No subject

Tue Jul 11 07:29:41 MDT 1995

with Novell_GroupWise; Tue, 11 Jul 1995 01:18:19 -0600
Message-Id: <s001d15a.097 at EMAIL.STATE.UT.US>
X-Mailer: Novell GroupWise 4.1
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 1995 23:04:13 -0600
From: Lisa Rogers <LROGERS at EMAIL.STATE.UT.US>
To: marxism at
Subject:  Re: Jerry Levy on c/b anthropology

Thanks much, Jerry, for both the greeting and the reply.

I measure costs and benefits primarily in terms of the
fitness-interests of an individual.  It is only for the point of view
of an individual that this view is supported by the body of darwinian
selection theory.

If I think of bio/social "prices" I think of energy, materials, time,
social regard and status, etc.  These are fitness-related-interests,
because these can be translated into survivorship and/or offspring,
and/or the survivorship of those offspring, getting more mates,
getting mates for one's offspring, etc.

As for the appropriateness of c/b analysis in non-cap societies, I've
more often heard the [non-marxly] argument that "primitive people
would be likely to orient their behavior toward pursuit of fitness,
but modern people are not," because we have more culture and
contraception, or because having large numbers of descendants is not
important to one's retirement anymore, in US-like societies.

I say that a c/b analysis is not only suited to money- and
commodity-users, or capitalism, or only humans.  First, I say, take a
look at darwinian evolution and how it works, and c/b is the best way
to understand it.  In fact this is the pivotal point at the center of
the neo-darwinian revolution, to see that evolution only makes sense
in terms of fitness costs and benefits to individuals.

Next, I think that all living things are the results of evolution
from something else, largely (at least) by means of darwinian
selection, so what should we expect them to look like, to be built
and to behave?  Oriented toward fitness, of course.

For instance, why does sugar taste sweet?  There is no non-evol
reason that it must be perceived in that way, no law of biochemistry
or cellular mechanics.  But what if one had defective/different taste
sensors, or one's pleasure circuits were not sensitive to sugar,
especially in the foraging context?  Would one know the difference
between ripe fruit and green?  Poison plants vs. food?  (And I don't
mean just for people, this applies for many critters indeed.)

A rather different kind of comment I got from Steve Keen is that he
thought a c/b, limited resources, unlimited demands analysis of human
behavior is more appropriate to foraging societies than to
capitalist.  That was an unusual response, in my experience.

Now, "how does the study [or my particular kind of study?] of
foragers apply to other people?"

Well, why wouldn't it?  People are primates everywhere, no?  [Okay, I
am being deliberately provocative, a little, just for fun...]

Really, I'm not sure how to take that question.  Perhaps you imply
that until I show you otherwise, you expect a different kind of
analysis for each kind of society.  This I have heard from marxists
before, but not with an explanation that could help me to buy it.  I
can see that one can explore the differences between economic
systems, but only by "abstracting" from the differences between
societies with the same economic system.

My education has led me to, no, I chose to follow, no, my education
and I together have focussed more upon the similarities between
various societies, and even between various species.  This in itself
discounts my views entirely for some people who hold that "we are
soooooo different from all other lifeforms that they and evolution
cannot have any relevance for human behavior."

So, before I go further into trying to answer Jerry's question about
applicability of foragers studies to 'contemporary social life',
presumable "our" cont. social life, I'll give him a chance to clarify
what he wants me to address.


>>> <glevy at>  7/10/95, 07:10pm >>>
Lisa (we're all glad to hear that you have returned!) wrote:

> I claim that c/b analysis is justified (theoretically grounded) by
> evolutionary theory, and it is very useful in understanding the
> behavior of living things.  >

How do you measure the "costs" and the "benefits"?  ... It  has to be
remembered that c/b analysis attempts to answer such questions  in
*price* terms.
...  The  question is *how* does your study of foraging peoples have
applicability  to the rest of the world?  Once you answer that
question, then we can  discuss whether the conclusions that you
suggest are applicable to areas  of the contemporary social world.


     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list