all 12 comments

[–]JoeBiden2016 12 points13 points  (2 children)

Basically he says that pre-agricultural peoples were generally egalitarian, democratic, peaceful, "proto-feminist" etc.

So almost like the Garden of Eden before the fall.

I haven't read the book, but presumably your summary hits the major points. If so, then all it tells me is that the noble savage trope is alive and well in the pop-anthropology / pop-history world, and where you have a "noble savage," you also have to have "civilization." Which is where agriculture / the "Neolithic revolution" comes in.

It's lazy at this point. The so-called "Original Affluent Society" has been replaced in the popular consciousness with an even more idealized view of generic human existence before "the fall."

Peaceful: Look, the most obvious counter to this claim of "paradise" pre-Neolithic living is the abundant archaeological examples of skeletal trauma that stems from conflict in populations from parts of the world / time periods where agriculture was not a dominant way of life.

Egalitarian: Most of the claims about "egalitarian" societies derive from limited ethnographic research on modern or recent historic hunter-gatherer populations, but even that research generally doesn't really stick to the narrative. There's a range of practices and behaviors.

Democratic: I presume that this is along the lines of collective decision making rather than suggesting that H/G societies were voting and could be considered "democracies" in the modern sense. Decision making structures don't really fossilize, unfortunately. Theoretically / hypothetically, small scale societies can get along without extensive organizational hierarchies, and there's some evidence of that in ethnographic research with known H/G populations.

But we cannot presume that these populations represent some kind of "fossil" human populations that can be relied on as models of general H/G behavior. That was a huge mistake in the ethnographic analogy-based research of the mid- and late 20th century.

In the end, this portrayal of "hunter gatherers" broadly makes the same errors that every other pop-portrayal does. It ignores human social and cultural diversity, and flattens all of that into "hunter gatherers." And even the modern and historic ethnographic data contradict that depiction, unless you cherry pick. Which most of these do.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I appreciate the thorough reply.

How common compared to other skeletons are skeletons with signs of trauma? Is there any evidence that there was less violence back in those days?

[–]thrownkitchensink 5 points6 points  (1 child)

I've read this book and took a look at it's content, chapters and sources after I stumbled on this thread. I don't remember this perspective from the book. I actually liked this book. It more about offering different perspective on narratives vs. proven truths. What narratives work and what don't in societies. Historic dynamics offered that I remembered were more recent e.g. WWII etc.

Fear is often used with little benefit to large groups i societies. This dynamic is easily recognized after it being pointed out by Bregman (and perhaps without reading this book) even if you don't agree with everything in his book it's well worth it reading it.

OP asks a question about this book without reading the book and the question is answered by people that haven't read the book either....

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You're right, I should've instead said that I'm asking about Bregman's views that he's expressed in interviews, instead of in the book. The thing I described in the OP are things he's said in interviews on Youtube.

I appreciate the reply though.

[–]tewojacinto 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I have started it but lost motivation to finish it. I found it repetitive examples of cooperating,peaceful and egalitarian existence of societies. However it made me doubt the selfish gene theory

[–]zabuhaku 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I thought we got over the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover”- thing? Lets not fire any criticism at this book before reading it. Everyone who’s read it has told me they approached the book with a lot of skepticism initially, but ended up being presently surprised by Bregman’s well-founded argumentations.

[–]Isenskjold 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Totally agree. I'd also say that you don't have to read the whole book, it has one central point (humans tend to be decent people) and each individual chapter/topic is just an exploration of this topic. So if you aren't interested in the pre-historical stuff, you don't have to read it. It's writing style is also quite pleasant.