[Marxism] Agriculture: The Worst Mistake Humans Ever Made

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 21 10:13:37 MDT 2019

On 7/21/19 11:54 AM, DW via Marxism wrote:
> [I should point out here that Marshal Sahlins has been thoroughly diced and
> taken down by many anthropologists.

I doubt that any of them have debunked the idea that when game and 
plants were plentiful, there was plenty of leisure time. All you need to 
do is read Lewis and Clark to get an idea of what a Garden of Eden this 
continent was. I think that dwelling on the ǃKung is not useful.

Sunday 1st Sept. 1805.    We set out early in a fine morning, and 
travelled on nearly a west course. We found here the greatest quantity 
and best service berries, I had ever seen before; and abundance of 
choak-cherries. There is also a small bush grows in this part of the 
country, about 6 inches high, which bears a bunch of small purple 
berries. Some call it mountain holly; [4] the fruit is of an acid taste. 
We are much better supplied with water than I expected; and cross 
several fine springs among the mountains through which we pass. At noon 
some rain fell, and the day continued cloudy. About the middle of the 
day Capt. Clarke's blackman's feet became so sore that he had to ride on 
horseback. At 3 o'clock we came to a creek, [5] where there was fine 
grass and we halted to let our horses eat. There are a great number of 
fish in this creek. After we halted the weather became cloudy, and a 
considerable quantity of rain fell. We therefore concluded to remain 
where we were all night, having come this day 18 miles. Our hunters 
killed a deer, and we caught 5 fish.

As I pointed out in my original post on these matters, the article I 
referred to was ahistorical. Hunting and gathering did not lend itself 
to intensive agriculture. A society that could produce an agricultural 
surplus was capable of overpowering one that was based on it. That is 
the story of the empires of the Western hemisphere that gained hegemony: 
the Aztecs, the Incas and the Mayans.

You can get a sense of the resentment some anthropologists feel toward 
these rudimentary empires from reading Thomas Patterson's "Inventing 
Western Civilization". Patterson is unstinting in his portrayal of the 
Inca ruling elite. The quest for power consumes them. They are either 
fighting with each other in wars of succession as characters in a 
Shakespeare play do, or with outlying tribes who resist assimilation. 
This unflattering portrait is a reaction, one must suppose, to the 
tendency of "indigenists" to view Inca civilization as enlightened and 
humane. It is one thing for an archaeologist to admire their artifacts, 
but Patterson's sympathies are with the people who were under the thumb. 
The odd thing about civilization is that it takes societies with 
strictly defined divisions of labor to produce museum quality artifacts. 
As Freud said, the purpose of civilization is repression. Such divisions 
are inevitably the result of having somebody pointing a gun or spear at 
you, either implicitly or explicitly.

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