Division of labor, which has had so much to do with bringing us to the present global crisis, works daily to prevent our understanding the origins of this horrendous present. In terms of human origins and development, the array of splintered fields and sub-fields — anthropology, archaeology, paleontology, ethnology, paleobotany, ethnoanthropology, etc. Nonetheless, the literature can provide highly useful assistance, if approached with an appropriate method and awareness and the desire to proceed past its limitations. In fact, the weakness of more or less orthodox modes of thinking can and does yield to the demands of an increasingly dissatisfied society. Unhappiness with contemporary life becomes distrust with the official lies that are told to legitimate that life, and a truer picture of human development emerges.
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Division of labor, which has had so much to do with bringing us to the present global crisis, works daily to prevent our understanding the origins of this horrendous present. In terms of human origins and development, the array of splintered fields and sub-fields — anthropology, archaeology, paleontology, ethnology, paleobotany, ethnoanthropology, etc.
Nonetheless, the literature can provide highly useful assistance, if approached with an appropriate method and awareness and the desire to proceed past its limitations. In fact, the weakness of more or less orthodox modes of thinking can and does yield to the demands of an increasingly dissatisfied society.
Unhappiness with contemporary life becomes distrust with the official lies that are told to legitimate that life, and a truer picture of human development emerges. This ideological view of our past has been radically overturned in recent decades, through the work of academics like Richard Lee and Marshall Sahlins. A nearly complete reversal in anthropological orthodoxy has come about, with important implications.
This was our human nature, for a couple of million years, prior to enslavement by priests, kings, and bosses. And lately another stunning revelation has appeared, a related one that deepens the first and may be telling us something equally important about who we were and what we might again become.
The main line of attack against new descriptions of gatherer-hunter life has been, though often indirect or not explicitly stated, to characterize that life, condescendingly, as the most an evolving species could achieve at an early stage. To put the issue of mental capacity in context, it is useful to review the various and again, ideologically loaded interpretations of human origins and development.
Robert Ardrey , served up a bloodthirsty, macho version of prehistory, as have to slightly lesser degrees, Desmond Morris and Lionel Tiger. Similarly, Freud and Konrad Lorenz wrote of the innate depravity of the species, thereby providing their contributions to hierarchy and power in the present.
Fortunately, a far more plausible outlook has emerged, one that corresponds to the overall version of Paleolithic life in general. Food sharing has for some time been considered an integral part of earliest human society e. Washburn and DeVore, Jane Goodall and Richard Leakey , among others, have concluded that it was the key element in establishing our uniquely Homo development at least as early as 2 million years ago.
One of the telling arguments in favor of the cooperation thesis, as against that of generalized violence and male domination, involves a diminishing, during early evolution, of the difference in size and strength between males and females.
The disappearance of large male canines strongly suggests that the female of the species exercised a selection for sociable, sharing males. Most apes today have significantly longer and larger canines, male to female, in the absence of this female choice capacity Zihlman , Tanner Division of labor between the sexes is another key area in human beginnings, a condition once simply taken for granted and expressed by the term hunter-gatherer.
Now it is widely accepted that gathering of plant foods, once thought to be the exclusive domain of women and of secondary importance to hunting by males, constituted the main food source Johansen and Shreeve Since females were not significantly dependent on males for food Hamilton , it seems likely that rather than division of labor, flexibility and joint activity would have been central Bender As Zihlman points out, an overall behavioral flexibility may have been the primary ingredient in early human existence.
So if the adaptation that began our species centered on gathering, when did hunting come in? Binford has argued that there is no indication of use of animal products i.
Electron microscope studies of fossil teeth found in East Africa Walker suggest a diet composed primarily of fruit, while a similar examination of stone tools from a 1. The small amount of meat in the early Paleolithic diet was probably scavenged, rather than hunted Ehrenberg b.
Much evidence, however, has overturned assumptions as to widespread prehistoric hunting. Collections of bones seen earlier as evidence of large kills of mammals, for example, have turned out to be, upon closer examination, the results of movement by flowing water or caches by animals. Straus , Trinkhaus who do not see evidence for serious hunting of large mammals until even later, viz.
The oldest known surviving artifacts are stone tools from Hadar in eastern Africa. With more refined dating methods, they may prove to be 3. Perhaps the main reason these may be classified as representing human effort is that they involve the crafting of one tool by using another, a uniquely human attribute so far as we know. Similarly, tools older than 2 million years have been found to exhibit a consistent right-handed orientation in the ways stone has been flaked off in their formation.
Right-handedness as a tendency is correlated in moderns with such distinctly human features as pronounced lateralization of the brain and marked functional separation of the cerebral hemispheres Holloway a. Homo erectus is the other main predecessor to Homo sapiens, according to longstanding usage, appearing about 1.
Though of course the much-maligned Neanderthal has been pictured as a primitive, brutish creature — in keeping with the prevailing Hobbesian ideology — despite manifest intelligence as well as enormous physical strength Shreeve Recently, however, the whole species framework has become a doubtful proposition Day , Rightmire The tremendous upward revision of early intelligence, discussed below, must be seen as connected to the present confusion over species, as the once-prevailing overall evolutionary model gives way.
But the controversy over species categorization is only interesting in the context of how our earliest forbears lived. Despite the minimal nature of what could be expected to survive so many millennia, we can glimpse some of the texture of that life, with its often elegant, pre-division of labor approaches.
Leakey, There soon appeared the Acheulian handaxe, with its symmetrical beauty, in use for about a million years. Teardrop-shaped, and possessed of a remarkable balance, it exudes grace and utility from an era much prior to symbolization.
Further evidence suggests furs for cave wall coverings and seats, and seaweed beds for sleeping Butzer Perfected fire-making included the firing of caves to eliminate insects and heated pebble floors Perles , Lumley , amenities that show up very early in the Paleolithic.
During the vast time-span of the Paleolithic, there were remarkably few changes in technology Rolland Division of labor, domestication, symbolic culture—these were evidently refused until very recently. Contemporary thought, in its postmodern incarnation, would like to rule out the reality of a divide between nature and culture; given the abilities present among people before civilization, however, it may be more accurate to say that basically, they long chose nature over culture.
It is also popular to see almost every human act or object as symbolic e. Botscharow , a position which is, generally speaking, part of the denial of a nature versus culture distinction. But it is culture as the manipulation of basic symbolic forms that is involved here. It also seems clear that reified time, language written, certainly, and probably spoken language for all or most of this period , number, and art had no place, despite an intelligence fully capable of them.
As this elemental dimension of symbolic culture progresses, so does, by equal steps, alienation from the natural. A reasonable hypothesis, in my opinion, is that division of labor, unnoticed because of its glacially slow pace, and not sufficiently understood because of its newness, began to cause small fissures in the human community and unhealthy practices vis-a-vis nature.
The sudden appearance of symbolic activities e. But signs of division of labor and specialization were making their presence felt as a breakdown of wholeness and natural order, a lack that needed redressing.
What is surprising is that this transition to civilization can still be seen as benign. There are many cases Lecours and Joanette , Levine et al. It was as a means of achieving and consolidating social cohesion that ritual was essential Johnson , Conkey ; totemic rituals, for example, reinforce clan unity. The start of an appreciation of domestication, or taming of nature, is seen in a cultural ordering of the wild, through ritual.
Evidently, the female as a cultural category, viz. Even more concretely, subjugation of the wild occurs at this time in the first systematic hunting of large mammals; ritual was an integral part of this activity Hammond , Frison Ritual, as shamanic practice, may also be considered as a regression from that state in which all shared a consciousness we would now classify as extrasensory Leonard When specialists alone claim access to such perceptual heights as may have once been communal, further backward moves in division of labor are facilitated or enhanced.
The way back to bliss through ritual is a virtually universal mythic theme, promising the dissolution of measurable time, among other joys. This theme of ritual points to an absence that it falsely claims to fill, as does symbolic culture in general. Ritual as a means of organizing emotions, a method of cultural direction and restraint, introduces art, a facet of ritual expressiveness Bender Ritual and magic must have dominated early Upper Paleolithic art and were probably essential, along with an increasing division of labor, for the coordination and direction of community Wymer Similarly, Pfeiffer has depicted the famous Upper Paleolithic European cave paintings as the original form of initiating youth into now complex social systems; as necessary for order and discipline see also Gamble , Jochim And art may have contributed to the control of nature, as part of development of the earliest territorialism, for example Straus The emergence of symbolic culture, with its inherent will to manipulate and control, soon opened the door to domestication of nature.
After two million years of human life within the bounds of nature, in balance with other wild species, agriculture changed our lifestyle, our way of adapting, in an unprecedented way. Never before has such a radical change occurred in a species so utterly and so swiftly Pfeiffer Self-domestication through language, ritual, and art inspired the taming of plants and animals that followed.
Appearing only 10, years ago, farming quickly triumphed; for control, by its very nature, invites intensification. Once the will to production broke through, it became more productive the more efficiently it was exercised, and hence more ascendant and adaptive.
Agriculture enables greatly increased division of labor, establishes the material foundations of social hierarchy, and initiates environmental destruction. Priests, kings, drudgery, sexual inequality, warfare are a few of its fairly immediate specific consequences Ehrenberg b, Wymer , Festinger Whereas Paleolithic peoples enjoyed a highly varied diet, using several thousand species of plants for food, with farming these sources were vastly reduced White , Gouldie The development of number further impelled the urge to treat nature as something to be dominated.
Writing was also required by domestication, for the earliest business transactions and political administration Larsen Levi-Strauss has argued persuasively that the primary function of written communication was to facilitate exploitation and subjugation ; cities and empires, for example, would be impossible without it. Here we see clearly the joining of the logic of symbolization and the growth of capital.
Conformity, repetition, and regularity were the keys to civilization upon its triumph, replacing the spontaneity, enchantment, and discovery of the pre-agricultural human state that survived so very long. Eden, or whatever name it goes by, was the home of our primeval forager ancestors, and expresses the yearning of disillusioned tillers of the soil for a lost life of freedom and relative ease.
The once rich environs people inhabited prior to domestication and agriculture are now virtually nonexistent. For the few remaining foragers there exist only the most marginal lands, those isolated places as yet unwanted by agriculture. Duffy points out that the present day gatherer-hunters he studied, the Mbuti Pygmies of central Africa, have been acculturated by surrounding villager-agriculturalists for hundreds of years, and to some extent, by generations of contact with government authorities and missionaries.
Add to this the benefits of being part of a society where everything is shared, where there are no rich people and no poor people, and where happiness does not mean the accumulation of material possessions.
Among the members of non-agriculturalist bands resides a highly sane combination of little work and material abundance. Bodley discovered that the San aka Bushmen of the harsh Kalahari Desert of southern Africa work fewer hours, and fewer of their number work, than do the neighboring cultivators. In times of drought, moreover, it has been the San to whom the farmers have turned for their survival Lee Marshall , Guenther have commented on San vitality and freedom compared with sedentary farmers, their relatively secure and easygoing life.
The non-domesticated know that, as Vaneigem put it, only the present can be total. This by itself means that they live life with incomparably greater immediacy, density and passion than we do. As for the future, they have little desire to control what does not yet exist, just as they have little desire to control nature. Their moment-by-moment joining with the flux and flow of the natural world does not preclude an awareness of the seasons, but this does not constitute an alienated time consciousness that robs them of the present.
Future Primitive : And Other Essays
Future Primitive Revisited is one more precious gift for us all. This doesn't mean abandoning material needs, tools, or skills, but ending our obsession with such concerns. Declaring for community, our true origin: personal autonomy, trust, mutual support in pursuit of all the joys and troubles of life. Society was a trap--massive, demanding, impersonal and debilitating from day one. So hurry back to the community, friends, and welcome all the consequences of such an orientation. The reasons for fear and despair will only multiply if we remain in this brutal and dangerous state of civilization. As our society is stricken with repeated technological disasters, and the apocalyptic problems that go with them, the "neo-primitivist" essays of John Zerzan seem more relevant than ever.
Future Primitive: And Other Essays
Future Primitive and Other Essays is a collection of essays by anarcho-primitivist philosopher John Zerzan published by Autonomedia in The book became the subject of increasing interest after Zerzan and his beliefs rose to fame in the aftermath of the trial of fellow thinker Theodore Kaczynski and the anti-WTO protests in Seattle. Future Primitive is an unequivocal assertion of the superiority of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. In the wild, the shackles of civilization weren't necessary, as people were instinctively munificent and kind, the primitivist argument goes. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Future Primitive Revisited
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