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  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#36: Ethnogenesis pt. 3: Sacrificial Child Gods and Social Complexity

(10/09/2021) Assuming a continuous legacy of political struggle from the earliest stages of human evolution to conflicts over power today, we speculate about the politics of societies in the distant past. We discuss the relationship between risky human migrations and political perception, ancient cities without states and states without cities, confrontation and evasion as two strategies against hierarchy, the monumental architecture of hunter-gatherers, the relationship between abundance and hierarchy from a cross-species perspective, the psychological tendencies evident in certain varieties of social science narratives, the notion of cultural behavioral patterning reflecting the personalities of the people who create new cultures, and the dreamlike beauty of the stone age graves of physically abnormal children. Along the way, we are looking to decouple variables like hierarchy and social complexity, sedentism and agriculture, and egalitarianism and cooperation, charting a course to ask more concretely and precisely about the relationship between technology and hierarchy.

Bibliography for episode 36:

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De Waal, F. (2007) Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes. The John Hopkins University Press.

Dietrich, O., et al. (2012). The role of cult and feasting in the emergence of Neolithic communities. New evidence from Göbekli Tepe, south-eastern Turkey. Antiquity 86:674-695. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00047840

Epstein, J. M. and Axtell, R. (1996) Growing Artificial Societies: Social Sciences from the Bottom Up. MIT Press.

Formicola, V. (2007) From the Sunghir Children to the Romito Dwarf: Aspects of the Upper Paleolithic Funerary Landscape. Current Anthropology 48(3):446-453.

Graeber, D. and Wengrow, D. (2018) How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that's already happened. Eurozine

Green, A. S. (2020). Killing the Priest-King: Addressing Egalitarianism in the Indus Civilization. Journal of Archaeological Research, 29(2), 153–202. doi:10.1007/s10814-020-09147-9

Hare, B., Wobber, V., & Wrangham, R. (2012) The self-domestication hypothesis: evolution of bonobo psychology is due to selection against aggression. Animal Behaviour 83:573-85.

Heinrich, J. (2020) The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous. Picador.

Hibbing, J. R., Smith, K. B., & Alford, J. R. (2014) Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37:297–307.

Jennings, J. and Earle, T. Urbanization, State Formation, and Cooperation: A Reappraisal. Current Anthropology 57(4):474-493.

Maher, L. A., Richter, T., and Stock, J. T. (2012) The Pre-Natufian Epipaleolithic: Long-term Behavioral Trends in the Levant. Evolutionary Anthropology 21:69-81.

Martin, P. S. (2007) Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. University of California Press.

Sapolsky, R. M. & Share, L. J. (2004) A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission. PLoS Biology 2(4):0534-41. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020106

Scott, J. C. (2009) The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Southeast Asia. Yale University Press.

Scott, J. C. (2017) Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. Yale University Press.

Shepherd, P. (1998) Coming Home to the Pleistocene. Island Press.

Tacitus. (2009) Agricola. Penguin Classics.

Tuschman, A. (2013) Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us. Prometheus.

Wells, S. (2017) The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. Princeton University Press.

See also:

All Power to the Imagination #9: Killing the Priest-King with Adam Green.

Black Books: Anarchic Literature

What Is Politics? #10: David Graeber and David Wengrow “The Dawn of Everything” Critique: The Wisdom of Kandiaronk.

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