Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hydrolic Ethnoculture: A theory

It used to be that the theory of state action rested on the idea that to create large works, the state was necessary, and that the state controlled the medium of exchange as a means of dramatically increasing either the scale, or the speed, of development. This view was driven by the state of knowledge at the time, however, key data has emerged that contradicts the key assertions of this idea.

The first is the equation of the state and works. The existence of Gobekli Tepe in addition to Stonehenge makes clear that pre-state construction of monumental works was a feature of the high Neolithic. One can speculate as to the reasons for these monumental structures, including the need for trading cynosures and exchange of information or tribal communication, but the point is that without a state, they still existe.

The second is the equation of the state and money: the state is needed for settlement of money exchanges. However, the development of trading symbols, which would become the basis for writing, predate the state by a long period. Mathematically, tit-for-tat enforcement is enough: either honor the stamps on trading jars, or face exclusion. In the ancient world, with its large number of natural monopolies or absolute advantages of fertility, this was a virtual death sentence. Since no area had a complete sufficiency of endowments, this kept trading going for thousands of years.
The third is the centrality of water, this is one of the most persistent of errors in paleo-sociology and paleo-economics. Because irrigation driven agriculture is so successful when it appears, it is assumed to be the natural default, because, pre-industrialization, or in the peri-industrial regions of industrialized nations, it is the kind of agriculture that is visualized.

However, the genetic evidence, and astrophysical is that agriculture began in hills, and there is a selective reason for this. Undomesticated grains have shattering sheaths, these break and spread most of the seeds near the stalk. Domesticated grain has a recessive trait where the grains do not shatter. This is a very common plant adaptive strategy from locative selection: have most seeds stay near the parent, since where the parent is is, statistically, the most fit location, and scatter some to spread to other locations. The more specific the plant, the more location selection will favor this mode. This means that agriculture will establish first in areas easiest to sequester from other pollen, because that will corrupt the grain. Only once agriculture is dominant will this change.

However, the introduction of hydrolic ethnoculture: wells, use of rivers, and flowing irrigation changes the equation of subsistence, and changes the nature of social organization. Water does not create the town, nor does it create religion, nor does it create money, but it does create an altered relationship to social organization and the environment, in particular it introduces a relationship between sustenance and death which is visible in both genetic and mythic patterns.