Friday, March 17, 2017
Peter Turchin’s, ‘Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth,’ necessarily implies that the West needs a popular war within or near its borders. He reluctantly confesses, “A reactionary catchphrase of the 1970s used to go, “what this generation needs is a war,” a deplorable sentiment but one that in terms of cultural evolution might sometimes have a germ of cold logic.”[i]
THE STORY OF MAN AND WAR
Turchin’s main project is to explain the existence of civilisations. To this end, he tells the story of social cooperation’s rise and expansion. Being an evolutionary anthropologist he starts by describing chimpanzees use of violence to maintain their group cohesion and hierarchy.
But, by the Pleistocene era, (2 million – 10,000 BC), evidence indicates that man, (homicide aside), was largely peaceful and egalitarian. Why? Stone weapons! Upstart bullies could be pounded in the head with stones during their sleep. So weapons enforced egalitarian cooperation.
At the end of the Pleistocene era, because the weather became stable, populations boomed. At this point, you get brutal unequal chiefdoms. TAhe standard model says that agriculture created the archaic states. Turchin convincingly argues that this is not true, war did.
For thousands of years, after agriculture became widespread, people continued to do hunting and gathering as well. Those with these blended economies were free and equal. And these folks’ had much better diets than those who only did agriculture. So agriculture does not explain the rise of states.
Using math, history and evolutionary logic, Turchin argues that one group switching to a centralised hierarchical state system could dominate and enslave the others. Once one group had switched, others had to do so or be beaten. So hierarchical cooperation was born and brutally enforced. War made people do agricultural, not vice versa. Societies’ roots are in war.
But, starting about 500 BC, Turchin explains, military horse use decisively tilted the military advantage to whoever could field the largest army. Large armies require big population bases. Hierarchical archaic states' control via violence limited their size and created internal disunity.
Universal monotheistic religions enabled larger societies. Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucian taught rulers to treat their subjects with care. In turn, these religions legitimised supporting the king. But these egalitarian ethics, again, were there to create larger populations in order to win wars.
READ ABOUT THE CULTURIST POLICY IMPLICATIONS HERE!