Sunday, December 19, 2021

Explaining & Explaining Away

- Look at that. The whole bench along the wall is occupied with them.
- By 'them' you mean those in Beverly Hills who sleep on the streets, or rather on the sidewalks.
- Riding my bike here I almost ran over one.
- Which one?
- How do I know? All I saw was a form buried under piles of filthy blankets.
- This Starbucks is incredible. Across the street is the Peninsula hotel, just behind the cafe building is the Waldorf Astoria, two of the most expensive hotels in the city. Look at those guys getting out of their Mclaren super car, hundreds of thousands of dollars. This place stinks. But that won't stop this country's intrepid rich from stepping right into the miasma for their coffee.
- The word 'evil' comes to mind. 
- Does calling the rich 'evil' explain anything?
- If we want an explanation of the orbits of planets, we find one in a law of gravity. But if we want an explanation of how an object moves from one place to another, we rely on what we call energy, force, momentum, sorts of things which we have no explanation of.
- Explanation meaning we can tell a story in the form of general rule relating one thing to another at one place or another.
- Yes. So if I offer an explanation of the indifference of the rich to the massive misery piling up around them, we place the rich in a certain orbit where they are subject to certain 'forces' of indocrination which convince them that it's those people's own fault, the misearable deserve to be miserable, by being punished for their error they are motivated to make corrections. Their indifference explained. Or not? Don't you still want to call them 'evil'?
- Absolutely. 
- So again: does calling the rich 'evil' explain anything, anything more than saying they are suffering from the disease of pleonexia: excessive or insatiable covetousness, from the Greek pleonektein (to be greedy), from pleion (more) + ekhein (have).
- I think it does. 
- But there's a paradox here. It seems possible to make the attribution of the word 'evil' come and go, depending on how one looks at the world. Something like when we are in the presence of beauty we see it, it gives us pleasure, it is seen as warranting the attribution 'beautiful'. Yet we can explain away the beauty by seeing instead regular relation, geometric forms, well-functioning, losing thereby both pleasure and the consideration of the object as beautiful. What if the same happens with evil? We see it, the evil in the object, we feel pain in the act of perception. Yet we can if we like shift our way of looking, see instead pleonexia, and lose both the sight of evil in the object and our pain felt in having the perception.
- How does that get us anywhere, your claiming that how we explain is up to us, is our own doing?
- It's not obvious.
- Not to me. Isn't it crazy, aren't we crazy, to be having this kind of conversation right in front of these people?
- Pretending our ideas are important when faced with all this evil going on around us?
- Yes. 
- Think about the two kinds of explanation we've talked about. One stops short of satisfaction, leaving us with unexplanable force, in the case of the indifferent rich the pleanexia 'forced' upon them by capitalism, the stock market, family, advertising, movies, etc. The other gives us a clear sight of a meaningful object and corresponding strong feeling.
- But, I don't understand. If explanation is telling a story, where's the story in choosing to see evil when we don't have to?
- When we see evil as evil we are not seeing the regularity of law, and the resulting mystification of forces responsible for the application of law to the individual, but instead, seeing evil we experience the perception as complete in itself, feel what it is to be a human being.
- The story is that the indifferent rich have chosen to live in a world they see wrong, and by calling them 'evil' we remind ourselves not to follow in their path.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Why They Did It

-Sorry to keep bothering you. No one else will talk with me about the lockdown.
- It's my pleasure.
- Is it? Good. Then here's what I want to know: How did it happen that practically the whole world suddenly adopted this absolutely new social policy of lockdown, invented only months earlier by the totalitarian, oppressive government of China. Within a few dozen days half the world was locked up in their homes, their places of business and almost all public places closed.
- We've already talked about why they did it: to get the population used to repression, to crush small business and foster monopoly growth, to cover up the speculation induced bank and corporate financial crash in progress.
- I know. I'm asking how the whole world jumped in unison in the same way, towards the same repressive device.
- The answer is right before our eyes. We see politicians everywhere discovering the technique of political organization of herding people* into rituals, enacting the embattled weak self being reborn strong and new in the company of other telling themselves the same story. As the leaders need to enhance insecurity so as to drive frightened and anrgy people into ritual enactments, rituals of 'us' battling 'them' have the failing that life among the reborn 'us' is not destabilized, and therefore is a potential source of rebellion against the political machinations being practiced on the people by their leaders. Follow so far?
- Yes.
- Then the rest should be obvious: when you make a disease the 'them' that is being fought against in ritual, there is no 'us' free from becoming an object of fear and attack. Everyone is a danger, an object of fear and aversion to everyone else.
- And therefore there's no room for security in which to wake up and rebel.
- Yes.
- So the world's leaders, already practicing the tactics of fear mongering and cult building for the purposes of repression, saw immediately the advantages being offered to them by an epidemic, even one as epidemics go not especially deadly.**

Further Reading:
** Germany reports virtually the same number of people dying from all causes in 2020 as in 2019. Sweden, with no lockdown, reports, depending on how the calculation is made, between 0 and 7,000 more deaths in 2020, that is, a maximum increase in number of deaths in the year of epidemic of about 1 per 1,000 population (1/10th of 1%). 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

While We Wait

- So you're at Jimmy's, the North Campus cafe up at UCLA, and the manager comes over to say to you he's been watching you for a while, letting you get away with a lot, not wearing a mask, but now...
- I told him I don't have to wear a mask while I'm drinking coffee. I hold up my coffee theatrically.
- And he told you the rule was when not actively drinking or eating you have to put back on the mask.
- And I said, what is the time constraint? Replace the mask after one minute, one second? And I am the whole time I'm here know that someone is watching my every movement, counting the seconds before I either have to raise the cup to my lips or replace the mask?
- And the manager said?
- Why can't I just cooperate like everyone else?
- I can't, I won't, I said. In Los Angeles during the past week there have been on the average of 13 deaths a day attributed to the epidemic in a city of 10 million people. That's about one out of a million risk of death. And in response to that risk, starting Monday if you want to enter any restaurant, movie theather, nightclub, gym, you'll have to show proof of vacination - this while vacination efficacy has declined to less that 50 percent - or show a negative test result within three days. At this point a girl-student, between bites of salad, sitting over against the wall, shouts over at me that I'm putting everyone in danger by my selfishness.
- And you said?
- 'You're the one breaking the rules! Anyone exhaling, proving it audibly by producing words, or not actually swallowing has to be masked.' The manager says:
- Those are the rules. Why can't you just obey them?
- Because rules about how many seconds I have between swallows I'm allowed to remain unmasked is just the latest in impositions following upon the closing down of almost all public places; completely unjustified. 
- That's just your opinion.
- Yes, I have an opinion, based on information coming from the government. You don't have an opinion, or even source of information. You simply obey. You, like that little girl student over there, want to force others to obey. How are you both not fascists?
- Are you going to comply with the rules or not?
- Can't you see? I'm packing up to leave.
- I think of fascism as a government's attempt to control our every thought and act. You went a little too far there. The people of the epidemic, let's call them that, don't care to control your thought and act except with regard to their pet ritual, the observance of epidemic related decrees.
- And if there is some kind of logical, causal relation between ritual performance and totalitarianism?
- Is there?
- There are two. When a government understands the technology of ritual,* satisfying the love of power that drives leaders into politics, it progressively takes upon itself more and power to instruct the public in new rituals, to the point that eventually every aspect of life is directed by ritual.
- And we have totalitarianism.
- Yes. You might think that the greater the imposition of new ritual and new control, the people would begin to wake up and complain. But the opposite is true.
- Why?
- Ritual has its beginning in the story of an old god dying and a new god born. The story can be that of any particular god, but ultimately it is the ritual participants putting themselves in the place of particular gods that does the job. But like our politicians understand ritual and are capable of self-consciously managing them, our not too distant ancestors figured out that if they imagined there was only one god, then all of history would be a single ritual. And once this idea has arisen, something very important, something essential happened.
- They invented totalitarianism?
- Not so fast. They invented ethics. Because always in the midst of ritual, every act would have to have its rule; the rules they had would always be insufficient; because they didn't know when the ritual was going to end...
- They couldn't be told what to think.
- Nor what to do, because new situations would keep arising, they couldn't know for sure which rule would apply. Do you give a friend gone crazy back the weapon he loaned you when he was still sane? An entirely new relation to the world had appeared to us human beings out of the former polytheistic ritual. Immersed in the single ritual monotheistic history, we are neither old god nor new; we don't know who we are, what habits, what character to take on.
- We don't know what are our rules.
- Yes. We take on an experimental relation to the world which is unfolding, the end not in sight, the utopia of everyone following the same rules and universal peace reign. But this experimental practice, searching for the best relation of character to the world, in the logic of the situation, is going one time or another to have to meet its challenge.
- Which is?
- People beginning to see the single ritual coming to a close. A time when rule determination, finding out who you are, no longer is important, rebirth is at hand, soon we'll see how the world looks in recovered strength, all peace and love and fairness!
- In short, Christianity arrives with its claim to complete Judaism.
- That's right. And then what happens?
- The Mulim's messiah arrives claiming to be the true and final savior. History isn't open; isn't about to end, it is at its end, all that is to be is already written, there is nothing further to be done but follow the rules and bear witness to a world that's reached its final form. If politicians have woken up to the knowledge of how to use ritual to add to their power, wouldn't the people of monotheism, waking up to the knowlege of what ritual is were able to transform religion to ethics, wouldn't we - for we're talking about our world here - wouldn't we see ahead to the two further stages? And take the suggestion of our imagination?
- Is there anything that makes us? Why should a Jew become a Christian or a Muslim?
- No reason. But ask instead why should not a politician guide a monotheistic people in the direction that gives leaders more control over the led?
- Is that what you think is happening?
- I do.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, November 2, 2021


(Continued from How Could We Be So Blind?)

When you questioned me last time on my participation in social media, stock market speculation, populist political party membership, adherence to neoliberal economic theory and obedience to its practice, enthusiastic compliance with lockdowns and business closures, you left out a certain other, ritual based crowd behavior, the most prominent of them all.
- Which one is that?
- Evolution, survival of the fittest by means of chance mutation. Were you afraid of being thought a crackpot?
- Guilty.
- Chance in Darwinian evolution being equivilent to the self-forgetting at the heart of crowd behaviors, the self-renewal made possible by the dying of the old in the passion of following the crowd, whether that is guided by social media, stock market speculation, populist political party membership or capitalist war-like negotiations between buyer and seller.
- I've heard that fully thirty percent of biologists privately express doubts about Darwin's theory.*
- They doubt his specification of chance as the mechanism of mutation.
- Yes.
- Hard to believe. And what about chance mutation and doubting Darwin do you want to say? 
- Movement for life in general is towards complexity; movement for the individual is towards knowledge. A clear difference exists between the kind of gap that is of self forgetting, created by editing out experience through the mechanism of ritual, and the gap of not knowing what gives direction to evolution, not knowing what force is, what energy is, what gravity is, what passage of time is. In fact, we don't know what movement is at all, can't break it down into parts except by series of still pictures, leaving movement between those pictures still undefined.
- The self's change is obscure in the crowd behaviors, but in the case of scientific description, it is the world's movement, towards complexity or towards being known, that is the difficulty.
- Yes. 
- I know all this from past conversations but wanted to go over it again.
- Now we've done that.
- Sorry for boring you. But I think you'll like this, a doctrine, as far as I can make out, of illusory or at least problematic movement, from a thousand or more years ago, from the other side of the world, found in an academic paper: There is That: The Association of Space and Cause in Niyati Kañcuka, Joel H. Posner: 
Cause-and-effect is in KŚ an exclusively māyic operation. As such it is qualitatively different from, subordinate to, and entirely contingent on the underlying creative or causative mechanism that drives the unfoldment of reality through all its stages, spawns the emergence of governing principles at every stage, and ultimately enables within any given stage each and every manifestation. That “primary” or “present” causality, if you will, is a spontaneous act that transpires timelessly without condition or limitationas willed and enacted by a first cause, namely supreme consciousness, which is not itself an effect. The notion of a supreme agent that is at once active, in extroversion (unmeṣa), as well as quiescent, in introversion (nimeṣa),is a stunningly advanced formulation, and a radical departure from other schools, including perhaps most notably Advaita Vedānta as propounded by Śaṅkarācārya. KŚ breaks sharply from, among other things, a conventional doctrinaire understanding of causality. 
 KS is Kashmir Saivism.** Also from the article:
In the Trika ideology of Kashmir Śaivism (KŚ), māyā is the sixth in the hierarchy of thirtysix tattvas, or ontological (and in this formulation equally epistemological) principles. It is the stage in the creative descent at which consciousness assumes the existential mantle that eclipses its essential unity and sovereignty, and governs everyday experience. That mantle is comprised of five husks (kañcuka-s), each of which imposes a specific limitation with respect to the following: 1) efficacy (kalā); 2) knowledge (vidyā); 3) inclination (rāga); 4) time (kāla); 5) space and cause (niyati). Thus are the powers of universal consciousness by its own doing fragmented and diminished in the individual personal experient, alienated in embodiment from the boundlessness of supreme Self. 
Were you aware such writings existed?
- Yes.
- Oh. Anyway, this is the idea I have: that should science come around and correct itself, self consciously sort out theories that have their origin in crowd behavior and the forgetting of self, the world might get itself educated and strengthened against this fatality of crowds. What do you think?
- People who won't listen to philosophy talking mysteries will listen to science. Could be. Do you know how music works?
- Know why we like music?
- Yes.
- The vibrations please us.
- That's all?
- Music awakens in us moods, experiences, emotions.
- And not both together, rhythm and melody? Doesn't music have exactly the same gap, or rather gaps, we've been talking about?
- How?
- Sound, then silence, then sound. The movement of change occurs in the silences.
- Ruling out, I guess, sirens, crying babies, screaming electronic music.
- Some rhythms are produced with the intention to put listeners into a trance-like loss of self awareness. But other rhythms, becoming the foundation to melody, express our repeated passage through the world of undefinable movement back to the stillness and immobility of knowledge; while melody offers in detail one particular story of movement on its way to rest.
- Silence bears the mystery of movement.
- Yes. Silence has its laws relating where we can expect what to be at any one moment; the story of the discovery of those laws is a sort of melody played to the rhythm of scientific progress.
- The music of science, with its progressing rhythm of melodies, stories of experiment and hypothesis, you think may soothe the crowd-loving beast in us?
- It's an idea.

Further Reading:
Machines & Consciousness
* A claim made by Michael Behe.
** Śiva (Skt., ‘auspicious’). Major deity in Hinduism, the third in the Hindu trinity (trimūrti), along with Brahmā and Viṣṇu. In the Vedas, Siva appears as an epithet of Rudra, not as separate manifestation of divine power. The joint form, Rudra-Śiva appears in the gṛhya (household) rites, which suggests that there was a gradual process of assimilation, and that Śiva has roots and origins in the pre-Vedic period. By the 2nd cent. BCE, Rudra was waning in significance, and Śiva began to obtain a powerful separate identity. In Rāmāyaṇa, he is a mighty and personal god, and in Mahābhārata he is at times the equal of Viṣṇu, perhaps even the creator of Viṣṇu and Brahmā, worshipped by other gods. He became associated with generation and destruction, especially in conjunction with Śakti, and is therefore worshipped through the power of the liṅga. The Mahādeva image in the Elephanta caves already depicts Śiva in the threefold guise of creator, destroyer, and preserver: in this and other such images, the two faces on either side represent (apparent) opposites—male and female (ardhanārī); terrifying destroyer (bhairava) and active giver of repose; mahāyogi and gṛhasta—while the third, serene and peaceful, reconciles the two, the Supreme as the One who transcends all contradictions. The three horizontal marks which Śaivites put on their foreheads represent the triple aspect of Śiva. As a personal god (iṣta-deva), he is worshipped in many forms of manifestation, important examples being Nāṭarāja (lord of the dance) and Dakṣiṇāmūrti, spiritual teacher. His mantra is ‘sivo ʾham’. Śiva is particularly associated with the river Gaṅgā (Ganges) which flows through his hair and with Mount Kailāsa in the Himālayas.(

Saturday, October 23, 2021

How Could We Be So Blind?

- I've got some questions for you.
- Ask away.
- Do you speculate on the stock market?
- No.
- Do you use social media?
- No.
- Not at all?
- Not at all.
- Have you ever joined a political party that promises to take back your country from its enemies and make it great again? Practiced political correctness, cancel culture?
- Of course not.
- Do you see all economic transaction as occasions to get the better of your trade partner? And do you subscribe to market fundamentalism, the belief that markets free of regulation benefit rich and poor alike, though you can't help knowing, if you thought about it, that it was obviously not true?
- No, and no.
- Finally, were you surprised at how rapidly and near totally the population of this country, as well as many others in the world, complied with unreasonable lockdowns, physical distancing, mask mandates?*
- Yes. Though I did understood that lockdown was allowing people to get away from each other, enjoy a truce in the war of neoliberal life in which everyone is an enemy of everyone else.
- And when the lockdown kept coming back?
- I was shocked by the continued near total compliance.
- I asked you questions about your participation in social mechanisms that guide individuals into groups of shared passions, fears, hatreds. Why didn't you see that the epidemic was providing such a mechanism; or would you not agree that that is what has happened, and is the explanation of the rabid complicity we see all around us?
- I agree we're dealing with crowd formation by means of ritual practice.
- So why didn't you see it? We'd talked about ritual many, many times.
- The requirement in ritual of weakness at the beginning I saw, fear of infection, and the required passion in the acting out of ritual I saw too, in the irrationality of the measures taken, passion as always creating blindness. What I didn't see was the - necessary to ritual - deliberate choice to enter upon its practice, and the expectation at the end of the ritual performance of being reborn from weakness to strength.
- Do you see that now?
- Do you think that neither you nor I saw this coming because we, not being past participants in ritual crowd formation, didn't immediately see how the government and media's management of the epidemic was of the same form as stock speculation, social media use, populist political party creation, market fundamentalist trading?
- And those who participated in those mechanisms, being practiced in those mechanisms, did see what was in it for themselves when they complied with government decrees and mandates.
- Is that your conclusion?
- Yes. Experience with the ritual practice of everyone following everyone else at the cost of damage to human nature but promising a sense of renewed safety and strength in the sight of everyone around you doing the same.
- They saw it and we didn't.
- We see it now. 
Further Reading:
* On the manipulation of COVID statistics - e.g., false positives and testing of asymtomatics: what percentage testing positive have symtoms, what percentage hospitalized die, what percentage hospitalized have 'co-morbidities' - see: Prof. Norman Fenton. On the efficacy of lockdowns, see: Summary of Academic Studies on Lockdowns, & What HappenedDr. Jay Bhattacharya on 19 Months of COVID. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016. This represents 1 in 20 deaths. Traffic accidents caused an estimated 1,350,000 deaths worldwide in that year; last year 800,000 people killed themselves, 500,000 died from drug overdose, 400,000 by murder. Depression typically affects every year 264 million people, but that number along with the number of other 'diseases of despair', including obesity, has greatly increased in our times of COVID-19. And who cares? It's said that it's a choice whether to kill yourself, to drink or drug yourself to death. Just so it's a choice to go into public and expose yourself to disease and crime, not to mention streets infested with reckless, drunk, suicidal, murderous, drugged, and depressed drivers.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

We Didn't Love Freedom Enough

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.* 
- I have this sort of crazy idea.
- I'm listening.
- Off and on we have talked about the origins of social role, class, master and slave. We wondered if their origin was not in sedentary farming, of both plants and animal, in which each additional plant and animal represented in the counting mind of the farmer additional security.
- Yes. Whereas for the forager and hunter security was in knowing how and where to forage and hunt.
- Ten thousand or so years later we have capitalism, where the increasing count of symbols of security - money - dominates every aspect of our lives. Human beings are farmed both for the power represented by that act alone, and for the farmed humans being the instrument of the business of farming money.
- By which you mean profit. Money 'planted' to grow into more money.
- Yes. Am I correct in assuming you've been as shocked as I was by the unquestioning compliance** of hundreds of millions of people with lockdown restrictions.?
- You're correct.
- I think I have the explanation. You know how the former president used to call the press the enemy of the people, even admitting in an interview that this accusation had the function of discrediting any criticism of him? It does that, obviously, but if you've ever tried to argue with one of his supporters you find you can catch them in a contradiction and the only satisfaction you'll get out of it is their hasty retreat: you'll do no convincing, never. What is said in the news, or you winning an arguement with them, is irrelevant. Relevant is only that you and they are enemies. Enemies serve the function of creating a crowd. In the crowd the sight and words of each like-minded member produces a sense of increasing power and security. But what if the millions of compliant citizens imagine that they are the farmer and the farmed both at the same time? They have discovered they can enlarge their herd by communicating to those not yet with them their complaint. They farm themselves in their stock market investments, hoping that others seeing them run to a stock will join them in that run, bringing others with them who see them do it; in social media, which has been engineered to promote this sort of increasing herd flight and power in numbers of interactions, creating a sense of threat, promoting feelings of anger or fear and suggesting the alleviation of that fear and anger in finding on their sites others making the same complaint; in political parties, where one side complains of injustice, the other of threats to their independence...
- By defenders of their independence you mean the Republicans. Why then did they not complain of the lockdown if their feared enemy was those who would cause the loss of independence?
- Because they as capitalist humans are herd animals that are both herd members and managers of the herd; each has contempt for others in the capitalist herd who are their competitors and enemies in the capitalist economic struggle for survival.
- They don't love each other. They competitively herd each other. 
- The hundreds of millions were happy to stay at home in isolation from those contemtible herd animals out there.
- As long as the government made that allurement financially viable. 
- Yes. There were unemployment subsidies, the promise for large corporations of vastly increasing monopoly as small business went bankrupt...
- What about those small businesses? Why didn't they complain?
- To whom? Who was listening?
- Why didn't they complain to their herd? I see. They didn't have a herd. Why not?
- The political parties, the stock market, the social media, the largest grazing grounds as it were, all are in control of the people whose money is behind all three institutions, all of which have flourished during this time of epidemic lockdown. They all were on the side of monopoly profits.
- So no herd for small business. 
- We are accustomed to thinking of capitalist managers herding*** their money, making it increase, feeling power and security in that increase. Workers, formerly only members of a herd, have learned from capitalism to be herders too.
- Herding themselves.
- Herding themselves in their political participation, in their social media use, in their stock market speculations.

Further Reading:
* Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Provocation

- Identity politics, white privilege, social justice warriers, cancel culture, political correctness, wokeness, safe space, critical race theory...What is critical race theory?
- Critical theory is the view that all institutions are the disguised vehicle of power struggle, the strong against the weak. Critical race theory is the view that all institutions are disguised vehicles for oppression of blacks by whites.
- What about the use of institutions by men to oppress women, the rich to oppress the poor?
- Not the concern of those involved in critical race theory.
- How can that be?
- Because like with religion what is involved here is a play of symbols, not reality. This is what Karl Marx had to say about religion in 1844:
[....] The criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths,” i.e., for God and country] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man [Unmensch], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Because a play of symbols is involved, not reality, we can interpret what is going on here as ritual practice. Inviduals who feel weak in personal life get together with others of their kind to rehearse a story of death and rebirth, fighting an enemy to the group, a story of their group dying of their weakness but reborn in the strengh of victory, and in the course of the secure practice of the known-in-advance action of the ritual in the company of others recover a sense of security and personal power. This script or story telling is unchallengeable because it is the vehicle of security and strength of those practicing the ritual. Thus the demand for safe space (free of micro-agressions) for blacks in which to rehearse their rituals, that whites be sensititve to this need for safe space (wokeness), that speech be censored of any criticism of themselves (blasphemy), that whites never make a claim to be invidivually guiltless (white privilege), etc.
- If all institutions are the carrier of racism, what exactly do these social justice warriers want? Anarchy?
- Far from it. What they want is the same as neoliberals: a marketplace left to itself, free of restrictions on efficiency that institutional interference brings with it. When all institutions have been purged of their prejudiced members (cancel culture) the free market will finally be just to members of all races.
- That's absurd. We know after 50 years of practice that when you end government regulation of the market you get monopoly, corporate capture of the government to force privitazation resulting in even more monopoly and control of the market. Don't the critical race theory people know this?
- They don't. They can't.
- Why not?
- Because their identity is tied up with, is in actual fact produced by rehearsal of the ritual in which the innocent blacks die at the hands of whites yet are reborn in their successful striving to equalize their place in the free market.
- You and many others have claimed that the world of international corporations has supported identity politics because it is divisive, since as long as one oppressed group is at the throat of another nothing is done about the rich using the captured government and monopoly to transfer to themselves the wealth of the rest of the country. Now you are arguing that identity politics is directly a form of free market, neoliberal politics. Is that correct?
- Yes.
- Yet the claim that all whites are guilty and that all whites must watch every word they say is made not only or primarily because white words and deeds restrict access to markets, but because they interfere with the practice of ritual story telling which produces racial identity. Maybe these social justice warriers, Black Lives Matter activists believe that once they've freed up the market to themselves and whites have attoned for their original sin, at this judgment day they will be able to put aside their racial, tribal identity.
- Not a chance. In the history of the human species, before the dominance of the state, individuals living in tribes were fierce defenders of their individual autonomy while having little or no self-affirmation, vanity: they valued instead humility. They collectively took measures to block the emergence of hierarchy, by obedience to leaders being made entirely voluntary, by making leaders subject to total tax on their wealth or making them the constant butt of jokes.* These stateless tribes understood the danger to themselves of hierarchical institutions developing. Not so the cancelling, safe space tribalists. They are the opposite. They see themselves only through a ritual of changed places in hierarchy; only within the group of ritual practice do they feel a sense of personal power, can they gloat in getting fired from their jobs those guilty by original sin whose words interfere with the ritual practice of the eternally innocent.

Further Reading:

Monday, August 16, 2021

Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation


(from Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Chapter IV: Societies And Economic Systems, Rinehart & Company, Inc, 1944)

Before we can proceed to the discussion of the laws governing a market economy, such as the nineteenth century was trying to establish, we must first have a firm grip on the extraordinary assumptions underlying such a system. 

Market economy implies a self-regulating system of markets; in slightly more technical terms, it is an economy directed by market prices and nothing but market prices. Such a system capable of organizing the whole of economic life without outside help or interference would certainly deserve to be called self-regulating. These rough indications should suffice to show the entirely unprecedented nature of such a venture in the history of the race. 

Let us make our meaning more precise. No society could, naturally, live for any length of time unless it possessed an economy of some sort; but previously to our time no economy has ever existed that, even in principle, was controlled by markets. In spite of the chorus of academic incantations so persistent in the nineteenth century, gain and profit made on exchange never before played an important part in human economy. Though the institution of the market was fairly common since the later Stone Age, its role was no more than incidental to economic life. 

We have good reason to insist on this point with all the emphasis at our command. No less a thinker than Adam Smith suggested that the division of labor in society was dependent upon the existence of markets, or, as he puts it, upon man’s “propensity to barter, truck and exchange one thing for another." This phrase was later to yield the concept of the Economic Man. In retrospect it can be said that no misreading of the past ever proved more prophetic of the future. For while up to Adam Smith's time that propensity had hardly shown up on a considerable scale in the life of any observed community, and had remained, at best, a subordinate feature of economic life, a hundred years later an industrial system was in full swing over the major part of the planet which, practically and theoretically, implied that the human race was swayed in all its economic activities, if not also in its political intellectual, and spiritual pursuits, by that one particular propensity. Herbert Spencer, in the second half of the nineteenth century, could without more than a cursory acquaintance with economics, equate the principle of the division of labor with barter and exchange, and another fifty years later, Ludwig von Mises and Walter Lippmann could repeat the same fallacy. By that time there was no need for argument. A host of writers on political economy, social history, political philosophy, and general sociology had followed in Smith's wake and established his paradigm of the bartering savage as an axiom of their respective sciences. In point of fact, Adam Smith's suggestions about the economic psychology of early man were as false as Rousseau's were on the political psychology of the savage. Division of labor, a phenomenon as old as society, springs from differences inherent in the facts of sex, geography, and individual endowment; and the alleged propensity of man to barter, truck, and exchange is almost entirely apocryphal. While history and ethnography know of various kinds of economies, most of them comprising the institution of markets they know of no economy prior to our own, even approximately controlled and regulated by markets. This will become abundantly clear from a bird's-eye view of the history of economic systems and of markets, presented separately. The role played by markets in the internal economy of the various countries it will appear, was insignificant up to recent times and the changeover to an economy dominated by the market pattern will stand out all the more clearly. 

To start with, we must discard some nineteenth century prejudice, that underlay Adam Smith's hypothesis about primitive man's alleged predilection for gainful occupations. Since his axiom was much more relevant to the immediate future than to the dim past, it induced in his followers a strange attitude toward man's early history. On the face of it, the evidence seemed to indicate that primitive man, far from having a capitalistic psychology, had, in effect, a communistic one (later this also proved to be mistaken). Consequently, economic historians tended to confine their interest to that comparatively recent period of history in which truck and exchange were found on any considerable scale, primitive economics was relegated to prehistory. Unconsciously, this led to a weighting of the scales in favor of a marketing psychology, for within the relatively short period of the last few centuries everything might be taken to tend towards the establishment of that which we eventually established, ie., a market system, irrespective of other tendencies which were temporarily submerged. The corrective of such a “short-run" perspective would obviously have been the linking up of economic history with social anthropology, a course which was consistently avoided. 

We cannot continue today on these lines. The habit of looking at the last ten thousand years as well as at the array of early societies as a mere prelude to the true history of our civilization which started approximately with the publication of the Wealth of Nations in 1776, is, to say the least, out of date. It is this episode which has come to a close in our days, and in trying to gauge the alternatives of the future, we should subdue our natural proneness to follow the proclivities of our fathers. But the same bias which made Adam Smith's generation view primeval man as bent on barter and truck induced their successors to disavow all interest in early man, as he was now known not to have indulged in those laudable passions. The tradition of the classical economists who attempted to base the law of the market on the alleged propensities of man in the state of nature, was replaced by an abandonment of all interest in the cultures of "uncivilized” man as irrelevant to an understanding of the problems of our age. 

Such an attitude of subjectivism in regard to earlier civilizations should make no appeal to the scientific mind. The differences existing between civilized and "uncivilized" peoples have been vastly exaggerated, especially in the economic sphere. According to the historians, the forms of industrial life in agricultural Europe were, until recently, not much different from what they had been several thousand years. Ever since the introduction of the plow – essentially a large hoe drawn by animals – the methods of agriculture remained substantially unaltered over the major part of Western and Central Europe until the beginning of the modern age. Indeed, the progress of civilization was, in these regions, mainly political intellectual and spiritual; in respect to material conditions, the Western Europe of 1100 AD had hardly caught up with the Roman world of a thousand years before. Even later, change flowed more easily in the channels of statecraft, literature, and the arts, but particularly in those of religion and learning, than in those of industry. In its economics, medieval Europe was largely on a level with ancient Persia, India, or China, and certainly not rival in riches and culture the New Kingdom of Egypt, two thousand years before. Max Weber was the first among modern historians to protest against the brushing aside of primitive economics as irrelevant to the question of the motives and mechanisms of civilized societies. The subsequent work of social anthropology proved him emphatically right. For, if one conclusion stands out from the recent study of early societies it is the changelessness of man as a social being. His natural endowments reappear with societies of all times and places; and the necessary preconditions of the survival of human society appear to be immutably the same. 

The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man's economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end. Neither the process of production nor that of distribution is linked to specific economic interests attached to the possession of goods; but every single step in that process is geared to a number of social interests which eventually ensure that the required step be taken. These interests will be very different in a small hunting or fishing community from those in a vast despotic society, but in either case the economic system will be run on noneconomic motives.

The explanation, in term of survival, is simple. Take the case of a tribal society. The individual's economic interest is rarely paramount for the community keeps all its members from starving unless it is itself borne down by catastrophe, in which case interests are again threatened collectively, not individually. The maintenance of social ties, on the other hand, is crucial. First, because by disregarding the accepted code of honor, or generosity, the individual cuts himself off from the community and becomes an outcast; second, because, in the long run, all social obligations are reciprocal, and their fulfillment serves also the individual's give-and-take interests best. Such a situation must exert a continuous pressure on the individual to eliminate economic self-interest from his consciousness to the point of making him unable, in many cases (but by no means in all), even to comprehend the implication of his own actions in term of such an interest. This attitude is reinforced by the frequency of communal activities such as partaking of food from the common catch or sharing in the results of some far-flung and dangerous tribal expedition. The premium set on generosity is so great when measured in terms of social prestige as to make any other behavior than that of utter self-forgetfulness simply not pay. Personal character has little to do with the matter. Man can be as good or evil as social or asocial, jealous or generous, in respect to one another. Not to allow anybody reason for jealousy is, indeed, an accepted principle of ceremonial distribution, just as publicly bestowed praise is the due of the industrious, skillful, or otherwise successful gardener (unless he be too successful, in which case he may deservedly be allowed to wither away under the delusion of being the victim of black magic). The human passions, good or bad, are merely directed towards noneconomic ends. Ceremonial display serves to spur emulation to the utmost and the custom of communal labor tends to up both quantitative and qualitative standards to the highest pitch. The performance of all acts of exchange as free gifts that are expected to be reciprocated though not necessarily by the same individuals – a procedure minutely articulated and perfectly safeguarded by elaborate methods of publicity, by magic rites, and by the establishment of "dualities" in which groups are linked in mutual obligations – should in itself explain the absence of the notion of gain or even of wealth other than that consisting of objects traditionally enhancing social prestige. 

In this sketch of the general traits characteristic of a Western Melanesian community we took no account of its sexual and territorial organization, in reference to which custom, law, magic, and religion exert their influence, as we only intended to show the manner in which so-called economic motives spring from the context of social life. For it is on this one negative point that modern ethnographers agree: the absence of the motive of gain; the absence of the principle of laboring for remuneration; the absence of the principle of least effort; and, especially, the absence of any separate and distinct institution based on economic motives. But how, then, is order in production and distribution ensured? The answer is provided in the main by two principles of behavior not primarily associated with economics: reciprocity, and redistribution. With the Trobriand Islanders of Western Melanesia, who serve as an illustration of this type of economy, reciprocity works mainly in regard to the sexual organization of society, that is, family and kinship; redistribution is mainly effective in respect to all those who are under a common chief and is, therefore, of a territorial character. Let us take these principles separately. 

The sustenance of the family - the female and the children - is the obligation of matrilineal relatives. The male, who provides for his sister, and her family by delivering the finest specimens of his crop, will mainly earn credit due to his good behavior, but will reap little immediate material benefit in exchange; if he is slack, it is first and foremost his reputation that will suffer. It is for the benefit of his wife and her children that the principle of reciprocity will work, and thus compensate him economically for his acts of civic virtue. Ceremonial display of food both in his own garden and before the recipient's storehouse will ensure that the high quality of his gardening be known to all. It is apparent that the economy of garden and household here forms part of the social relations connected with good husbandry and fine citizenship. The broad principle of reciprocity helps to safeguard both production and family sustenance. 

The principle of redistribution is no less effective. A substantial part of all the produce of the island is delivered by the village headmen to the chief who keeps it in storage. But as all communal activity centers around the feasts, dances, and other occasions when the islanders entertain one another as well as their neighbors from other islands (at which the results of long distance trading are handed out, gifts are given and reciprocated according to the rules of etiquette, and the chief distributes the customary presents to all), the overwhelming importance of the storage system becomes apparent. Economically, it is an essential part of the existing system of division of labor, of foreign trading, of taxation for public purposes, of defense provisions. But these functions of an economic system proper are completely absorbed by the intensely vivid experiences which offer superabundant non-economic motivation for every act performed in the frame of the system as a whole. 

However, principles of behavior such as these cannot become effective unless existing institutional patterns lend themselves to their application. Reciprocity and redistribution are able to ensure the working of an economic system without the help of written records and elaborate administration only because the organization of the societies in question meets the requirements of such a solution with the help of patterns such as symmetry and centricity. 

Reciprocity is enormously facilitated by the institutional pattern of symmetry, a frequent feature of social organization among nonliterate peoples. The striking “duality” which we find in tribal subdivisions lends itself to the pairing out of individual relations and thereby assists the give-and-take of goods and services in the absence of permanent records. The moieties of savage society which tend to create a “pendant”, to each subdivision, turned out to result from, as well as help to perform, the acts of reciprocity on which the system rests. Little is known of the origin of "duality"; but each coastal village on the Trobriand Islands appears to have its counterpart in an inland village, so that the important exchange of breadfruits and fish, though disguised as a reciprocal distribution of gifts, and actually disjoint in time, can be organized smoothly. In the Kula trade, too, each individual has his partner on another isle, thus personalizing to a remarkable extent the relationship of reciprocity. But for the frequency of the symmetrical pattern in the subdivisions of the tribe, in the location of settlements, as well as in intertribal relations, a broad reciprocity relying on the longrun working of separated acts of give-and-take would be impracticable. 

The institutional pattern of centricity, again, which is present to some extent in all human groups, provides a track for the collection, storage, and redistribution of goods and services. The members of a hunting tribe usually deliver the game to the headman for redistribution. It is in the nature of hunting that the output of game is irregular, besides being the result of a collective input. Under conditions such as these no other method of sharing is practicable if the group is not to break up after every hunt. Yet in all economies of kind a similar need exists, be the group ever so numerous. And the larger the territory and the more varied the produce, the more will redistribution result in an effective division of labor, since it must help to link up geographically differentiated groups of producers. 

Symmetry and centricity will meet halfway the needs of reciprocity and redistribution; institutional patterns and principles of behavior are mutually adjusted. As long as social organization runs in its ruts, no individual economic motives need come into play; no shirking of personal effort need be feared; division of labor will automatically be ensured; economic obligations will be duly discharged; and, above all, the material means for an exuberant display of abundance at all public festivals will be provided. In such a community the idea of profit is barred; higgling and haggling is decried; giving freely is acclaimed as a virtue; the supposed properisity to barter, truck, and exchange does not appear. The economic system is, in effect, a mere function of social organization. 

It should by no means be inferred that socioeconomic principles of this type are restricted to primitive procedures or small communities; that a gainless and marketless economy must necessarily be simple. The Kula ring, in western Melanesia, based on the principle of reciprocity, is one of the most elaborate trading transactions known to man; and redistribution was present on a gigantic scale in the civilization of the pyramids. 

The Trobriand Islands belong to an archipelago forming roughly a circle, and an important part of the population of this archipelago spends a considerable proportion of its time in activities of the Kula trade. We describe it as trade though no profit is involved, either in money or in kind; no goods are hoarded or even possessed permanently; the goods received are enjoyed by giving them away; no biggling and haggling, no truck, barter, or exchange enters; and the whole proceedings are entirely regulated by etiquette and magic. Still, it is trade, and large expeditions are undertaken periodically by natives of this approximately ring-shaped archipelago in order to carry one kind of valuable object to peoples living on distant islands situated clockwise, while other expeditions are arranged carrying another kind of valuable object to the islands of the archipelago lying counterclockwise. In the long run, both sets of objects - white shell armbands and redshell necklaces of traditional make - will move round the archipelago, a trajectory which may take them up to ten years to complete. Moreover, there are, as a rule, individual partners in Kula who reciprocate one anothees Kula gift with equally valuable armbands and necklaces, preferably such that have previously belonged to distinguished persons. Now, a systematic and organized give-and-take of valuable objects transported over long distances is justly described as trade. Yet this complex whole is exclusively run on the lines of reciprocity. An intricate time-space-person system covering hundreds of miles and several decades, linking many hundreds of people in respect to thousands of strictly individual objects, is being handled here without any records or administration, but also without any motive of gain or truck. Not the propensity to barter, but reciprocity in social behavior dominates. Nevertheless, the result is a stupendous organizational achievement in onomic field Indeed, it would be interesting to consider whether even the most advanced modern market organization, based on exact accountancy, would be able to cope with such a task, should it care to undertake it. It is to be feared that the unfortunate dealers, facing innumerable monopolists buying and selling individual objects with with extravagant restrictions attached to each transaction, would fail to make a standard profit and might prefer to go out of business. 

Redistribution also has its long and variegated history which leadsup almost to modern times. The Bergdama returning from his hunting excursion, the woman coming back from her search for roots, fruit, or leaves are expected to offer the greater part of their spoil for the benefit of the community. In practice, this means that the produce of their activity is shared with the other persons who happen to be living with them. Up to this point the idea of reciprocity prevails: today's giving will be recompensed by tomorrow's taking. Among some tribes, however, there is an intermediary in the person of the headman or other prominent member of the group; it is he who receives and distributes the supplies, especially if they need to be stored. This is redistribution proper. Obviously, the social consequences of such a method of distribution may be far reaching, since not all societies are as democratic as the primitive hunters. Whether the redistributing is performed by an, influential family or an outstanding individual, a ruling aristocracy or a group of bureaucrats, they will often attempt to increase their political power by the manner in which they redistribute the goods. In the potlatch of the Kwakiutl it is a point of honor with the chief to display his wealth of hides and to distribute them; but he does this also in order to place the recipients under an obligation, to make them his debtors,' and ultimately, his retainers. 

All large-scale economies in kind were run with the help of the principle of redistribution. The kingdom of Hammurabi in Babylonia and, in particular, the New Kingdom of Egypt were centralized despotisms of a bureaucratic type founded on such an economy. The household of the patriarchal family was reproduced here on an enormously enlarged scale, while its "communistic" distribution was graded, involving sharply differentiated rations. A vast number of storehouses was ready to receive the produ-ce of the peasant's activity, whether he was cattle breeder, hunter, baker, brewer, potter, weaver, or whatever else. The produce was minutely registered and, in so far as it was not consumed locally, transferred from smaller to larger storehouses until it reached the central administration situated at the court of the Pharaoh. There were separate treasure houses for cloth, works of art, ornamental objects, cosmetics, silverware, the royal wardrobe; there were huge grain stores, arsenals, and wine cellars.

But redistribution on the scale practiced by the pyramid builders was not restricted to economies which knew not money. Indeed, all archaic kingdoms made use of metal currencies for the payment of taxes and salaries, but relied for the rest on payments in kind from granaries and warehouses of every description, from which they distributed the most varied goods for use and consumption mainly to the nonproducing part of the population, that is, to the officials, the military, and the leisure class. This was the system practiced in ancient China, in the empire, of the Incas, in the kingdoms of India, and also in Babylonia. In these, and many other civilizations of vast economic achievement, an elaborate division of labor was worked by the mechanism of redistribution.

Under feudal conditions also this principle held. In the ethnically stratified societies of Africa it sometimes happens that the superior a consist of herdsmen settled among agriculturalists who are still strating the digging stick or the hoe. The gifts collected by the herdsmen usare mainly agricultural - such as cereals and beer - while the gifts distributed by them may be animals, especially sheep or goats. In these cases there is division of labor, though usually an unequal one, between the various strata of society: distribution may often cover up a measure of exploitation, while at the same time the symbiosis benefits the standards of both strata owing to the advantages of an improved division of labor. Politically, such societies live under a regime of feudalism, whether cattle or land be the privileged value. There are "regular cattle fiefs in East Africa." Thurnwald, whom we follow closely on the subject of redistribution, could therefore say that feudalism implied everywhere a system of redistribution. Only under very advanced conditions and exceptional circumstances does this system become predominantly political as happened in Western Europe, where the change arose out pof the vassal's need for protection, and gifts were converted into feudal tributes.

These instances show that redistribution also tends to enmesh the economic system proper in social relationships. We find, as a rule, the process of redistribution forming part of the prevailing political regime, whether it be that of tribe, city-state, despotism, or feudalism of cattle or land. The production and distribution of goods is organized in themain through collection, storage, and redistribution, the pattern being focused on the chief, the temple, the despot, or the lord. Since the relations of the leading group to the led are different according to the foundation on which political power rests, the principle of redistribution will involve individual motives as different as the voluntary sharing of the game by hunters and the dread of punishment which urges the fellaheen to deliver his taxes in kind. 

We deliberately disregarded in this presentation the vital distinction between homogeneous and stratified societies, i.e., societies which are on the whole socially unified, and such as are split into rulers and ruled. Though the relative status of slaves and masters may be worlds apart from that of the free and equal members of some hunting tribes, and consequently, motives in the two societies will differ widely, the organization of the economic system may still be based on the same principles, though accompanied by very different culture traits, according to the very different human relations with which the economic system is intertwined.

The third principle, which was destined to play a big role in history and which we will call the principle of householding, consists in production for one's own use. The Greeks called it oeconomia, the etymon of the word "economy." As far as ethnographical records are concerned, we should not assume that production for a person's or group's own sake is more ancient than reciprocity or redistribution. On the contrary, orthodox tradition as well as some more recent theories on the subject have been emphatically disproved. The individualistic savage collecting food and hunting on his own or for his family has neverexisted. Indeed, the practice of catering for the needs of one's household becomes a feature of economic life only on a more advanced level of agriculture; however, even then it has nothing in common either with the motive of gain or with the institution of markets. Its patterrn is the closed group. Whether the very different entities of the family or the settlement or the manor formed the self-sufficient unit, the principle was invariably the same, namely, that of producing and storing for the satisfaction of the wants of the members of the group. The principle is as broad in its application as either reciprocity or redistribution. The nature of the institutional nucleus is indifferent: it may be sex as with the patriarchal family, locality as with the village settlement, or political power as with the seigneurial manor. Nor does the internal organization of the group matter. It may be as despotic as the Roman familia or as democratic as the South Slav zadruga; as large as the, great domains of the Carolingian magnates or as small as the average peasant holding of Western Europe. The need for trade or markets is, no greater than in the case of reciprocity or redistribution.

It is such a condition of affairs which Aristotle tried to establish as a norm more than two thousand years ago. Looking back from the rapidly declining heights of a world-wide market economy we must concede that his famous distinction of householding proper and moneymaking, in the introductory chapter of his Politics, was probably the most prophetic pointer ever made in the realm of the social sciences; it is certainly still the best analysis of the subject we possess. Aristotle insists on production for use as against production for gain as the essence of householding proper; yet accessory production for the market need not, he argues, destroy the self-sufficiency of the household as long as the cash crop would also otherwise be raised on the farm for sustenance, as cattle or grain; the sale of the surpluses need not destroy the basis of householding. Only a genius of common sense could have maintained, as he did, that gain was a motive peculiar to production for the market, and that the money factor introduced a new element into the situation, yet nevertheless, as long as markets and money were mere accessories to an otherwise self-sufficient household, the principle of production for use could operate. Undoubtedly, in this he was right, though he failed to see how impracticable it was to ignore the existence of markets at a time when Greek economy had made itself dependent upon wholesale trading and loaned capital. For this was the century when Delos and Rhodes were developing into emporia of freight insurance, sea-loans, and giro-banking, compared with which the Western Europe of a thousand years later was the very picture of primitivity. Yet Jowett, Master of Balliol, was grievously mistaken when he took it for granted that his Victorian England had a fairer grasp than Aristotle of the nature of the difference between householding and moneymaking. He excused Aristotle by conceding that the "subjects of knowledge that are concerned with man run into one another; and in the age of Aristotle were not easily distinguished." Aristotle, it is true, did not recognize clearly the implications of the division of labor and its connection with markets and money; nor did he realize the uses of money as credit and capital. So far Jowett’s strictures were justified. But it was the Master of Balliol, not Aristotle, who was impervious to the human implications of money-making. He failed to see that the distinction between the principle of use and that of gain was the key to the utterly different civilization the outlines of which Aristotle accurately forecast two thousand years before its advent out of the bare rudiments of a market economy available to him, while Jowett, with the full-blown specimen before him, overlooked its existence. In denouncing the principle of production for gain "as not natural to man," as boundless and limitless, Aristotle was, in effect, aiming at the crucial point, namely the divorcedness of a separate economic motive from the social relations in which these limitations inhered. 

Broadly, the proposition holds that all economic systems known to us up to the end of feudalism in Western Europe were organized either on the principles of reciprocity or redistribution, or houscholding, or some combination of the three. These principles were institutionalized with the help of a social organization which, inter alia, made use of the patterns of symmetry, centricity, and autarchy. In this framework, the orderly production and distribution of goods was secured through a great variety of individual motives disciplined by general principles of behavior. Among these motives gain was not prominent. Custom and law, magic and religion co-operated in inducing the individual to comply with rules of behavior which, eventually, ensured his functioning in the economic system. 

The Greco-Roman period, in spite of its highly developed trade, represented no break in this respect; it was characterized by the grand scale on which redistribution of grain was practiced by the Roman administration in an otherwise householding economy, and it formed no exception to the rule that up to the end of the Middle Ages, markets played no important part in the economic system; other institutional patterns prevailed.

From the sixteenth century onwards markets were both numerous and important. Under the mercantile system they became, in effect, a main concern of government; yet there was still no sign of the coming control of markets over human society. On the contrary. Regulation and regimentation were stricter than ever; the very idea of a self-regulating market was absent. To comprehend the sudden changever to an utterly new type of economy in the nineteenth century, we must now turn to the history of the market, an institution we were able practically to neglect in our review of the economic systems of the past. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Anthropology Of Anarchy

Charles J-H Macdonald 

February 2009

Charles Macdonald is a social and cultural anthropologist. He is a Senior Fellow (Directeur de Recherche) in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and a researcher at the Center for Social and Bioanthropological Studies (Adaptabilité Biologique et Culturelle -UMR 6578) of the University of Aix-Marseille II. He is a member in the School of Social Science at the IAS for the year 2008-2009, with the support of the Florence Gould Foundation. He is a founder and was the director of the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies (IRSEA) in Aix-en-Provence, and the founding director of the Asia-Pacific Studies Center (Maison Asie-Pacifique) in Marseille. He has been a Visiting Research Associate at the Universities of Oxford (St Antony’s College), Kyoto (Center for Southeast Asian Studies- CSEAS), Leiden (International Institute for Asian Studies- IIAS), Manila (IPC, Ateneo de Manila), and Singapore (Asian Research Institute-ARI). Specializing in Southeast Asia, he has done extensive periods of fieldwork with the Palawan indigenous community in the southern Philippines as well as with the Raglai culture and society of Southern Vietnam. Two topics in his more recent studies concern suicide and personal names. He has published a book on suicide (Uncultural Behavior, University of Hawai’i Press and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto, Honolulu 2007) and edited another one on names (Asian Names: History, Culture and Identity, Edited by Zheng Yangwen and Charles Macdonald, Preface by James C. Scott, Introduction by Anthony Reid and Charles Macdonald, NUS Press, Singapore, in press). His most recent field of interest concerns anarchic, egalitarian and peaceful organizations, which he examines in a cross-cultural and theoretical perspective. He is preparing a book on the subject, while currently completing a Palawan-Tagalog-English dictionary.


My aim in this talk is to present a few ideas regarding anarchy in human organization and to look at what an anarchist anthropology is or could be. I will proceed in two steps, firstly I will take a look at the relations anthropology and anarchism have had so far, secondly I will sketch a tentative hypothesis for anarchic societies (those studied by anthropologists). It may be that an anthropology of anarchy is an anarchist anthropology, or will fuel an anarchist project, but I am not sure of that. I am convinced, however, that a true understanding of existing anarchic societies will have interesting results as far as our understanding of human sociality in general is concerned. A few definitions are in order. Anarchy has two meanings, one is “disorder” or “chaos”; the other follows from its etymology “without a chief or leader.” “The condition of society in which there is no ruler” (Barclay 1982: 13) is the definition I am using when I employ the word “anarchy.” When I speak of an anarchic organization, I refer to a situation where rules of conduct are not enforced by any government apparatus, not even by leaders, a situation with minimal status hierarchy or no political power. I distinguish anarchic from acephalous. The communities I have in mind are stateless societies characterized by egalitarian behavior devoid of status competition, mainly foragers and horticulturalists, who generally lead a peaceful and ordered life. In a sense, however, I will not completely reject the other meaning of the word, “chaos” or “disorder”; I will show that a state of anarchy implies immanence, randomness, unpredictability and complexity, all concepts that dwell uneasily in a standard notion of what an ordered society is or ought to be. As for anarchism, the word refers to social theories and political philosophies with no unified doctrine or single program, but one central concern, the rejection of authoritarian government and its manifestation in the state together with free agreement as a guiding principle. It is, in Woodcock’s words “a system of social thought, aiming at fundamental changes in the structure of society and particularly— for this is the common element uniting all its forms—at the replacement of the authoritarian state by some form of nongovernmental co-operation between free individuals” (Woodcock 1962: 13). The founding fathers of anarchism, Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin, sought to propose a recipe for a just and free society and their successors proposed many different views on how to promote a just society or what a just society exactly looks like. There are violent and nonviolent varieties of anarchism. There are individualistic, communist and collectivist variants of anarchism. It is mostly left-wing, but there are also right-wing variants (anarcho- capitalism). Anarchistic ideas and ideals are embedded in various types of intentional enclaved communities (e.g. Hutterites), intentional enclaved and occasional communities (e.g., the Rainbow Family—see Niman 1997), political parties or institutions (e.g., the International Anarchist Congress), social movements whether insurrectional as in Spain in the years 1930 to 1936, or pacifist and religious movements not necessarily under the banner of anarchism proper, but having in common an anti-authoritarian bend, an egalitarian and community-oriented ethos. In any case, anarchism is an interesting blend of notions for a social anthropologist, especially for a social anthropologist who has observed at close quarters and for a long period of time an anarchic society. Not all anthropologists have had this opportunity. In the nineteenth century, thinkers like Proudhon or Bakunin were trying to construct a theory of society without government, without a state, based on individual freedom, mutualism or collectivism, and federalism. They were mostly imagining such a society, as the few historical examples, like the Swiss confederacy observed by Kropotkin, for instance (Ward 2004: 86), or the medieval city commune, could not provide sufficient empirical ground to test their ideas. It is in the next century that anthropologists started to intensively investigate a number of truly “anarchic societies.” They provided a host of empirical evidence leading to the conclusion that a stable collective existence was possible in a state of anarchy. In a way, then, the data collected by anthropologists in the twentieth century supported the theories of the nineteenth century libertarians and anarchists, or at least gave some indication that these theories had a measure of empirical validity. Birket-Smith, an ethnographer, wrote in 1959 of the Eskimo: “If anywhere there exists that community…of which Kropotkin dreamt, it is to be found among these poor tribes neighboring upon the North Pole” (quoted in Barclay, 1982: 39) Can anarchism then be validated as a social theory? Or, to put it in another way, is anarchism an anthropology of anarchy? In spite of the great many books and articles written on “primitive” societies and attempts at constructing a comparative theory of social organization and a typology of such organizations, anthropology has somewhat remained at a stand-still for almost fifty years now. We have an outdated typology of societies in an evolutionist perspective, the famous sequence of band-tribe-chiefdom-kingdom-state, with peasant societies somewhere in the middle. Maybe this is because anthropology was trapped in functionalism and evolutionism, orientations that were subsequently abandoned in favor of other pursuits, jettisoning as a result “social structure” and other pre-postmodern objects. Research on comparative social structure has slowed down, to say the least, and has not come up with a really new typology, evolutionary or otherwise. I am proposing, therefore, to look again at the so-called “simple” societies of hunters-gatherers and horticulturalists, and maybe some others, under a different light. I will try to understand their complexity because this is what I think they are, but of course their complexity is not what we use to mean when we speak of large modern urban societies. There is complexity in what looks simple. I am betting on the fact that the complexity of small, anarchic populations can teach us something about our own modern sociality and that we can at the same time learn something about our past. The Still-born Anarchist Anthropology A bibliography of articles in the social sciences (Goehlert 1976) covering the period 1900 to 1975 contains more than 400 references on anarchy and anarchism, but only three or four relate to anthropology or appear in an anthropological journal. Historians, political scientists, and philosophers have clearly shown a much greater interest for anarchy and anarchism than social anthropologists, and this is surprising since the latter have been looking at societies without government right from the start of modern descriptions of hunters-gatherers in the Arctic, in Australia, in South America and elsewhere. Whereas many anthropologists in the past fifty years have called themselves Marxists, very few (or even none that I can recall) have called themselves anarchists or have defended anarchism with a belief that it could explain human development or human society as well as, or better than, Marxism and dialectical materialism do (Graeber 2004: 2-3). There are a number of reasons I can think of, one being that anarchism by nature is a discourse on the future of human society rather than on its past, a normative project rather than an objective assessment. It has therefore appeared as a purely critical discourse on the state on the one hand, and as a moral, even utopian, discourse aimed at the foundation of a better and more just society on the other. Marx and Engels used anthropology, particularly the work of Lewis Henry Morgan’s speculative evolutionary history and the notion of primitive communism. Marxism and anthropology have traded ideas and information ever since, but there has been mainly a one-way circulation of ideas between anthropology and anarchism, especially under the form of anarchoprimitivism, showing influence from anthropologists like Sahlins or Levi-Strauss. Still, the fact that anthropologists have shown so little interest in anarchism is intriguing. There have been exceptions, one being the young A. R. Radciffe-Brown, later the founder and main proponent of functionalism in anthropology, a theory that can be regarded as a pure antithesis of anarchism. Yet, in his student years, RadcliffeBrown professed an admiration for Kropotkin and was known as “Anarchy Brown” (Graeber 2004:16). I am not sure that there were anthropological seeds for the blooming of a potential anarchist anthropology in early and influential works by Marcel Mauss, especially his essay on the gift (Mauss 1925), arguing that human society was built on gift economies and “prestations totales.” Mauss had his doubts, also, on the role of the state, but his leanings were towards socialism and not anarchism. In France, the name of Pierre Clastres is the one most associated with an anarchist theory in anthropology (Clastres 1989). What sets his ideas apart from those current at the moment—the seventies, when Levi-Straussian structuralism ruled the roost—is not that primitive society is stateless, something everybody knew, of course, but that primitive society was actively geared to prevent the emergence of the state. For Clastres, primitive society is not without state; it is anti-state. He had an idea that there was a discontinuity of essence between the primitive form of organization and the civilized, that the second could not under any normal circumstance emerge from the former. He saw the emergence of political power as a mystery to be explained. The internal organization of the Amazonian Indian societies he took as examples made sure that the chiefs had no power and were actually in an inferior position compared to their constituents (because chiefs were the only polygamists and, as such, were in a position of indebtedness towards the other members of their group). His argument has been criticized on several grounds, one that Indians could not fight something they did not even know existed (the state), and second because of a lack of empirical data to support his claim. In spite of the drawbacks and thinness of his writings (Clastres met a premature death in a car accident in 1977), he correctly saw in primitive economies a principle of nonreciprocity and, in chiefly positions, roles without power. Clastres can be seen as a proponent of the long tradition of the “great divide,” between nature and culture, communitas and structure, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. He was correct in theorizing that primitive societies could not, in normal circumstances, transform themselves into state societies (214), but the argument needs to be overhauled. Clastres, indeed, spoke at times of primitive society as an essence, a fixed Hegelian category, but there are many different kinds of “primitive” societies, and not all of them are anarchic, by a long way. There is a divide but the fault line lies elsewhere, not just between modern and pre-modern, but somewhere among the pre-modern. More recently, the work of David Graeber has spurred an interest in what an anarchist anthropology could be. In his essay Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004), he proposes a number of ideas, asks provocative questions, and probes avenues into various domains, pointing out problems which have found no solution in standard socio-anthropological theory: what intellectual tools should we use to speak of political entities that are not states? (68-9), or “where did the bizarre notion of the ‘corporation’ come from?” (73). I think some of his insights are excellent, particularly his attention to the notion of complexity1 . But, in the end, this essay does not provide, nor does it purport to, a well-articulated set of principles on which to develop an anarchist anthropology, and these fragments remain alluring, but tentative and disconnected 2 . Reviewers dispensed scathing criticism (Aya 2006: 591), but anarchist ideas no matter how mildly and scholarly put, seem to always irritate and tend to be impatiently dismissed. Elements for an Anarchist Anthropology The most obvious introduction to a study of anarchy in anthropology would be to go over the many studies that dealt with the problem of political order in stateless or acephalous societies. As said earlier, one of the main results of these studies was to place these social forms at the bottom of the evolutionary ascent towards the emergence of the state. Strictly anarchic acephalous societies belonged to the category “band society” and, to some extent, to “tribes,” but “tribes without rulers” (the title of a book by Middleton and Tait, 1958). Most social scientists have never gone beyond a notion that these societies were just simple, defined by a “lack of,” and not worth theorizing too much. I will say a few things below on the band society and the study of hunters-gatherers. Harold Barclay is a researcher who stands apart. He is the author of a book called People without Government (1982). He calls a spade a spade, and puts anarchy and anarchies squarely at the center of a discussion on societies that many authors have refused to call so, instead calling them acephalous, democratic, egalitarian, etc. “I believe many anthropologists, in their own projection of personal and cultural values, have obstinately refused to apply the one truly clarifying term to those numerous societies which are without government and are, therefore, anarchies” (16). Without calling itself “anarchist,” a topicality has been present in anthropological discourse that could begin to point in the direction of anarchist thinking. It is the notion of anti-structure, which is a state observed by folklorists and anthropologists at crucial moments of social cycles: what Gluckman called rituals of rebellion (Douglas 1954:96), and liminal situations characterized by a symbolic subversion of hierarchy and role reversals, such as those found in medieval carnivals that were so brilliantly interpreted by Bakhtin (1970). These crucial and highly ritualized moments of social life were theorized by Turner (1977) as expressing communitas, a state of undifferentiated equality, and spiritual togetherness, at the opposite pole of the definition of regular social structure with its ranked statuses and ordered roles. In this sense, structure and anti-structure cannot be separated and are part of the same totality. The binary of structure and anti-structure is reminiscent of the opposed poles of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft posited by Tönnies ([1887]1955), two radically different forms of associative processes resulting, one from a natural communitarian will, the other from a rational individualistic will (Adair-Toteff 1995: 59). Indulging further in the game of ideological pairing, other mythical divides may be brought in, rooted in ancestral paradigms such as Rousseau’s “état de nature” and Hobbes’ “state of war.” Probably our western way of thinking about man has been one that pits the modern state-dominated condition of social life against some fantasy of pre-social, pre-cultural and even pre-human existence cast in the “Metaphysical triangle of anarchy, hierarchy and equality” (Sahlins 2008: 4). This primeval state has been mainly defined as post-edenic and evil, overwhelmingly Hobbesian rather than Rousseauian (id.). Anarchy being on the side of the primeval and the primitive, any attempt at its sublimation smacks of anarchism and must be seen as utopian or regressive. Interestingly, primitive communism, which is more of a myth than primitive anarchy, did not give such bad publicity to the communist project, at least in the eyes of the anthropological community. What is so repellent about primitive anarchy that is so attractive about primitive communism? At any rate, anthropologists could be suspected of harboring anarchist sympathies, since they were finding some merit in the stateless societies they studied. If an anarchist anthropology has not been hatched in European or American academic nurseries, another current of interest has in part taken its place, and that is peace anthropology, “the study of peoples whose way of life seems remarkably peaceful” (Dentan in press: 2)3 . This field has yielded a number of important studies in recent years (Howell and Willis 1989, Sponsel and Gregor 1994, Kemp and Fry 2004), the latest and most comprehensive to date being Fry’s The Human Potential for Peace, 2006 (see also Dentan 2008 a) and b). ). Peace studies were consonant with an anti-war concern dating back to Meadian peace activism, and an interest in peace and nonviolence flared up during the sixties. Books like Thomas’ The Harmless People (1959), Turnbull’s The Forest People (1961), and Dentan’s The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya (1968), seemed relevant to a general argument against war, but also, as Dentan points out, could have led to some anarchist vindication of egalitarianism and statelessness, as these nonviolent peoples were also strictly anarchic. These books found an audience among “flower children,” but again anarchist anthropology did not flourish as an academically-based school of thought, and concerns with war were seen as more urgent, maybe, than a desire for peace. Peace studies, however, gained momentum in the 1980’s, but not out of a political or ideological agenda (Dentan in press: 10). The main result of these studies is to drastically reconsider what was deemed as a necessary dimension of human nature, namely violence and a propensity to wage war, and to cast serious doubts on the belief that man is inherently violent and aggression-prone (Fry 2006). Relevant to an anthropological discussion on anarchy has been the study of hunter-gatherer sociality and the question of band society started by Julian Steward in 1936, followed by Elman Service’s The Hunters (1966), and marked by fierce controversies that found several venues in symposia and collective volumes (Ingold et al. 1988, Lee and Daly 1999). Although the phrase “ordered anarchy” had been coined by Evans-Pritchard in reference to the Nuer, a pastoralist people, some of the “real anarchists,” if I may call them so, are to be found among the foragers and hunters-gatherers from different parts of the world, who live in bands, small nomadic aggregates of fifteen to fifty persons, who are egalitarian and whose leaders hold no power. They can “persuade but not command” in the words of Lee and Daly (1999: 4). The band society displays great instability in its composition, bands being in a constant process of fission and fusion. The groups are also affected by a seasonal variation, dispersing and splitting into very small clusters one part of the year, and concentrating into larger aggregates during the other part of the year. Several other important aspects of their way of life are remarkably similar among many such cultures and are in striking contrast to many sedentary and agricultural societies, leading one of their best interpreters to the conclusion that hunters-gatherers have a “distinct mode of sociality,” to the point of actually having no society: “The distinctiveness of hunter-gatherer sociality lies in its subversion of the very foundations upon which the concept of society, taken in any of its modern senses, has been built” (Ingold 1999: 399). Later, Ingold explains that “Together, the principles of immediacy, autonomy, and sharing add up to a form of sociality utterly incompatible with the concept of society, whether by society is meant the interlocking interests of “civil society”, the imagined community of the ethnic group or nation, or the regulative structures of the state” (id : 408). ” Such very provocative and daring statements deserve attention because, if true, they may contain farreaching consequences for our understanding of human sociality in general. I will critically examine their truth in the rest of my presentation. I will show that it applies to other peoples than foragers, hunters and gatherers. It is not the foraging or hunting-gathering mode of production in itself that explains this specific mode of sociality, since it applies to a number of horticulturalists as well, but a distinct disposition to maintain collective life in a state of gregariousness, immanence and unmediated interpersonal relations. It is not the least surprising and serendipitous twist in our painfully slow anthropological progress that the very people at the bottom of the human pyramid, those typically branded as living like brutes in a short life of solitude and poverty—to paraphrase Hobbes—that these very people have something decisively important to offer to modern anthropological theory. What looked like matters that concerned hunters and gatherers only, has seeped into the anthropology of agricultural people as well. The first—to my knowledge—to call attention to what seemed at the time an exceptional fact is J. Stauder in an article entitled Anarchy and Ecology: Political Society among the Majangir (1972). In this paper, the strict egalitarianism of the Majangir, an agricultural people of southwest Ethiopia, is noted as to fit uneasily in the then current typology of hunting and gathering bands with which, however, Majangir society seemed to share most of its fundamental traits, particularly an absence of any corporate groups outside the domestic family. The author correctly surmised that the Majangir case was casting doubts on the evolutionary typology proposed by Service and Sahlins (Stauder 1972: 159, 163), and pointed out, also, that the anarchic state the Majangir were in was an “adaptive disorganization” (164). Another landmark in the emergence of the “hunting-gathering type of sociality” applied to non-hunting-gathering people, was T. Gibson’s study of the Buid or Taobuid, a culture from southern Mindoro in the Philippines (Gibson 1986). A student of Woodburn4 , who was a specialist of hunters and gatherers and someone who had advocated important ideas—notably the concept of sharing (Woodburn 1998)—Gibson’s observations on the Buid matched those of Woodburn on the Hadza of Tanzania, particularly their sharing ethos, active pursuit of egalitarianism, and peacefulness. Other studies in the same general area, particularly R. Dentan’s study of the Semai—equally an horticulturalist people— (Dentan 1968, 1992) were starting to form a body of knowledge supporting the view that the anarchic ethos of hunters-gatherers was at work in groups characterized by what Woodburn called delayed-return economies. Thus, concepts that seemed to fit only foragers’ bands—sharing, immediacy, anarchy, etc.—and just the lowest stage of the evolutionary model proposed in the sixties and seventies, were found relevant not only for nomadic foragers, but for other social formations as well. The Ethnography of Anarchy Actually, before reading Ingold’s contribution, I had reached the same conclusion myself, namely that the group I had studied, the Palawan people, could hardly be called a “society,” in the sense of having a “social structure.” It looked to me more like a collection of individuals and domestic families in perpetual motion. I came to this conclusion after studying this indigenous group from the Southern Philippines, for more than thirty years. Let me then give you a very brief synopsis of their sociology 5 . Although they also hunt and collect wild products from the forest, the 45,000 Palawan people invest the greater part of their time and effort in upland dry rice and tuber agriculture. They live in small, dispersed settlements or hamlets, defined with appropriate vagueness as “neighborhoods,” and are heavily committed to an egalitarian and peaceful way of life. Until recently, the concept of private property of land was either unknown or consciously rejected. The inner working of their society can be grasped6 looking at three different domains: locality, kinship and justice. The first two, kinship and locality, account for their general morphology: small nuclei of related domestic families centered on sororal sibling groups, with an initial absence of male philopatry (male dispersal is within a limited perimeter, however), predominant uxori- and matri-locality. Neighborhoods are made of an aggregation of nuclei and vary in composition through time, but at any point in time have an identity which rests on the place (geographically defined) and/or on the presence of a senior person of authority. Authority is here again understood as a capacity to influence or persuade, not as a power to give orders. Authority is constructed as the outcome of two separate factors, a kinship role and an expertise in customary law. There is very little asymmetry in status between men and women, and role specialization is best seen as two overlapping domains of mastery, rather than one being in a subordinate position to the other. As in other similar cultures of the region (Insular Southeast Asia), wives are not expected to defer to their husbands, no more than women to men in general. The neighborhood is also based on ties that lay outside the legal or kinship realms. It is based on free association between individuals and families. The flexibility and intricate network of bilateral kinship ties allow for a wide range in personal choices and selection of neighbors. People become neighbors because they develop a liking for each other, not just because they are kin. It is often the other way around: kinship ties are a way to institutionalize friendship (Macdonald 1999). Neighborhoods are large groups of people who acknowledge kin ties. They are, as such, not “kinship groups,” groups created by the automatic enforcement of kinship principles, but “groups of kinsmen.” Spatial proximity between households both creates and is created by free choices and affinities between individuals. The forces of friendship, or companionship to use Gibson’s apt term (Gibson 1985:392 and passim), are at work. I propose, also, to use the notion of fellowship, an association of friends, of equals who share a common interest and freely chose each other’s company to pursue this common interest. Palawan society is nothing, after all, but a large fellowship or a series of overlapping fellowships. From the point of view of Durkheimian sociology, the kind of arrangement I am describing is both simple and mechanical, due to its segmentary nature, and not organic, that is, based on the complementarity of the segments. I take the opposite view that this kind of arrangement is complex and organic. The complexity of this arrangement is a result of two different aspects of its operation. Firstly, “society” in this case is the aggregation of individual subjects by virtue of what I have called elsewhere “the conditions of felicity” of collective life, something that ethnomethodologists and Goffmanian sociologists have gone a considerable way to elucidate7 . The coalescing in a semi-stable aggregate of highly complex subjectivities is of an order of complexity different from what we usually call complexity while referring to institutions or “facticities” in modern urban and industrial society. In other words, society results from a statistical and, above all, random arrangement of its constitutive elements. That is the second most important reason to call this arrangement complex. At least three traits defining complexity are present: first, a sociality based on personal ties and therefore complicated psychological requirements; second, a great number of possible arrangements; and third, randomness in the result of these arrangements. As a result, also, there is unpredictability and unstability inasmuch as the exact number and composition of aggregates in future time cannot be predicted with certainty. But if aggregates are not permanent, they recreate themselves constantly and the general result in this constant shift of individual units between aggregates is the stability of the whole. In other words, aggregates are more energy than matter. Or better, let us see this as a real living organism, as Edgar Morin, quoting von Neumann, suggested (Morin 2005: 43). Our body is made of 50 to 100 trillion cells, and 10 to 20% of them are being degraded and replaced each year. The total number of cells will be replaced in five to ten years, but the organism in which this process takes place will not substantially change8 . The whole is more durable than the parts, as opposed to, for instance, an automobile engine in which the parts are often more durable than the whole. By the same token, if you take a Palawan population in one area composed of maybe 1,500 to 3,000 persons, it will remain the same social and cultural entity after one generation during which all of its neighborhoods will have shifted both in location and in composition. Its component parts will not be the same. I submit that the nature of this complex organization based on random and unpredictable arrangements of its constitutive parts, is a concept that socio-anthropological theory cannot come to terms with because, in spite of disclaimers to the contrary, it rests on a mechanistic and predictable view of society. The “organic” view of society proposed by Durkheim, is anatomical and mechanistic, and not truly organic. We have a situation of random and unpredictable disorder on which is predicated order at another level. This is what anarchy is all about, both chaos and order at the same time 9 . The Production of Equality: Community-building Since equality is almost synonymous with anarchy in its strict sense, to say that anarchy requires equality is a tautology. The absence of power clearly requires an absence or limitation of hierarchy, maybe a mechanism like a “reverse dominance hierarchy” (Boehm 1993). A real anarchic society must limit power relations to an extreme degree. There must be “no concentration of force at all” (Taylor 1982: 7). But this is not the result of inertia or just “the absence of” (power, hierarchy, etc.). Equality is not at all a given to be taken for granted—as sociologists believe, like Michael Mann, for whom “An egalitarian society is self-explanatory. Hierarchical differences…are not institutionalized” (Mann 1986: 37). Equality is constructed, an active process enforced by various means and by constant effort. Egalitarianists do not just abstain from inequality, like they would from consuming alcohol or wearing T-shirts; they produce and actively maintain equality. They show an active commitment to create and preserve it; in the words of R. Lee, “ they are just not sitting ducks waiting to adopt the first hierarchical model that comes along” (Lee 1992:40). How do they do it? There are several ways to look at it, but I think it best to look at the processes through which anarchic people construct their community, to examine the system, ethos and even style of their relations. In his cogently argued essay Community, Anarchy, and Liberty, M. Taylor (1982) posits and demonstrates the need for community in order to make anarchy possible. Anarchy, community and equality are absolute requirements, each entailing the others, “they form a coherent set” (Taylor 1982: 167). According to him, any community has three prerequisites, that of possessing common values and beliefs, that of maintaining direct and multi-sided ties between its members, and third, reciprocity. 

1. Values and attitudes

Large societies with a very rigid hierarchy, ethnically heterogeneous, and complex in the usual sense of being made of numerous and functionally distinct parts–the Indian caste society for instance—do have common values—the opposition of pure and impure and the trichotomy of functions as Dumont and Dumezil have shown for Indian society. The requirement is rather that certain special values and norms are held in commonality in order to maintain equality and peace. Whether we look at the Semai, Palawan, Buid, Caribou Inuit, Hazda, Nayaka, Piaroa, or many others, we find a certain kind of attitude, or rather an array of attitudes and values, as particularly salient. For the time being, I will characterize it as an insistence on personal autonomy coupled with minimal self-affirmation. It has also a lot to do with sharing in the sense I will give to this word. Words like “humility” and “compassion” can be used as approximate glosses if detached from their religious connotations. It is necessary that a majority, but not all, members of a community hold such values and act accordingly. It is the combination of personal autonomy and relative adherence to a system of values that ensure continuous operation of the system. North Alaska Eskimos maintained a peaceful, generally nonviolent, gregarious way of collective life with absolutely no form of punitive justice. Violence, however, was not absent and bullies were a known institution. They were eventually isolated and/or killed (Hippler 1974). It is because people were autonomous in the sense of being able to move away from such dangerous individuals or, in extreme cases, do away with these individuals, that life remained relatively safe and gregarious. Norms were not enforced, or at least not negatively enforced by punishment. Removing a dangerous individual—a hazard to his community—was apparently not done to set an example or create a deterrent. People were interested in peace, not in justice. The idea is that people who see eye-to-eye, people who share the same values, stay together; those who do not, just go somewhere else. But, again, it is not only communality that matters, but the nature of the values shared by members of anarchic communities. 

2. Personal and multisided relations

The second point, direct and multi-sided/stranded relations, is what permits and limits anarchy at the same time. It is essential, indeed, that relations between persons not be mediated either by a specialized function or by membership in a group. Marilyn Strathern remarked that English persons saw each other as “parts of a whole” (quoted in Bird-David 1994: 597), but for the Nayaka of Southern India, persons are seen as wholes and coalesce with each other, as in the ritual metaphor of drops of oil coalescing with each other (id.). Sociality is there defined as coalescence requiring co-presence, in a physical sense, of participants. Persons relate to each other not as personas in the capacity of role- or status-holders, but as immanent beings in the world, complete in themselves, not parts of any totality from which they would derive their mutual significance. But this immediacy and intimacy can obtain only within relatively small aggregates. Coalescence needs time, accumulation of knowledge, growth, multiple and repetitive interaction. Familiarity cannot be built with thousands. He who has many friends has no friends, said Aristotle. It cannot either be built in minutes, but in months and years. Anarchic communities are therefore producing small aggregates (bands are around 25 persons, neighborhoods around 50 or less) of fellows or companions bound by a variety of interests and ties requiring a certain amount of emotional intimacy to develop. Such communities have a strong psychological dimension and are, by nature, extremely volatile; their composition is in a constant state of flux. 

3. Sharing

Sharing is another central dimension of anarchic sociality. And this was the third point in Taylor’s list of requirements, the dimension of sociality that insures not only a just allocation of goods, but a fair relationship between economic actors. Anarchists, like Proudhon, have always insisted on mutuality and cooperation as one of the basic elements of a just society. It would take too long to go into this question in detail as it has been the object of numerous articles and essays in the past twenty years. The gist of it is that reciprocity and sharing are two different things, and entail distinct relations between participants. Reciprocity implies that something is given and another thing is given back (A gives to B who gives to A or to C who gives to A); but first of all, it entails an obligation binding the participants. The whole point is the debt created by the initial gift and the chain reaction that it puts in motion. The active principle of this process is, of course, the moral obligation binding the debtor to the creditor through the debt thus created. This is, in essence, an unequal relation: A, the creditor, is superior to B, the agent incurring the debt. This is indeed a powerful mechanism and could pass as a “social contract” in Rousseau’s or Hobbes’ sense (Godelier 1996). It is to society what an engine is to an automobile. More recent research has shown, however, that sharing is based on a different principle: it is a division of an object, commodity or good, between persons or groups, without anyone being seen as giver and no one being in a position of incurring a debt. It looks strange, a gift without a donor, something like the zen koan of one hand clapping, but it is actually something that has an empirical basis. There are various ways to achieve this. For example, large animals caught by hunters–Hazda or Inuits— are declared to be gifts of nature and must be shared, often by someone who is not the hunter. Another way to achieve this has been called “demand sharing” (Peterson 1993), whereby the person who owns an object lets himself be dispossessed of it under the request put to him by someone else. This concept is similar to “tolerated theft,” a notion used in the study of primate behavior. In all these cases, there is no expectation of reciprocity. You cannot give back something that is not given to you in the first place. Sharing has been confused with what Sahlins called general reciprocity (Sahlins 1965) and with the moral concept of generosity. It is neither, although it looks like it. Avoiding debts was a very intentional position and clearly something people were aware of. Inuits said famously “with gifts one makes slaves” (Freuchen 1976). The main lesson that sharing has to teach is the affirmation of equality. Gifts entail a debt that creates inequality. This is why sharing, even if it is not the only way people allocate resources, is a moral dimension of equality and a requirement in maintaining a state of anarchy 10. 

4. Other factors

I have considered so far the autonomy and low self-affirmation of subjects, the personal and multi-stranded aspect of relations, and sharing. All these requirements create conditions of felicity and permit bonding or, as I will explain below, a richness of weak ties. Interpersonal relations thus created rest on a number of other dimensions and personality traits that are conducive to bonding: selfdisparagement, humility, and often laughter and humor, as well as envy. The process of consensus-building through long discussions is also very much of the essence. Last, but not least, is another important dimension: culture in the general sense of communicative skills, the performance of arts (music, oral literature), rituals and ceremonies. It offers people not bound together by strong jural ties the venue for sharing in a meaningful and profound manner, and feel part of a community of interest. It may be also that non-utilitarian activities having cultural and spiritual significance mobilize a larger cooperative work force than strictly utilitarian or practical activities. Personal Autonomy and the Force of Social Ties From hominoid evolutionary prehistory, chances are that several diverging forms of adaptation survived and still exist side-by-side. I hypothesize, therefore, that two branches on the hominin terminal ramification, not in the form of biological speciation, but in the form of societal speciation (resulting from selection at the sociocultural level), are surviving from ancient adaptation of hominoids to specific conditions. One is the gregarious, anarchic, egalitarian, non-social type of collective life, which proved to be adaptive and successful over tens of thousands of years (more than 90% of Homo Sapiens life on earth). The other one is the socially-structured type of collective life, extremely successful in a different sort of way, nowadays eradicating relentlessly all survivors of the other option. If evolutionary sociologists are correct (Maryanski 1994), humanoid sociality, going back to the Last Common Ancestor of apes and humans, evidenced a “fluid organizational structure, consisting of a low level of sociality and a lack of intergenerational group continuity over time” (Maryanski 1994: 384). The reasons for that lie in several forces, one being the dispersal of females and another in the low level of bonding between males, characterized by high individual autonomy and high individualism creating fluid social networks (id., 385)11. To quote again the same author: “A richness of weak ties over strong ties…provide humanoids with a degree of integration at the macro-population level in contrast to monkey populations where a richness of strong ties over weak ties is seen to provide integration at the micro-group level of organization” (id., 386). If a “weak tie” is defined as a tie that may at any time be terminated by the decision of any one party (as opposed to ties that cannot be terminated at will), if weak ties are by nature short-lived and strong ties permanent or long-lasting, humanoids and their descendants were successful because they acquired great individual opportunities to create new ties, enabling them to produce large but loose aggregates. The benefits of that for a far-roaming animal like Homo, are several. Ranging far and wide, being highly mobile, he needs to frequently associate and disassociate himself from his conspecifics. So here we are, humans are not essentially “social” animals. They are gregarious in the sense that they need to interact and cooperate with their conspecifics, provided they maintain a great deal of personal autonomy. Conclusion Small anarchic populations exist in different parts of the world, possibly as remnants of what could have been the dominant mode of sociality among humans. It is based on a richness of weak ties and, at the same time, on certain conditions that facilitate cooperation, especially ties that lead to friendship and enable people to create temporary fellowships. Social life was thus eminently unpredictable, creation of groups was random, culture was complex. Communities were necessarily small, based on personal, multi-stranded relations. These communities were probably peaceful, avoiding violent confrontation and, of course, were strictly egalitarian. Proudhon’s statement that liberty is the mother, not daughter, of order holds true in this instance. What small anarchic communities did not have, and what possibly changed the future of human sociality, was the invention of corporation and strong personal ties based on dependence. Once those ties became the basis of the social fabric as in European feudal society, described by Marc Bloch (1968), or like those societies where ties of personal dependence were followed into death (Testart 2004), they could be transferred to a corporation, an abstract, transcendent, collective entity (like a nation). The invention of corporations to which one pledges one’s loyalty is central in our social, political, economic, and moral life, but it remains—in my view—an anthropological puzzle. In this case Proudhon’s formula has to be reversed: order has become the mother of liberty. 

ENDNOTES 1. Such as this quote: “to ignore the incredibly complex play of perspectives, passions, insights, desires, and mutual understandings that human life is really made of, is to make a rule and threaten anyone who breaks it” (72-3). 2. The same author, in a more recent volume (Graeber 2007), has put together a number of essays with topics relevant to a discussion of anarchy and anarchism from an anthropological perspective. 3. I will base the following considerations on Dentan’s paper (in press). 4. T. Gibson, personal communication. 5. For details, see Macdonald 2007. 6. The ethnographic present applies to the seventies for most areas, to the eighties and nineties for the central highland area. 7. I have tried to explain and illustrate this concept in another unpublished paper (Macdonald 2008 b). 8. With thanks to Jun Song of the School of Natural Sciences, IAS, for checking the figures. The replacement rate of cells is not the same, however, for all tissues. Brain cells, apart from a few exceptions, don’t divide and are not replaced (Prashanth AK , School of Natural Sciences, personal communication). 9. The biological metaphor used in this paragraph is not the only possible one. A common feature of biological systems at multiple levels of organization shows redundancy (multiple identical units performing same function) and degeneracy (multiple non-identical units capable of performing the same function), such that loss or damage in a few units does not appreciably alter the functional integrity of the system as a whole. (Prashanth AK, personal communication) 10. See Macdonald 2008 a) for a full development of this argument. 11. Wrangham—quoted in Boehm 1993: 238—reached different conclusions in a previous reconstruction from humans and African apes. His are closed social networks and some dominance, but no female alliances and hostility between groups (Wrangham 1987). 

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