityof domination

      Point 1 about the alternative thinkers.

    15. by the eighteenth century, the indigenous critique – and the deep questionsit posed about money, faith, hereditary power, women’s rights and personalfreedoms – was having an enormous influence on leading figures of theFrench Enlightenment, but also resulted in a backlash among Europeanthinkers which produced an evolutionary framework for human history thatremains broadly intact today.

      Point brought to attention

    16. It can mean a game of honour or chance gone terriblywrong, or the incorrigible growth of a particular ritual for feeding the dead;it can mean industrial slaughter, the appropriation by men of femaleknowledge, or governance by a college of priestesses.

      Need to go over the chapter to discern these 5 different state formation stories

    17. What we do know is that, in the final centuries of the Classicperiod, women attain a new visibility in sculpture and inscription, appearingnot just as consorts, princesses and queen mothers but also as powerfulrulers and spirit mediums in their own right. We also know that at somepoint in the ninth century the Classic Maya political system came apart, andmost of the great cities were abandoned

      are the two sentences related in some way the GW don't know or are remaining silent and yet pointing without pointing.

    18. As the Zapatistas also show, itwas in these territories, where no major state or empire had existed forcenturies, that women came most prominently to the fore in anti-colonialstruggles, both as organizers of armed resistance and as defenders ofindigenous tradition

      Was it because in the jungle which was the source of their resources women had more power than those in the domesticated part of Mexico.

    19. At the time of theinitial Spanish incursion, the region was divided into what seemed to thesettlers an endless succession of tiny principalities, townships, villages andseasonal hamlets.

      "Settlers" seems to be odd usage

    20. would like to suggest that these three principles – call them control ofviolence, control of information, and individual charisma – are also thethree possible bases of social power

      definition of social power

    21. the French term corvée. This refers to obligatory labouron civic projects exacted from free citizens on a seasonal basis,

      Another term but its genesis is seems to refer to the works that initially was done by the God and then by gods and later my people

    22. Biodiversity – not bio-power – was the initial key to the growth ofNeolithic food production

      Another term used to demonstrate the path to permanent farming

    23. The ecology of freedom describes the proclivity of humansocieties to move (freely) in and out of farming; to farm without fullybecoming farmers; raise crops and animals without surrendering too muchof one’s existence to the logistical rigours of agriculture; and retain a foodweb sufficiently broad as to prevent cultivation from becoming a matter oflife and death.

      One of the steps toward permanent farming perhaps

    1. http://www.focaalblog.com/2021/12/22/chris-knight-wrong-about-almost-everything/

      Chris Knight is a senior research fellow in anthropology at University College London, where he forms part of a team researching the origins of our species in Africa. His books include Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture (1991) and Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics (2016).

      Another apparent refutation of Graeber and Wengrow.

    1. https://www.persuasion.community/p/a-flawed-history-of-humanity

      David A. Bell teaches history at Princeton and is the author, most recently, of Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).

      Critique of Graeber and Wengrow's The Dawn of Everything

      Where is he right? Wrong? How does this dovetail with the evidence within the book?

    1. https://www.noemamag.com/the-other-invisible-hand/?utm_source=indieweb&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=indieweb

      Raw capitalism mimics the logic of cancer within our body politic.

      Folks who have been reading David Wengrow and David Graeber's The Dawn of Everything are sure to appreciate the sentiment here which pulls in the ideas of biology and evolution to expand on their account and makes it a much more big history sort of thesis.

    2. Charles Darwin wrote an entire book about humans being social creatures. He wrote that any Hobbesian human would be an “unnatural monster.”

      Relate this back to Graeber/Wengrow's thesis.

    3. Unfortunately, the ideas most economists use have been too influenced by “methodological individualism,” rather than the more scientifically supported view of us as a super-social, super-cooperative, intensely interdependent species. Often, this economics-style individualism is of the Thomas Hobbes variety, which paints humans in “a state of nature,” waging a “war of all against all.”

      This statement in the framing of biology is quite similar to the framing in anthropology and archaeology that David Graeber and David Wengrow provide in The Dawn of Everything.

      Perhaps we should be saying (especially from a political perspective): Cooperation is King!

  3. Dec 2021
    1. The Dawn of Everything, Part 2 by Miriam Ronzoni


      Not as solid as the opening of her review, or much of a review so much as a brief summary of the broad take-aways of the book.

    1. Seasonal festivals may be a pale echo of older patterns of seasonal variation– but, for the last few thousand years of human history at least, they appearto have played much the same role in fostering political self-consciousness,and as laboratories of social possibility

      Festivals are reenactments of potential paths explored in the past and even open the space on exploration in the now.

    2. really important about such festivals is that they kept the oldspark of political self-consciousness alive. They allowed people to imaginethat other arrangements are feasible, even for society as a whole

      do festivals serve the purpose of keeping imagination of many things not just as is mentioned here of political consciousness alive.

    3. Somehave gone so far as to argue that what we call ‘social structure’ only reallyexists during rituals: think here of families that only exist as a physicalgroup during marriages and funerals, during which times questions of rankand priority have to be worked out

      Is social structure existence only occasional

    4. there is still themidwinter ‘holiday season’ in which values and forms of organization do,to a limited degree, reverse themselves

      Our vacations are a shadow of the possibility of alternative human living arrangement

    5. The only consistentphenomenon is the very fact of alteration, and the consequent awareness ofdifferent social possibilities.

      How is this knowledge transmitted since peoples live were much too short to remember?

    6. the only way state-likeauthority could possibly have emerged was from religious visionaries ofone sort or anothe

      I smell the blood of Religion arise. Is GW summarising form Lowie's data or they are stating something that looks as a possibility.

    7. They had self-consciously organized in such a way that the forms ofarbitrary power and domination we associate with ‘advanced politicalsystems’ could never possibly emerge

      How can they know this in advance of actually experiencing this?

    8. Pierre Clastreswas quite right when he proposed that, rather than being less politicallyself-conscious than people nowadays, people in stateless societies mightactually have been considerably more so

      Perhaps this paleolithic political intelligence has a spiritual substrate is what I belive following the hints given by Mark Vernon in his YT review of the book

    9. With such institutional flexibility comes the capacity to step outside theboundaries of any given structure and reflect; to both make and unmake thepolitical worlds we live in

      This flexibility results in a much more enjoyable way of life for the majority of mankid..is what GW suggests here

    10. Seasonal dualism also throws into chaos more recent efforts at classifyinghunter-gatherers into either ‘simple’ or ‘complex’ types, since what havebeen identified as the diagnostic features of ‘complexity’ – territoriality,social ranks, material wealth or competitive display – appear during certainseasons of the year, only to be brushed aside in others by the exact samepopulation.

      I guess this is one of the threads woven by GW in support of their thesis the sapien paradox is no paradox with the acknowledgement of seasonal dualism to accord with long stretchs of paleolithic time with so obvious artifacts of culture.

    11. : that societiesmust necessarily progress through a series of evolutionary stages to beginwith.

      Even though societies are consciouly changing their ways of organising themselves, it is only the anthropologist's preconception that these are evolutionary.

    12. Not only did they dismantle all means of exercisingcoercive authority the moment the ritual season was over, they were alsocareful to rotate which clan or warrior clubs got to wield it: anyone holdingsovereignty one year would be subject to the authority of others in thenext.

      Evidence of social knowledge of the necessity of power sharing consciouly in societies which prefer not to exercise the power consistently over time.

    13. in the first half of the twentieth century, it was commonknowledge that societies doing a great deal of hunting, herding or foragingwere often arranged in such a ‘double morphology’

      double mophology - two forms of societel organisation.

    14. he peoples ofBritain, having adopted the Neolithic farming economy from continentalEurope, appear to have turned their backs on at least one crucial aspect of it:abandoning the cultivation of cereals and returning, from around 3300 BC,to the collection of hazelnuts as their staple source of plant food.

      Evidence not obvious

    15. the overall pattern of seasonal congregation for festive labourseems well established

      Again only one interpretation by GW

    16. In general, Palaeolithic people wereclearly much more at home with human body parts than we are

      Has this any evidence to backup?

    17. The kind of political self-consciousnesswhich seemed so self-evident in Nambikwara chiefs, let alone the wildimprovisation expected of Nuer prophets, had no place in the revisedframework of human social evolution

      GW calling out to data that seem to present data that they advocate.

    18. ramed hunter-gatherer studies in terms of a new disciplinewhich its attendees proposed to call ‘behavioural ecology’, starting withrigorously quantified studies of African savannah and rainforest groups

      Anthropological thinking changed it way of representing rainforest groups

    19. But in doing so theywere effectively moving back and forth, each year, between whatevolutionary anthropologists (in the tradition of Turgot) insist on thinking

      In one tribe with leaders with completely different styles of being and behaving depending on the season of the year.

    20. what really struck him about the ‘primitive’ societies he wasmost familiar with was their tolerance of eccentricity

      One thread a concept GW wants to bring out

    21. everyone at least pays lipservice to the psychic unity of mankind

      'psychic unity" : what does that entail? [Description]

    22. But by the late nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries, many in Europe and America had reached the point ofarguing that someone like Kandiaronk could never have really existed in thefirst place. ‘Primitive’ folk, they argued, were not only incapable of politicalself-consciousness, they were not even capable of fully conscious thoughton the individual level – or at least conscious thought worthy of the name.

      Conscious thought among people not trained in western philosophical thinking was not thinkable.

    23. Western philosophical tradition has taken a ratherunusual direction over the last few centuries. Around the same time as itabandoned dialogue as its typical mode of writing, it also began imaginingthe isolated, rational, self-conscious individual not as a rare achievement,something typically accomplished – if at all – after literally years of livingisolated in a cave or monastic cell, or on top of a pillar in a desertsomewhere, but as the normal default state of human beings anywhere

      And all other traditions who have been influenced by Western philosophy also perhaps use the same mode of writing?

    24. Ancient philosophers tended to be keenly aware of all this: that’swhy, whether they were in China, India or Greece, they tended to write theirbooks in the form of dialogues.

      Need to verify if China and Indian writing were generally dialogic. I know Plato's writing of Socrates was dialogically written.

    25. Philosophers tend to define human consciousness in termsof self-awareness; neuroscientists, on the other hand, tell us we spend theoverwhelming majority of our time effectively on autopilot, working outhabitual forms of behaviour without any sort of conscious reflection

      Again not aware if this is the consensus definition among philosphers and neuroscientists.

    26. sapient paradox

      GW calls the Sap. Para. as The capacity for human beings to have the mental+physical infrstructure to organize themselves in what we consider modern and yet continue to live similar to animals.

    27. Evidence of institutional inequality in Ice Age societies, whether grandburials or monumental buildings, is sporadic.

      GW is using this to demonstrate that inegalitarian or Ranked societies should show more than just magnificent burials or monumental buildingss

    28. two phenomena – hierarchy and the measure of time – wereclosely interwoven.

      I dont know how hierarchy and time are closely interwoven

    29. our genetic nature is Hobbesian, but our political history is pretty muchexactly as described by Rousseau.

      By Saying our genetic nature is Hobbesian is GW saying that based on the example of actuarial intelligence demonstrated.

    30. If the very essence of our humanity consists of the fact that we are self-conscious political actors, and therefore capable of embracing a wide rangeof social arrangements, would that not mean human beings should actuallyhave explored a wide range of social arrangements over the greater part ofour history?

      GW saying that the essense of our humanity consists of our capacity for selfconscious political actions is only in my opiniion is only part of the essence..

    31. actuarial intelligence’. That’s to say, they understand whattheir society might look like if they did things differently: if, for instance,skilled hunters were not systematically belittled, or if elephant meat was notportioned out to the group by someone chosen at random (as opposed to theperson who actually killed the beast). This, he concludes, is the essence ofpolitics:

      How do we know that this kind of behaviour existed commonly at that time?

    32. what makessocieties distinctively human is our ability to make the conscious decisionnot to act that way

      Not to act in alignment with our inbuilt tendency to engage in dominance-submissive behaviour

    33. thedensity of human interactions seems to have radically increased, especially

      Animal seasonal movement is one possible reason for an increase in human interactions during parts of the year.

    34. In the 1980s and 1990s it was widely assumed that something profoundhappened, some kind of sudden creative efflorescence, around 45,000 yearsago, variously referred to in the literature as the ‘Upper PalaeolithicRevolution’ or even the ‘Human Revolution

      Another outer limit that currently is out of fashion and possibly an artifact of our biases.

    35. complexsymbolic human behaviour, or simply ‘culture’. Currently, it dates back nomore than 100,000 years

      Key outer limit for the genesis of "complex symbolic human behvior"

    36. Athenian intellectuals at thetime, who were mostly of aristocratic background, tended to consider thewhole arrangement a tawdry business, and most of them much preferred thegovernment of Sparta

      GW claims current understanding of the excellence of modern democracy through the lens of Athens as a source are reading somthing other than what the Athenians themselves did not consider excellent.

    37. As a result, such distanttimes can become a vast canvas for the working out of our collectivefantasies.

      The possiblity of making the past up to suit our present situation.

    38. This uniformity is not, inevolutionary terms, particularly old. Its genetic basis was establishedaround half a million years ago, but it is almost certainly misguided to think

      GW mentions "various elemnts of the modern human condition" converged. What elements would they be?

    39. the people ofprehistoric times had very specific ideas about what was important in theirsocieties; that these varied considerably; and that describing such societiesas uniformly ‘egalitarian’ tells us almost nothing about them

      self descripton of ancestors in their specifics cannot point to a common term "egaliarian"

    40. whether we can rediscover the freedoms that make ushuman in the first place

      What is the source of that freedom? Has the reduction of that freedom make us lesser humans? Can we in general discover that freedom? Is that freedom across a spectrum or is it a stepped or it is binary?

    41. The ultimate question of human history, as we’ll see, is not ourequal access to material resources (land, calories, means of production),much though these things are obviously important, but our equal capacity tocontribute to decisions about how to live together.

      Is this an ultimate question?

    42. the best we can hope for are more sophisticated internal and externalcontrols on our supposedly innate drive towards accumulation and self-aggrandizement.

      Is this really the direction of the trajectory of the Hobbesian model? What is the source that generates the sophisticated controls that the Hobbesian model predicts at its most optimistic state?

    43. We arenonetheless determined to write prehistory as if it consisted of people onewould have been able to talk to, when they were still alive

      This is a choice you make and the talking you make with them is only for matters you are are interested in. They definitely have other perhaps more significant things that directed them to say what they said without bringing that to the front of the direct and indirect reading material they left beind to speak for them.

    44. we have learned it’s to ouradvantage to prioritize our long-term interests over our short-term instincts

      Not all of our long term interests are known to us, we only proritize those that we actually can thingk of.

    45. It held that, humans being the selfishcreatures they are, life in an original State of Nature was in no senseinnocent; it must instead have been ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’– basically, a state of war, with everybody fighting against everybody else.

      I agree with the the fact the humans were not innocent but that it does not preclude with being at war with everyone.

    1. Dogs’ innate sense of fairness being eroded by humans, study suggests https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dogs-wolves-unfairness-acceptance-human-owners-pets-behaviour-research-vienna-a7779076.html

      While thinking about inequality in reading The Dawn of Everything, I started thinking about inequality and issues in other animal settings.

      Why am I not totally surprised to find that animals' innate sense of fairness could be eroded by humans?

      I wonder if this effect might be seen across all cultures, or only Western cultures with capitalist economies? Could we look at dogs in Australian indigenous cultures and find the same results?

    1. While reading The Dawn of Inequality, it occurs to me that much less look at humans and inequality or fairness, there's been reasonable research on other animals and their perception of fairness.

      This example is a simple example which scratches the surface and many more could be added.


    1. https://crookedtimber.org/2021/12/14/the-dawn-of-everything-part-1/

      A partial review and summary of The Dawn of Everything.

      Worth coming back to review over the commentary later.

    2. This post is mainly about the book’s attempt to dismantle the myth of “agriculture as the source of social inequality.” The next post will be about Graeber’s and Wengrow’s startling claim that European Enlightenment can be seen, to a large extent, as the result of a conversation with Indigenous, non-western intellectuals and societies – indeed, as inspired by them.

      David Graeber and David Wengrow's book can be seen as having two broad arguments:

      1. Dismantling the myth of "agriculture as the source of social inequality"
      2. The Eurpoean Englightenment can be seen as being inspired by conversations with Indigenous, non-Western intellectuals and societies.

      Open question: Were we englightened only just a little bit, but not enough? How do we get the other part of the transmitted package?

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    1. what they see as our three basic freedoms: the freedom to disobey, the freedom to go somewhere else, and the freedom to create new social arrangements?
    2. What is the state? the authors ask. Not a single stable package that’s persisted all the way from pharaonic Egypt to today, but a shifting combination of, as they enumerate them, the three elementary forms of domination: control of violence (sovereignty), control of information (bureaucracy), and personal charisma (manifested, for example, in electoral politics).
    3. The story is linear (the stages are followed in order, with no going back), uniform (they are followed the same way everywhere), progressive (the stages are “stages” in the first place, leading from lower to higher, more primitive to more sophisticated), deterministic (development is driven by technology, not human choice), and teleological (the process culminates in us).

      This might be the case if the tools drove the people, but isn't it more likely the way in which different people use the tools?

      Which direction gives rise to more complexity?