I’m afraid that Nate Hagens, whose expertise is in Finance and natural resources, has ventured into territory for which he lacks the background knowledge. I may have misread him, but I get the impression that in his discussion of STATUS and NOVELTy, Hagens is unwittingly or unconsciously reading modern capitalist values into the alleged facts of human evolution and resorting to social Darwinism which has been discredited.
Hagens’ discussion of status seems to be underpinned (again unconsciously) by a capitalist class ideology. In many neolithic peoples, status was based more on cooperation than on competition. The group member who gets status usually is the person who not only has the best knowledge and skills in performing tasks for survivial, but also, and more importantly, has the knack for organizing or orchestrating cooperative behaviour among the members. A classic example is the Navigator who leads a crew in a voyaging canoe in pre-Historic Oceania. Such trans-Oceanic voyages–with no navigational instruments and based soley on “reading” the stars at night and the swell patterns during the day–depended on a high level of coordination and cooperation among the crew, and this made possible the peopling of the scattered atolls in the Pacific Ocean. This is how it worked: The Navigator is in command during the voyage and usually becomes the chief when the voyaging canoe ends in landfall (thereupon the passengers in the canoe–men, women and children–start colonising the land.
But here’s the rub–the privilege of reproduction is not limited to the navigator or chief. In fact, everyone–including the lower status members–gets to mate. In such a culture, women are not considered prizes for the most able or strongest men. Indeed, women can have more than one mate (this ensures that no one gets left behind–remember the motto in wonerful animation, set in Hawaii, “Lilo and Stitch”?)
Unfortunately, Hagen’s notion of mating harks back to the Social Darwinist notion (now proven to be false) that humhans behaved much like Baboons or chimpanzees or the great apes–in which the strongest male had monopoly of all the women. This was NOT–probably NEVER–the case among the sea-faring Austronesian peoples of neolithic times (about 5,000 years ago) or, for that matter, among the hunter-gathering ‘Kung peoples of the Kalahari, as well as the hunting-gathering mountain Mangyans or Agtas (mislabeled as “Negritoes” in the past) of the Philippines. Among these peoples, status was based on knowledge, skill and cooperation–and not on the acquisition of wealth or the consumption of resources. This is a crucial point.
This later trait of needing to use resources and accumulate wealth is, I’m afraid, more a product of the culture of capitalism (which emerged over 500 years ago, accoring to the World Systems theorists).
My point is that the hunting-gathering as well as voyaging cultures are probably better models for envisioning our post-capitalist, post-industrial, post-carbon future.
As a corrective to a discredited reductionist social darwinism, may I suggest that we brush up on recent developments in cultural anthropology, and also read Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or Erik Erikson’s stages of psycho-social development–which views human growth and development in terms of the epigenetic interaction between genes and the environment, within a soci-cultural context–in which cooperation (not acquisition and consumpiton of resources) is the crucial factor. These are much better models than the model of status and novelty, which flows from an unconsciously presumed capitalist mind-set. INCIDENTALLY, WHY IS THE WORD CAPITALISM TABOO IN THE ESSAYS OF FLEEING VESUVIUS?. Do I detect an unconscious bias here? Or a fear of antagonizing the Right?
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