This is a transcript of this video.
The bibliography for this episode can be found here.

For the audio podcast version click here on a mobile device.

Hello fellow kids!  

And welcome to the second instalment in our critique of David Graeber and David Wengrow’s new book the Dawn of Everything. 

Today we’re going to read and critique the conclusion of the Sagesse de Kandiaronk preview chapter that Graeber and Wengrow released in 2019 and this conclusion is basically unchanged in the actual book, where the chapter is called Wicked Liberty: The Indigenous Critique and the Myth of Progress. 

And we’re going to start off with a short political and anthropological theory/history lesson so that we have the tools to evaluate what we’re reading and also what we’ll be reading in the future, so you can come back to this episode before we critique other parts of the book. 

But first – something unexpected happened right after I recorded this episode – and that is the publication of the full book, the Dawn of Everything. 

My initial plan had been to critique some of the preview articles and chapters from Dawn of Everything that Graeber and Wengrow had been putting out since 2015 before it was published, but I didn’t realize that the UK release date was 3 weeks before the US/Canada release date, so my initial plan got messed up and the book is already out now…

And of course I got a hold of it, and I haven’t had the time to read the whole thing yet, but from what I have read, I can say two big things: 

#1 it’s brilliant and it’s a really wonderful read, full of so much fascinating and illuminating anthropological and historical information, and tying together so much loose gunk that’s floating out there in the ocean of anthropology and history about human origins, in a really clear and insightful way.  And to my great surprise, it’s maybe my favourite Graeber book of all – and I’m relieved, because I really hate a lot of the stuff that’s in some of the preview chapters, and I was expecting this to be his worst book.

Now I still disagree with a lot of what’s in this book, but now I just respectfully disagree, instead of thinking they were doing something dishonest or incompetent, because for maybe the first time in David Graeber’s career, he actually stops pretending that the past 50 years of hunter gatherer studies on extremely egalitarian societies never happened – I think maybe he was forced to read this literature properly for the first time because of the book – and I’ll be explaining in this episode what I mean by that, and why it’s been making a lot of anthropologists on the left pretty pissed off. 

Which brings us to the second big thing I wanted to say about the book:

The book, as glorious as it is, does not actually answer the big and hugely important questions that it sets out to answer at the beginning – how did we get stuck with these permanent, oppressive hierarchical societies for the past however many thousands of years and what can we do about it?  They hazard a guess at the end, but it’s a really goofy guess as you’ll see when you read it.  

And the reason that they can’t answer these questions is because of bad theory.  The answers are right there under their noses, in the very texts that they cite – they even manage to figure out some of the ingredients, ability to escape for example – but they can’t get the actual answers, because they think that if you look for materialist explanations, that the answers that you’ll find are will be deterministic such that we truly are permanently stuck with hierarchies for ever and ever, which is a common misconception.   Like they can’t even figure out where male domination comes from even though there’s some classic anthropology that explains this pretty successfully, which I’ve covered – and compare my explanation in episodes 7 and 7.1 with the goofy guess they give at the end of the book about refugees in temples if you want a good giggle. And they don’t really understand what hierarchy is.  They think that seasonal hierarchies in traditional societies were just games and theatre rather than the result of bargaining power of different social groups in different seasons, and also practical solutions to the practicalities of seasonal conditions.

And bad theory leads to bad practice – the reason that this book is such a glorious success, but then ends with such a flop, is the same reason that occupy wall street was such a glorious success and then such a pointless flop at the same time, which I’ll talk about in a video which is an outtake from this episode.  And the reason that I started this show is so that our minds are less gunked up with nonsense so that we can have more clarity of vision, better instincts and therefore make better decisions in our political lives. 

But – I’m actually pretty happy that Graeber and Wengrow punted on these questions, because now my work after this episode is cut out for me.  Graeber and Wengrow put together an almost masterpiece and now I get to put the crowning jewel on top without having to do the hard work of setting it up and putting these important questions into public consciousness.

So subsequent to this episode – not exactly sure when, maybe next episode – I am going to answer the central questions of Dawn of Everything which they punted on – how did we get stuck with seemingly permanent entrenched hierarchies – Marx’ riddle of history – and also why some cultures change social structures seasonally – and I’m going to do it using the very texts that Graeber and Wengrow themselves cite and discuss, adding the missing ingredient of some very basic ABC material analysis, which for reason’s that we’ll discuss. seems to have become a lost art.

But for now, let’s get back to the conclusion of The Wisdom of Kandiaronk / Wicked Liberty: The Indigenous Critique and the Myth of Progress. 

So the three main issues that I have with Dawn of Everything, and the preview chapters that have been coming out since 2015 are:

  1. Graeber and Wengrow’s allergy to materialist explanations for human social structure – which is the fatal weakness of an otherwise wonderful book.

  2. Graeber and Wengrow’s maddening mis-representation of the literature on egalitarian hunter gatherer societies and the intentions of the people who write that literature.

and #3. Graeber and Wengrow’s tirade against the concept of equality and egalitarianism, which is a big problem in our political discourse in general, and which is the central theme of the text that we’ll be reading today.

I’ll be talking about the materialism issue when I tackle the book as a whole so let’s start off with our little theory and history lesson and then the text – but please keep in mind that the rest of this episode, besides this intro was recorded before the book was released – so while everything I’m staying is still accurate, in Dawn of Everything, after a career of ignoring 50 years of hunter gatherer research, Graeber and Wengrow finally do talk a little bit about actual egalitarian societies, and they do so honestly – so my condescending attitude that I express in this video is a bit obsolete, even if my criticisms of the text that I’m reading are still basically the same.  

OK, let’s do dis:

Now I’m going to be pretty harsh in my critiques today and in the next episode, and I want to say a little bit about the importance of political theory and getting certain things right before I make those critiques, because I want everyone to understand that I’m not just upset because a great anthropologist and thinker got a couple of concepts wrong – I’m upset because of the political real world consequences of getting it wrong. 

For a lot of people political theory can end up being either an academic wankfest or else a bit of a game of identity cosplay.  But when I’m talking to you about theory, the point is to have a basic understanding about how certain things work, so that we actually take political action, that we’re likely to take actions and adopt strategies that move us closer to our goals, and make us less likely to run full speed into a painting of a train tunnel like in a roadrunner cartoon.  

WHAT IS EQUALITY

The meaning of equality in a political context is an extremely simple concept.  But like I always talk about, even the most simple concepts are obscured and confused in our political discourse, even at the highest levels of academia and journalism.  

So, refresher course and you can get more details from my past podcast episodes on left and right:

The word politics refers to everything relating to decision making in groups.  Who gets to decide, who doesn’t, how are decisions made etc.  

In other words, politics is about who has power and how it is exercised.  

So when we’re talking about equality in the context of politics, and Graeber and Wengrow’s book is about anthropology and history as they relate to politics – we’re not talking about people being equal in terms of size, or attractiveness or in terms of their abilities – we’re talking about equality of decision making power. 

Equality means that everyone has an equal say in the decisions that affect them.  In other words, democracy.  And full political equality implies not just representative democracy, but direct democracy.  

And equality of power, has all sorts of implications.  

First it implies a high degree of individual freedom and autonomy.  Because if everyone has equal decision making power, that means that there is no authority figure who has the power to tell anyone what to do.  The only time you can’t do something is if what you’re doing interferes with the autonomy and freedom of other people and they join together to stop you.  

Next, equality of power, also implies a high degree of economic equality.  

Our political discourse always separates decision making involving the state from decision making in the private sphere, like at work in to two totally separate categories.  We tend to think of state decision making as politics, and private decision making as just life.  But that kind of thinking makes us stupid because power is power.  And politics is decision making in any groups, at work and at home as much as in the halls of parliament or congress.  

And when there is great economic inequality, that means that there are some people who dominate the resources that other people need to live, which means that the people with the wealth have the power to make the people without the wealth do what they want all day long, in exchange for some food or shelter or some salary. 

That’s why your boss tells you what to do all day at work, because he owns a revenue generating business and you depend on that revenue to live.  You and Jeff Bezos each have one vote in your political system – if you’re a citizen – but bezos can tell tens of thousands of his employees what they have to do all day, and how to do it and how fast to do it – and he can make them literally piss and shit in bottles and diapers if that suits him.  

And that’s because economic inequality is power inequality, i.e. political inequality.  

Meanwhile the only people that you can boss around is your dog and your kids, because they’re economically dependent on you, just like you’re economically dependent on your boss.  

And wealth inequality also means inequality in terms of government decision making power as well.  

You and George Soros or Bill Gates or the Koch Brothers or Jeff Bezos – you all have one vote each, but all of those zillionaires can afford to hire an armies of lobbyists to work 24-7 to teach your representatives what to think and how to think.  And they can flood them with electoral campaign contributions to incentivize them to do what he want.  

Meanwhile all you can do is vote every few years, and maybe go to a town hall meeting every once in awhile, and ramble about things that you don’t really understand very well, and no one pays much attention to you.  

Third, equality of decision making power also implies that there are power hierarchies or no negative discrimination based on cultural categories, like race, gender, religion etc.  Because cultural discrimination translates into inequalities of decision making power.  

Like in a patriarchal society, men have more power by virtue of their status as men.  In a gerontocracy old people have more power based on their age etc. 

So, in anthropology, like in politics, when we talk about an egalitarian society, we’re talking about a society which has a high degree of equality of decison making power.  And that includes a high degree of economic equality, and a high degree of power equality between cultural categories like age and gender categories.

So in theory, a truly egalitarian society would be one where there are no authority figures, where men and women are equal and where there’s total economic equality. 

And as we’ll see, it turns out  that isn’t just theoretical, there are actually several societies that approach this type of equality – but for some insane reasons that we’ll explore about next episode, David Graeber spent his whole career pretending that these societies do not exist, and also pretending that 50 years of hunter gatherer studies that talk about these societies, never happened. 

And finally, keep in mind that whenever we talk about the political left and right, that the left refers to hierarchy and equality in terms of political power.  The left refers to those who support equality precisely in the ways that I just described – equality of decision making power, which implies cultural equality and economic equality.  And the political right refers to those that support hierarchies of power, which also implies economic inequality and also gender or age or other hierarchies.   

WHY HUNTER GATHERERS

So that’s equality – so now let’s look at hunter gatherer and hunter gatherer studies.    

First, what is a hunter gatherer and why does it matter what hunter gatherers do today or did in the past?  The definition of a hunter gather is sometimes in dispute, but most commonly it’s a negative definition – it’s subsistence level society where it’s members do not do any agriculture.  And that’s a broad category that includes all kinds of societies that sometimes have very little in common with eachother. Like there are nomadic super egaltiarian societies with few possessions that follow herds of animals around all year, and there are sedentary, territorial fishing societies with chiefs and and nobility and slaves and all sorts of societies in between.  

Now all human societies are interesting from the perspective of politics, and I can’t stress enough how if you’re interested in politics, you should be reading ethnographies of different societites – but hunter gatherers are especially interesting in this regard because modern human beings evolved into a species while we were hunter gatherers, and we spent the first 93-97% of our existence as hunter gatherers depending on how you count it.  

Hunting and gathering shaped who we are.  It’s shaped our bodies, and our minds, our desires, our proclivities and our political dispositions.  And many of the problems we have today are commonly seen as being the result of our hunter gatherer bodies and minds being not well adapted to our current lifestyles and environments.   

One non controversial example of this is our endless desire for sugar, salt and fat, which was adaptive in a foraging environment where those things were relatively rare and when we did so much more exercise, but which cause an epidemic of diabetes and heart disease where those things are plentiful and where we sit in front of computers or stand in front of cash registers all day.  

So people have a lot invested in how our hunter gatherer ancestors are and were organized because there’s an implication that if hunter gatherers do or did things a certain way, that this must be the way that we’re best adapted to live.  And many of our social ills are therefore the result of us deviating from our natural species being, the same way that being exposed to so much more sugar than in the palaeolithic era makes us sick today.  

Are we best adapted to be politically and economically egalitarian or are innately hierarchical?  Are humans cooperative or are we competitive?  Are we selfish or altruistic?  Are we monogamous or polygamous and polyamorous.  Is gender natural or is it just an artificial construct?  How much of us is “made” to be any particular way, and how much is determined by culture?   Or are we just a mess of contradictory desires and impulses that aren’t really perfectly adapted for anything at all, but which have worked well enough to survive in a variety of conditions?  These are the sorts of things that people are constantly looking into and debating about when it comes to hunter gatherer societies.

In trying to understand the conditions that we evolved in, we look at archaeology, but hunter gatherer societies don’t leave a lot for us to find that lasts for tens of thousands of years, so we also need to make inferences based on hunter gatherers from today and from recent times who can help us intepret what we find, and who are presumed to share many of the same conditions as our ancestors.   And then we end up with all of these debates about how much the hunter gatherers of recent times resemble or don’t resemble the hunter gatherers of palaeolithic times and how much the conditions of today do and don’t resemble the conditions of 20,000 and 200,000 years ago.

HISTORY OF HUNTER GATHERER STUDIES

Now until the 1960s, there were all sorts of assumptions about hunter gathers among anthropologists which were based on a mix of common popular misconceptions, and also on the work of some famous anthropologists like Alfred Radcliffe Browne and Claude Levi Strauss both of whom had worked among Australian Aborigines in the early 20th century.  

Like a lot of people think that if someone is running around in a grass skirt with a spear that this is a hunter gatherer or close enough – and even many anthropologists have assumed that we can infer things about our palaeolithic ancestors based on anyone that looks “primitive” but most people with grass skirts and spears in recent times are actually horticulturalists – small plot farmers.  Something which didn’t exist in the palaeolithic era and which has completely different incentives and social structure and belief systems than hunting and gathering usually does.  

So, based on all this stuff, it was often assumed that hunter gatherers were male dominated societies where women were basically slaves and babymakers.  

It was assumed that hunter gatherers were made up of bands of closely related males, with unrelated females marrying into the group, and that cooperation was based on advancing the interests of the people genetically closest to you. 

It was assumed that hunter gatherers were fiercely territorial and competed and warred frequently with neighbouring groups.  

It was assumed that most of their food came from male hunting and that female gathering and hunting were relatively unimportant.  

It was assumed that existing hunter gatherer life was a nasty brutish and short, eternal hungry search for food, and that the worlds remaining hunter gatherers were the ones who were too stupid to figure out awesome efficient agriculture, or who were unlucky enough to be stuck in territories unsuited for agriculture.  

And particularly in the popular imagination it was assumed that there were chiefs and priests telling everyone what to do and what to think and to be afraid of powerful vengeful gods. 

MAN THE HUNTER

But then in 1966 there was the first big conference of hunter gatherer specialists from cultural anthropology and archaeology, called the Man the Hunter conference.  And that conference, which established the modern field of huntergather studies, and the research that came after it, completely upended all of these assumptions.  

While there was a variety of different kinds of hunter gather societies, living in all sorts of different circumstances, it turned out that hunter gathers are usually better nourished and healthier than their farmer neighbours.  They usually work less hours and less intensively than farmers do, and the work they do is usually more diverse and more enjoyable.  

Meanwhile archaeological finds showed that prehistoric peoples’ health almost invariably got much worse once they switched from hunting and gathering to agriculture.  And in many places the health of the general population never matches or surpasses hunter gatherer health until the 19th century, except among small urban elites.  

And hunter gatherers weren’t hunter gatherers because they were too stupid to invent or adopt agriculture, or because they lived in conditions that were too harsh for agriculture.  Most of them are well aware of agricultural techniques, but purposefully avoid agriculture as an unpleasant and undignified way to live.  

So for example, archaeology showed that huge parts of north america were perfect for agriculture, yet people stuck with hunting and gathering for 10,000 years.   

In terms of gender relations, far from being male dominated, women in most hunter gather societies tended to have a much higher degree of autonomy and freedom than their farmer or pastoralist counterparts – and several hunter gatherer societies turned out to be the most gender egalitarian societies that we’ve ever known, which we’ll get back to in a bit.    

Surprisingly it turns out that many hunter gatherers are not organized into bands of closely related members, but rather into bands of largely unrelated members that are always coming and going, kind of like a modern urban neighbourhood. 

It was also remarked that many hunter gathers societies are not territorial at all, and that they seem to engage in very little if any intergroup warfare.

Many hunter gatherer societies turned out to have no chiefs, no big men, no religious or patriarchical authorities nor any authorities of any kind.  

And most hunter gatherers don’t worship their ancestors, they aren’t too concerned with their lineage, and and they often have very loose religious beliefs, again kind of like urban people. 

And it turned out that many hunter gatherer societies strictly enforced economic equality via all sorts of interesting methods and institutions.  From social pressure to gambling to sharing on demand to explicit sharing rules.  Competition, grandstanding and status seeking are extreme social taboos in many of these societies, with the best hunters often ritually prevented from gaining status, wealth or power for their skills.  

In these societies, Men, women, and children alike enjoyed a life of material equality and personal freedom that had been considered impossible according to the prevailing cold war era ideology, where freedom and equality were presented as mutually exclusive propositions. 

In particular the kalahari bushmen cultures and the central african rainforest pygmy cultures and the Hadza in Tanzania were described as examples of the type of libertarian communism that socialists had been dreaming of since the early 19th century.  

And in terms of political implications of this research, to paraphrase anthropologist Robert Kelly, these societies were seen not just seen as a model of what our ancestors were like, but also as a model to emulate for our future.  

*“Increasingly dissatisfied, many rejected the materialism of Western society and searched for an alternative way of life in which material possessions meant little, people lived in harmony with nature, and there were no national boundaries to contest. It was the context for John Lennon’s song, Imagine, and for the numerous hippie communes. Hunting and gathering had kept humanity alive for 99 percent of its history; what could we learn from it?”

In the late 1970s and early 80s James Woodburn, who did his field work among the Hadza people in Tanzania, noticed that there was one category of hunter gatherer societies which stood out not only from other hunter gatherers, but from all other known human societies.  

These were the super egalitarian societies that I mentioned earlier, where there’s no political or religious authority, where men and women are as equal as anywhere on earth, and where personal liberty coexists with strictly enforced economic equality.   

“Unlike almost all other human societies, people – men, women and older children alike – are entitled to direct and immediate access to the un-garnered food and other resources of their country. These rights of access are not formally allocated to them and cannot be withdrawn from them. Neither parents nor other kin provide, control or direct access. … These open rights of access  to  material resources are matched by open access to secular knowledge and skills

For members of these societies one might almost say that the notion of property as  theft is not a novel revolutionary ideology but an implicit everyday view of the world”

Woodburn noticed that without exception, all of the societies who had all of these remarkable egalitarian characterstics all practiced the same type of hunting and gathering economy – which also happens to be the simplest type of economy – which means that it also happens to be the economy that was practiced by our first ancestors – where people are nomadic following animals around, and more or less less acquiring food and then eating in within the next few days without processing it or storing it in any elaborate way.  

Woodburn called this an “immediate return” economy, where you produce and the consume right away, as opposed to the “delayed return” economies practiced by every other culture in the world, where you produce now and consume later. 

Starting with his 1982 article, Egalitarian Societies, Woodburn hypothesized about why it is that every single society that’s so egalitarian and autonomous happens to practice an immediate return economy? And he points out that inherent in the practical realities of that type of nomadic hunting and gathering, is the fact that there’s just no real way to dominate anyone.  

No one can control any particular territory or important resources, so there’s no way to force people into the dependence relationships that political hierarchies are mostly based on.  If anyone tries to bully you, you can just go off an join another camp.  If any one tries to monopolize some resources, you can just go somewhere else and get similar resources yourself.  

And importantly, since everyone has access to projectile weapons and poisons, if anyone really gets out of line with domineering or anti social behaviour, they can just be killed or exiled, which is a big disincentive to even try. 

In 1999 Christopher Boehm in his important book Hierarchy in the Forest called this “reverse dominance” where the majority of people together to prevent anyone from becoming dominant.  And according to Boehm this has all sorts of evolutionary implications, because our ancestors killed off all the aggressive alpha male types which led to all sorts of physical and dispositional changes over tome.  

In other words the balance of power is relatively equal between all members of society.  Any person or coalition who tries to dominate others will inevitably fail.  All they can do is cause chaos and then get killed.  And that’s why you develop cultural values to prevent that chaos, to stabilize the system.  That’s not Woordburn talking that’s my original contribution to this body of work, which I’ll elaborate on another episode. 

Note that this is not a utopian argument.  No one is saying that immediate return foragers are magical unicorn people who don’t have competitiveness or dominance instincts.  And no one is saying that they’re innocent children who don’t know the sins of civilization.  It’s just that the conditions that they live in and institutions they have developed in order to adapt to those conditions, prevent a lot of the social ills that we take granted from from happening very frequently.  

Interestingly, game theory studies have shown that immediate return hunter gatherers, actually behave more selfishly when their actions are anonymous and their identities are secret than people from other cultures do!  And that’s because they have such strict obligations to share everything on demand.  

For example when musicologist Michelle Kisliuk casually gave a slice of tomato to an aka man sitting next to her, he immediately looked around, and then cut it into 16 tiny pieces and gave one to every person in sight.

So when people who have sharing norms like that get some privacy they just want to eat the whole damned tomato by themselves!


EVOLUTION OF THE WORD EGALITARIAN

Now before the Woodburn articles and before Man the Hunter and the subsequent focus on these hyper egalitarian immediate return societies, the term “egalitarian society” was often used to describe societies that still had significant elements of hierarchy.  

For example, the Nuer who are a traditionally pastoralist people of southern sudan were usually described as an egalitarian society because they have no chiefs, and they are egalitarian in terms of there being equal political authority between men.  But at the same time, they also have clear gender hierarchy and some wealth inequality.  

Or else people would talk about the nations of the Haudenosaunee confederation in north america as being egalitarian because they had a lot of economic equality and gender equality, even though they also had a significant degree of political inequality and  gerontocracy. 

But, since the 1980’s, when anthropologists talk about an “Egalitarian society” or “egalitarian hunter gathers”, they’re usually talking about those hyper egalitarian immediate return hunter gatherer societies that i’ve been talking about.  Because even if you accept the arguments made by critics about how their egalitarianism is exaggerated, those are still the most egalitarian societies known to exist in just about every respect. 

HUNTER GATHERERS AND THE LEFT

Needless to say, these developments in hunter gatherer studies have had an important impact on leftist politics, at least among people who know about them. And of course, not enough people know about them, because we wouldn’t expect our elite educational or media institutions to really publicize too strongly that free and equal societies are actually possible or actually exist!

Most anthropologists who study immediate return societies have left wing commitments of one sort or another.  Richard Lee, maybe the most famous hunter gatherer anthropologist who wrote about the Kalahari bush people is a marxist anthropologist and political socialist, and he was explicitly writing about the implications of hunter gatherer egalitarianism on the prospects for egaltarianism in industrial civilization.  Most other people working in that field are also very interested in human equality even if they’re not as explicitly political about it.  

And there’s a whole anarcho primitivist movement that spring up in the 1990s based on this anthropology – which honestly is a pretty ridiculous, because you’d need 95% of the world’s population to die in order to live as immediate return hunter gatherers.

More recently there’s a Radical Anthropology Group in the UK that’s been around since the early 2000s made up of people liek Jerome Lewis, Camilla Power, Morna Finnegan and Chris Knight who are communists who have been doing a lot of amazing work about immediate return foragers – about the dynamics of their egalitarian ideology and how gender equality is maintained, and their religious beliefs – I strongly suggest you check out their work – I’ll put some links in the bio – and as I was writing this I was contacted by Camilla Power and Chris Knight and they will be appearing on my show very soon, so look out for that, very excited about it!  

And it’s worth noting that in almost all of the debates that have happened about egalitarian hunter gatherers over the last 50 years, it’s almost always people who haven’t lived with these societies who argue that their egalitarianism is an exaggeration or that it’s not real, or that it’s the result of extreme poverty and circumscription, and it’s always the people who know them the best who argue that yes they are really egalitarian and by choice. 

But ironically, one place on the left of anthropology where you won’t find anything at all about these perfectly functional anarcho communist societies is the one place you would most expect to find something about them – and that is in the works of the anarchist anthropologist and activist David Graeber!  

DAVID GRAEBER IS WACK ON EQUALITY

When I was a wee lad and in university I was soo excited when I discovered David Graeber.  An anarchist anthropologist and activist!  Like a Noam Chomsky of anthropology! And he was a great and original writer who was writing all sorts of amazing stuff of debt and on manners and hierarchy, and I couldn’t wait to see what he had to say about egalitarian hunter gatherer societies!

But if you look through Graeber’s bibliography, like I did when I first learned about him – I don’t think he mentions a single immediate return society one single time.

And then I noticed that whenever he did mention a society as being “egalitarian”, it would never be an actual egalitarian society – it would always be a society with significant forms of hierarchy.  

So like in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology there’s a short section when he discusses three supposedly egalitarian societies the Piaroa, the Tiv and Malagasy cultures, and he describes a bit about them, and his takeaway is that they aren’t really egalitarian.  

None of these societies are entirely egalitarian: there are always certain key forms of dominance, at least of men over women, elders over juniors.

And this is totally true about those three particular societies. The Piaroa which are the most egalitarian of that bunch, have positions of authority that are all dominated by men.  The Tiv have very clear patriarchy and gerontocracy, and the Malagasy are not really egaltiarian at all – they have all kinds of class and wealth distinctions, cultural hierarchies and discrimination, gender. 

The clear implication is there’s no such thing as an actual egalitarian society, there’s always a significant form of hierarchy in every society.   

Reading this stuff I kept wondering – does he just not know about immediate return societies?  How could he not?

And then in 2015 Graeber and Wengrow published Farewell to the Childhood of Man – the first preview of Dawn of Everything, where they argue that humans were always going back and forth from hierarchy to equality, and that to claim that people used to be egalitarian is to claim that they’re children without agency.  

And then in 2017 Graeber published On Kings, co-written with Marshal Sahlins.  And in it, Graeber and Sahlins try to argue that even the most supposedly egalitarian societies have hierarchical religions and cosmologies where the gods rule the humans who must obey or face their wrath… 

And they go as far as to say that the true primordial state of humanity is authoritarianism not liberty or equality!  

Even the so-called “egalitarian” or “acephalous” societies, including hunters such as  the Inuit or Australian Aboriginals, are in structure and practice cosmic polities, ordered and governed by divinities, the dead, species-masters, and other such meta-persons endowed with life-and-death powers over the human population. There are kingly beings in heaven where there are no chiefs on earth.

Although Chewong society is described as classically “egalitarian,” it is in practice coercively ruled by a host of cosmic authorities, themselves of human character and metahuman powers. 

So  while,  on  one  hand,  Howell  characterizes  the  Chewong  as  having “no social or political hierarchy” or “leaders of any kind,” on the other, she describesa human community encompassed and dominated by potent metapersons with powers to impose rules and render justice that would be the envy of kings. 

…basically  similar  cosmologies  are  found  among  basically  similar societies  .. .  the  Central Inuit; …, Highland New Guineans, Australian Aboriginals, native Amazonians,  and  other “egalitarian”  peoples  likewise  dominated  by  metaper-son-others who vastly outnumber them. 

and later on Graeber alone says 

In  the  first  chapter  of  this  volume,  Marshall  Sahlins  makes  the  argument that insofar as there is a primordial political state, it is authoritarianism. Most hunter-gatherers actually do see themselves as living under a state-like regime, even under terrifying despots; it’s just that since we see their rulers as imaginary creatures, as gods and spirits and not actual flesh-and-blood rulers, we do not recognize them as “real.” But they’re real enough for those who live under them. We need to look for the origins of liberty, then, in a primal revolt against such authorities. 

Again, not one of the societies discussed in this entire book are immediate return egalitarian societies.  There are no immediate return societies in the amazon or in Papua New Guinea.  All the societies he talks about have some sort of obvious hierarchy right here on earth, usually male domination.  The Chewong and Highland New Guineans discussed above are not even hunter gatherers.

It’s like Graeber and Sahlins were writing in the 1970s when these societies would have been considered egalitarian, except this was 2017.  

And more shocking, is that what they’re saying just isn’t true. If you look at the religions of actual egalitarian societies, central african foragers like the mbuti, aka, efe and mbendjele, the bush people of the kalahari desert, the Hadza in Tanzania, the Batek in Malaysia, or the Nayaka in the mountainous forests of India and various societies related to these societies, you’d see that their religions don’t fit Graeber and Sahlins’ narrative at all.  

For example, the Mbuti and the Nayaka – these are two totally unrelated immediate return societies located more 4000 miles apart on different continents.  They each have a very similar religion where they see their respective forests as a generous genderless loving mother father deity who provides everything for their children.  Far from quaking in fear of it, Turnbull tells the story of one Mbuti man who was literally having sex with the forest bceause he loved it so much.  And the forest never tells anyone what to do besides just respect and maintain the forest, don’t overhunt the animals, don’t use up more than you can replenish etc.  

Meanwhile, the Hadza have been argued to not have a religion, which I don’t think is correct, but they certainly don’t have any Gods that they take very seriously.  If you ask a Hadza what happens after you die they will say stuff like “we bury you and people cry” and if you keep pushing them they say things like “maybe you go to the sun, we don’t really know”.  They see their gods as legends and stories not as any sort of authoritarian figures.  It’s very modern in a weird way, which I don’t think is a coincidence, and we’ll talk about that another time

I’ll link to an article about Hadza religion, and also to a recent video by some safari bro dude who asks some Hadza philosophical questions and then gets the most material, unreligious answers you can imagine, and that’s a lot of fun.  

Meanwhile, the Kalahari bush people have a trickster type of god that they often complain about but again it never tells them what to do, it just causes random bad luck, which they resent.  And far from a hierarchical relationship to this god, they see themselves as equals to it, as they do to all their deiteies!  l’ll link to a video of Helga Vierich telling a funny story about this, where they tell stories about their god like he’s some sort of mr magoo character getting himself into all sorts of goofs. 

Now you can certainly make an argument that there’s no such thing as a truly egalitarian society, and that all societies have some elements of hierarchy in them. But if you’re going to make that argument properly and honestly, you would take the most egalitarian societies and then try to point out that inequalities of wealth and power and ideology that exist there.  

And there are some arguable signs of potential inequalities worth looking into and debating about in immediate return hunter gatherer societies – and several anthropologists have done just that.  But not Graeber.  He acts like they’ve never existed.  

If you’re familiar with hunter gatherer literature, It’s so conspicuous that it seems dishonest.  What he does is the equivalent of arguing that there are no countries on earth where men and women have equal legal rights, and then citing Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, 17th century France and the old Testament as proof.   It’s like he’s counting on the fact that his readers don’t know anything about immediate return societies so he can push his narrative.  

WHY??

Now the big questions here is Why?  Why would a left wing anarchist anthropologist with commitments to all sorts of legitimate and serious left wing causes and organizations want to pretend that the most anarcho communist societies ever known do not exist?  Why would he sign off on the idea that the true primordial state of humanity is authoritarianism??  And how is it that Unabomber has literally done a more thorough and honest job of arguing that egaltiarian societies don’t exist than David Graeber has!

I’ll answer that question, next episode when we read How to Change the Course of Human History, but now, we finally have the background that we need in order to be able to intelligently judge the conclusion of The Wisdom of Kandiaronk that we glossed over last time, so let’s get to it, and let the cartoon begin!

*** 

THE END OF KANDIARONK

So the entire conclusion of Wisdom of Kandiaronk is basically a call for rejecting the whole idea of equality.  

Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ were the rallying cries of the French Revolution [62]. Today, there are whole disciplines, sub-branches of philosophy and political science and legal studies, which make equality their raw material. Equality is almost universally recognized as a value, despite the almost total absence of consensus on what the term actually refers to. Equality of opportunity? Equality of condition? Formal equality before the law?

Well if Graeber RIP and Wengrow had only listened to this podcast they would know that equality refers to equality of decision making power. 

Similarly, societies such as the Mi’kmaq, Algonquin or 17th century Wendat are regularly referred to as ‘egalitarian societies’ – or, alternatively, ‘bands’ or ‘tribal’ societies, which are generally assumed to mean the same thing. 

Oof – so two major problems in this one sentence.  As always, Graeber is ignoring the most egaltiarian societies and then focusing on societies that have clear signs of hierarchy in order to argue that equality doesn’t exist.   

So the Mikmaq, Algonquin or 17th century Wendat would have been referred to as egalitarian societies before the 1970s – but not an anymore.   

And to be clear, you will still see some people referring to societies like these as egalitarian if they’re comparing them to our society, because they’re significantly egalitarian, compared to us, but Graeber and Wengrow should know better.  The Mikmaq had a degree of patriarchy and the Algonquin and Wendat had a degree of political hierarchy all beyond what you find in egalitarian immediate return societies.  

Now the next part of the sentence really surprised me.  Bands and Tribal societies are assumed to mean the same thing?  By who?  Homer Simpson or Fred Flintstone?  No anthropologist thinks this.  

A band is a group of people who travel around together – like a music band!  Membership in a band is determined by who’s present when you’re counting.  If you’re not present, then you’re not part of the band.  Most, but not all hunter gatherers are organized into bands, and the membership of those bands is usually pretty fluid.  People are coming and going all the time, visiting friends and relatives, getting away from their enemies or their spouses, leaving one band and joining another. And as a result bands are most often made up of largely unrelated people, which has interesting evolutionary implications which we’ll talk about another time. 

A tribe on the other hand is an entirely different shebang.  A tribe is a descent group.  You’re born into a tribe.  If you go off and live somewhere else, you’re still part of your tribe.

A larger tribe is usually made up of clans which are made up of lineages, which are made up of nuclear families, which is why in more recent times anthropologists will refer to tribal societies as segmented lineage societies – because each unit is made up of larger segements, and also because the word tribe has a bit of a confused definition because colonial governments used to invent “tribes” in order to make it easier to govern and those tribes didn’t really have any organic existence.  

Ordinary people, like Fred Flintstone and Homer Simpson, will often erroneously use the word tribe to mean an ethnic group – people who have the same language and general culture – but one ethnic group can have multiple tribes – like think of the 12 tribes of ancient israel, or current various tribes of afghans or kurds.  

Now the whole reason that a traditional, tribal system exists is because it’s a way of dealing with collective property.  If your subsistence depends on a particular fishing territory or farming territory or a herd of animals, then a descent group like a clan or tribe is a way to have clear ownership rules, and to have a group that can collectively defend the territory.  

So if you see a tribal system of organization you know that this society has collective property to manage, whether it’s a hunting territory like the Mikmaq, a farming territory like the Huron a fishing territory like the Tlingit, or a herd of animals like the Nuer. 

An anthropologist not knowing the difference between a tribe and band is like an architect not knowing the difference between a house and an apartment building.  It’s ridiculous.  

OK, back to Graeber and Wengrow:

It is never clear what the term equality is supposed to refer to. Is it an ideology, the belief that everyone should be the same – obviously not in all ways, but in some ways that are considered particularly important? Or should it be a situation in which people are really the same? And if the latter, should it mean that an egalitarian ideal that characterizes this particular society is in fact largely realized, so that all members of society can be said to have equal access to land, or to treat each other with equal dignity, or to be equally free to make their opinions known in public assemblies? Or can it be a measure imposed by the observer: monetary income, political power, caloric intake, size of house, number and quality of personal possessions? 

I bet that if Graeber and Wengrow had spent like 20% of the energy that it took to think up all these goofy examples and put that energy into trying to think about what equality should mean if you want to have a coherent politics, especially a coherent left politics, they would have easily figured out that it means equality of power, point final  

Would equality mean the erasure of the individual or the celebration of the individual? (After all, a society in which everyone was exactly the same, and they were all so different that there was no criterion for saying that one was superior to the other, would seem both ‘egalitarian’ to an outside observer.) 

yibbedeyabbedeyibbedy – well, if you know that equality means equal power, then you can figure out pretty easily that it means the celebration of the individual.  Because no matter who you are, how big or small, ugly or good looking, strong or weak, how much or how little or how much you contribute to society, you matter, your say matters as much as everyone else’s.  

And when we look at immediate return societies that’s what we see.  You can be weird, and contradict gender roles, you can be ugly, you can be gay – and people don’t judge you for it.  People are only judged negatively only insofar as they disrupt, disturb or threaten the equal power of everyone else.  

Can we talk about equality in a society where the elders are treated as gods and make all the important decisions, if everyone in that society who survives past, say, fifty years becomes an elder? 

No, you can’t because that’s not equality, that’s a weird kind of gerontocracy that does’t exist.  And note to the editor – humanities writing is usually way better when you use real examples to illustrated things vs nonsense examples…

What about gender relations? Many so-called ‘egalitarian’ societies are really only egalitarian between adult men. Sometimes the relationships between men and women in these societies are anything but equal. 

Yes, that’s exactly right – if you’re writing this from 1970.  That’s why we don’t usually call patriarchal societies egalitarian anymore unless we’re comparing them to much more hierarchical societies.  Today you’d call a society like that “male egalitarian”.   Left wing anthropologists should know this.  

Other cases are more ambiguous. It may be that men and women in a given society not only do different jobs, but have different theories of what is important, so that they both tend to think that the other’s main concerns (cooking, hunting, child care, war…) are insignificant or so profoundly different that it makes no sense to compare them at all. Many of the societies encountered by the French in North America fit this description. They may be considered matriarchal from one point of view, patriarchal from another. [63] In such cases, can we speak of equality between the sexes? 

So if Graeber and Wengrow knew anything about hunter gatherers, I would think that maybe this was a reference to some debates that were had in the aftermath of Man the Hunter, and that you still have today, where some people argue that the very fact that there are general gender roles in immediate return foraging societies, is proof of male dominance.  

Hunter gatherer experts usually reply that yes there are gender roles, but they’re not enforced or policed in any way.  Men and women do eachther’s work when it’s convenient or necessary without any stigma, and often aren’t interested in doing the other gender’s work.  The video i’ll post from Helga Vierich on this is pretty interesting and fun so check that out.  

And then the thing about societies that seem patriarchal from one angle and then matriarchal from another is probably a reference to societies like the haudenosaunee in north america, where women monopolized all of the positions of authority at the local level, but it’s only men who got to vote on broad public affairs beyond the clan level.  And the chief of the tribe is always a man, though he’s elected by the exclusively female clan mothers who can always recall him.  

Now you can debate on whether societies like the Haudenosaunee are gender egalitarian or not – but they are not egalitarian societies – at least not to the level of immediate return societies – because you do have positions of authority to begin with – clan mother, chief, head of the household, gerontocracy. 

Or could we do so only if men and women were equally equal according to some minimal external criteria: to be equally free from the threat of domestic violence, for example, or to have equal access to resources, or to have a say in common affairs?

Equal say in common affairs!  Hello, i’m right here!!

Now this is just bad writing on op of being about more non existent hypotheticals – equally free from the threat of domestic violence?   Interestingly, I think Frank Marlowe talks about how he’s never seen an Aka man hit his wife but he has seen an Aka woman hit her husband a bunch of times.. 

But regardless – I can’t help but notice how they can say equal when it comes to equal access to resources and they say equal when it comes to the threat of domestic violence, but that they can’t bring themselves to say an equal when it comes to an equal say in common affairs, which is the definition of political equality.   

Is that freudian thing on their part, or am i just seeing conspiracies everywere beacuse i’m so fed up with this crap?  

Since there is no clear and generally accepted answer to any of these questions, the use of the term ‘equal’ has led to endless arguments. In fact, it is still unclear what the term ‘egalitarian’ means. 

Let me just interject here again, because I want to point out how completely insane it is that we live in a society where a left wing anarchist political activist with proper bona fides like Graeber does not know what egalitarian means, especially when commitment to equality is literally the defining trait of the left.  

This is a testement to how impovrished and confused our political theory is and to how important it is to do what i’m doing in this series, cleaning up the definitions of political terms, rebuilding our political alphabet from the ground up. 

And actually before all you Marxists get smug about how these foolish anarchists don’t know any theory, Graeber was in good company – good old papa smurf himself Karl Marx and MC Freddy Engels actually made similar arguments back in their day.

But they had a better excuse – in Marx’ day, the word equality was most often used to describe “procedural equality,” i.e. equality before the law, where the same rules apply to you if you’re from the nobility or a bourgeois or a farmers or a labourer – as opposed to before the french revolution where separate rules applied.  

And on the left liberal side, equality was used to describe universal male suffrage in a capitalist economy – where every man gets an equal vote, even though the wealthy still have all the power via owning the means of production and funding the political system.  

So Marx didn’t like the word equality because he wanted to make sure that the focus was on the abolition of classes instead of on procedural equality 

But if you watch this podcast where political terms get proper definitions and where political theory actually makes sense, you know that actual equality clearly implies the abolition of classes because wealth is power – see episode 3 for example.  

For his part Engels must have been listening to my podcast because he does use the word equality – he makes the criticisms as Marx but he would make sure to endorse “real equality” as opposed to “bourgeois equality”.  

So back to Graeber and Wengroats:

Ultimately, the term [equality] is not used because it has positive substance, but rather for the same reason that sixteenth-century natural law theorists speculated about equality in the state of nature: 

The term ‘equality’ is a default term, referring to that kind of protoplasmic mass of humanity that is imagined to be left over when all the trappings of civilization are stripped away. The ‘egalitarian’ people are those who have no princes, judges, overseers or hereditary priests, and are generally without cities or scriptures. They are societies of equals only in the sense that all the most obvious signs of inequality are missing.

So what they’re doing here is saying that like Rousseau’s vision of equality was two dimensional because it’s just not anything real, it’s a caricature, or marx talks about a future where everyone’s free and equal but he never elaborates or goes into any detail because at the end of the day equality isn’t real, we’re never supposed to get there. 

And this is some straight up bullshit, and it should be embarassing to the authors.  

If unlike Graeber and Wengrow you take the time read any actual ethnographies or articles by people who have spent time with real egalitarian societies you’ll see that writers constantly talk about how pro-active and deliberate their egaltiarianism is.  

You can read endless anecdotes and quantitative studies on how thoroughly demand sharing is enforced – again, think of that man cutting a tomato slice into 16 tiny pieces to give one to everyone in sight.  Because if he didn’t he would get in huge social trouble.  

And you can read countless stories about how anyone who seems to be accumulating too much prestige or power is seen as a threat to be actively dealt with via various cultural mechanisms, from anonymous public criticism to joking to shaming to excommunication and even execution. 

There’s the famous story about shaming the meat that I talked about in episode 6 among the Kalahari people, or more recently Jerome Lewis talks about how a very excellent hunter among the Mbendjele was run out of his local area by the women’s organization because he refused to stop boasting about his skills.  

And they did this despite the fact that he brought home an enormous amount of meat which was obviously to everyone’s material advantage, and these are people who prize meat above all foods and who love food almost more than anything.  Again I’ll link to the article in the notes. 

It follows that any historical work that purports to investigate the origins of social inequality is in reality an investigation into the origins of civilization; a work that in turn implies a vision of history that, like Turgot’s, conceives of civilization as a system of social complexity that guarantees greater overall prosperity, but at the same time guarantees that certain compromises will necessarily have to be made in the area of freedoms and rights. We are trying to tell a different story.

Yeah a bullshit story that you guys invented.  Again this is incredibly insulting garbage, and this paragraph has two big false or foolish statements.  

First of all, investigating the origins of hierarchy is not about civilization – it’s about the origins of hierarchy.  Why do men dominate women in so many societies.  Why is there so much racism.  Why do religious groups dominate and exclude and kill eachother.  Why did slavery happen?  

All of these things happened thousands of years before civilization ever developped.  Is it part of our nature?  Is it circumstance?  Is there anything we can do to about it?  

If anything an inquiry into the origins of hierarchy is about human nature and about the future.  

Next, and this is the truly obnoxious part – Graeber and Wengrow are saying that anyone investigating the origins of hierarchy is ultimately arguing that the hierarchies and inequalities of civilization are a necessary price for all the blessings of civilization.  

This is an insult to 50 years of hunter gatherer studies.  Yes, you can find some authors doing this – or one author – Francis Fukuyama is maybe the only one I can think of, maybe there are other non experts who do this.  

But most of the people interested in the origins of hierarchy, especially if they’re deep into hunter gatherer studies are precisely interested in how we can get rid of hierarchies.  How do our hunter gatherer brothers and sisters live without hierarchy?  What lessons can we learn from them to be applied to industrial civilization?  

Ironically, in an introduction to a new edition of Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, David Graeber quotes Kropotkin, saying 

Radical scholars are “bound to enter a minute analysis of the thousands of facts and faint indications accidentally preserved in the relics of the past; to interpret them with the aid of contemporary ethnology; and after having heard so much about what used to divide men, to reconstruct stone by stone the institutions which used to unite them.”

The only viable alternative to capitalist barbarism is stateless socialism, a product, as the great geographer never ceased to remind us, “of tendencies that are apparent now in the society” and that were “always, in some sense, imminent in the present.” 

But this is exactly what Graeber and Wengrow are throwing out the window with this Dawn of Humanity book.  You have all of this literature about all of these stateless socialist societies, which can teach us so much about where equality comes from, and about how we can create an order that preserves both equality and liberty at the same time just like they do – but instead Graeber and Wengrow are intent on pretending that these societies don’t exist, and that the literature about them is actually some kind of conspiracy to justify the hierarchies of our day!  

And they continue: 

It is not that we consider it unimportant or uninteresting that princes, judges, overseers or hereditary priests – or for that matter writing and cities – emerged only at some point in human history. On the contrary: to understand our present predicament as a species, it is absolutely crucial to understand how these things came about. However, we also insist that, to do so, we must reject the idea of treating our distant ancestors as some kind of primordial human soup. 

To say that all of the anthropologists who have been doing so much amazing and important writing and reserach about immedate return foragers are treating them as primordial human soup is a complete insult to those authors.

It’s also a complete insult to the people they write about, and it’s also a complete insult to the intelligence of all the people who have ever read those works. 

And I urge you to read that literature, not just to dispite Graeber and Wengrow, but so you can see for yourself how human beings like you and I with all our shitty flaws our selfishness our weaknesses, our pettiness and stupidities can nonetheless manage to live in and maintain a free and egalitarian order, not in utopia, but in this world full of injustice and brutality, so much of which simply does not need to exist and which does not exist in many societies.

Accumulating evidence from archaeology, anthropology, and related fields suggests that, like the Native Americans or the eighteenth-century French, our distant ancestors had very specific ideas about what was important in their societies, that these varied considerably over the thirty thousand years or so between the beginning of the Ice Age and the dawn of the civilization we call home, and that describing them in terms of uniform ‘egalitarianism’ tells us almost nothing about them. 

This is a strawment statement that doesn’t mean anything.  No one has ever said that every society only valued egalitarianism until civilization showed up and then people suddenly had complex lives.  Societies started switching away from egalitarianism long before civilization – though by Graeber and Wengrow’s definition, egalitarianism seams to mean that if you run around in a grass skirt, and there’s no state you’re somehow egalitarian, which is why they think the term doesn’t mean anything.  

ANd if you read the hunter gatherer literature you’ll see that these are complex people with emotions and conflicts and jealousies and everything that we have, except their worst emotions and impulses tend to be held in check in ways that we fail to do. 

There is no doubt that there was generally some degree of equality by default: a presumption that humans are all equally powerless against the gods; or a strong sense that no one’s will should be permanently subordinated to another’s. It would probably have been necessary to ensure that hereditary princes, judges, overseers or priests did not appear for such a long time.

No, not equally powerless against the Gods, that is not a feature of our most egalitarian societies, despite what Graeber and Wengrow and Marshall Sahlins for some reason want us to believe.  But yes, a strong sense that no one’s will should be subordinated to another’s – that is the essence of egalitarianism, and a core feature of egalitarian societies and it is the core principle of the left and of anarchism in particular, which makes it even more ridiculous that Graeber is doing his best to deny it.  

But self-conscious ideologies of ‘equality’, that is, those that present equality as an explicit value, as opposed to an ideology of freedom, dignity or participation that applies equally to all, seem to have been relatively recent in history. 

Again, you need to be ignorant of 50 years of hunter gatherer research to think this.  Read Richard Lee on shaming the meat, or Jerome Lewis on the exile of Benasongo the boastful hunter.  THe commitment to equality is so strict that when Hadza for example have disputes that need mediation, they have to go get someone from one of the neighbouring non Hadza communities to do it, because they idea that a fellow Hadza can sit above the others to arbitrate or mediate is seen as unacceptanble!  

There’s no reason to think that the Kalahari bushmen or the Central african forest pygmies or Hadza made this stuff up in relative recent history, and to say that Europeans made this up in the 18th century is just obnoxious. 

Even when they do emerge, these ideologies rarely apply to everyone. The ancient Athenian democracy, for example, was based on political equality among its citizens – even if they represented only 10 to 20 per cent of the total population – in the sense that everyone had equal rights to participate in public decisions. We are taught to see this as a milestone in political evolution, as we consider that this older notion of equal civic participation was revived and expanded, some two thousand years later, at the time of the French and American revolutions. This is a dubious proposition: the political systems referred to as ‘democracies’ in nineteenth-century Europe have almost nothing to do with ancient Athens, but that is not really the point. Athenian intellectuals of the time, who were mostly of aristocratic origin, tended to regard the whole arrangement as a sordid affair and much preferred the government of Sparta, which was run by an even smaller percentage of the total population, who lived collectively off the labors of the serfs. The Spartan citizens referred to themselves as the Homoioioi, which could be translated as ‘the equals’ or ‘those who are all the same’; they all underwent the same rigorous military training, adopted the same haughty disdain for both effeminate luxury and individual idiosyncrasies, ate in communal halls, and spent most of their lives practicing warfare.

Again, all this is interesting, and great critique of the use of the word “egalitarian” in the 1970s and before, but the fact that they’re saying this stuff now while ignoring 50 years of hunter gatherer research in order to discredit the idea of egalitarianism is completely idiotic and also completely insane coming from two left wing anthropologists.  

And the dynamics of societies like athens or sparta where have a community of equals ruling over others is super interesting and we’ll talk about it in the future.  

So this is not a book about the origins of inequality. 

Well then what the hell is this book about?  They just punted on one of the biggest questions of all humanity!  

And we’ll see next time that they’re going to end up arguing that we’ve always had inequality, humans were always shifting between hierarchy and equality, even though equality doesn’t exist anyways, but then something caused us to have more inequality… but somehow equality does exist for Graeber and Wengrow when they start talking about egalitarian cities and civilizations!  Which is actually the good part of their book which I recommend you read because it’s fascinating. 

But back to Graeber and Wengrow:

But it does aim to answer many of the same questions in a different way. There is no doubt that something has gone terribly wrong in the world. A very small percentage of its population controls the destiny of almost everyone else, and it is behaving in increasingly disastrous ways. To understand how this situation came about, we have to go back to what made possible the emergence of kings, priests, overseers and judges. But we no longer have the luxury of assuming that we already know exactly what it was. Drawing on indigenous critics like Kandiaronk, we must approach the historical, archaeological, and ethnographic record with fresh eyes.

More like fresh eyerolls…

My pancreas hurts reading this.  Yes we do know how this situation came about.  It came about because conditions on earth changed over time, such that some people were able dominate others in ways that hadn’t been possible earlier.  And we’ll talk about that next time when we finally do How to Change the Course of Human History, one of my least favourite pieces of anthropology that I’ve ever read!

And by then the full book will be out, and maybe I’ll do a follow up if there any surprises in there…

In the meantime, please tell other people about this show, it’s really hard to get the word out in this algorythm ruled, supersaturated podcast landcape, especially for a show that doesn’t have a ready made teenage sectarian political niche, so spread the word share the epsiodes – 

and speaking of which I want to give a special thank you to Saint Andrew – not the apostle, but the youtubesman from Trinidad who posted one of my episodes on his channel and on his tweeters.  I’ve gotten more views and subscribers and great comments and questions than I’ve ever had in such a short period of time thanks to that, and I checked out his videos and they’re great, dealing with a lot of the same questions that I’m dealing with, so that you andrew, and check out his channel called saintandrewism.  

Also a shout out to Tom Obrien host of Alpha to Omega for hooking me up with Camilla Power and Chris knight, and it’s one of my favourite podcasts, check out the Fundamental Principles book series which is super exciting a previously forgotten book of socialist theory.  

And also thanks to lucky black can another great youtuber who’s always been supportive and to Arnold Schroeder who has maybe the best political podcast out there FIght Like an Animal, just check that out you will thank me, history psychology personal experience such important stuff. 

And please like and subscribe and also review this show on itunes or urple music, its really important and helps the show pop up more readily on searches – and contact me with any corrections or suggestions or comments at worldwidescrotes@gmail.com or comment on yout u-tubes, and please subscribe to my patreon so I can keep doing this because it takes an unbelievable amount of time and the economic sacrifices that I have to make to keep doing these are complelety insane … and until next time … seeya!