“What if Everything You Learned About Human History Is Wrong?” [ On David Graeber & David Wengrow – The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, 2021]

“E se tudo o que você aprendeu sobre a história humana estiver errado?

Em The Dawn of Everything, o antropólogo David Graeber e o arqueólogo David Wengrow pretendem reescrever a história de nosso passado compartilhado – e futuro.

Por Jennifer Schuessler

31 de outubro de 2021

https: // www.nytimes.com/2021/10/31/arts/dawn-of-everything-graeber-wengrow.html

Os best-sellers de Big History de Harari, Diamond e outros têm suas diferenças. Mas eles se baseiam, argumentam Graeber e Wengrow, em uma narrativa semelhante de progresso linear (ou, dependendo do seu ponto de vista, declínio).

De acordo com essa história, nos primeiros 300.000 anos ou mais após o aparecimento do Homo sapiens, praticamente nada aconteceu. Em todos os lugares, as pessoas viviam em pequenos grupos igualitários de caçadores-coletores, até a repentina invenção da agricultura por volta de 9.000 a.C. deu origem a sociedades e estados sedentários baseados na desigualdade, hierarquia e burocracia.

Mas tudo isso, Graeber e Wengrow argumentam, está errado. Recentes descobertas arqueológicas, eles escrevem, mostram que os primeiros humanos, longe de serem autômatos movendo-se cegamente em uma etapa de bloqueio evolucionária em resposta a pressões materiais, conscientemente experimentaram com “um desfile de carnaval de formas políticas”.

(…)

“Somos todos projetos de autocriação coletiva”, escrevem eles. “E se, em vez de contar a história de como nossa sociedade caiu de algum estado idílico de igualdade, perguntarmos como viemos ficar presos em grilhões conceituais tão rígidos que não podemos mais imaginar a possibilidade de nos reinventarmos?”

(…)

The Dawn of Everything inclui discussões sobre sepultamentos principescos na Europa durante a idade do gelo, contrastes de atitudes em relação à escravidão entre as sociedades indígenas do norte da Califórnia e do noroeste do Pacífico, as implicações políticas da terra seca versus a agricultura no leito dos rios e a complexidade da pré-agricultura de assentamentos no Japão, entre muitos, muitos outros assuntos.

Mas a gama impressionante de referências levanta uma questão: quem está qualificado para julgar se isso é verdade?

(…)

James C. Scott, um eminente cientista político de Yale, cujo livro de 2017 Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States também variou vários campos para desafiar a narrativa padrão, disse que alguns dos argumentos de Graeber e Wengrow, como os seus, iriam inevitavelmente, ser “jogados fora” quando outros estudiosos se envolverem com eles.

Mas ele disse que os dois homens deram um “golpe fatal” à ideia já enfraquecida de que se estabelecer em estados agrícolas era o que os humanos “estavam esperando para fazer o tempo todo”.

Mas a parte mais impressionante de The Dawn of Everything, disse Scott, é um capítulo inicial sobre o que os autores chamam de “crítica indígena”. O Iluminismo europeu, eles argumentam, em vez de ser um presente de sabedoria concedido ao resto do mundo, surgiu de um diálogo com os povos indígenas do Novo Mundo, cujas avaliações incisivas das deficiências da sociedade europeia influenciaram as ideias emergentes de liberdade.” [Google Tradutor]

***

“What if Everything You Learned About Human History Is Wrong?

In “The Dawn of Everything,” the anthropologist David Graeber and the archaeologist David Wengrow aim to rewrite the story of our shared past — and future.

By Jennifer Schuessler

Oct. 31, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/31/arts/dawn-of-everything-graeber-wengrow.html

The Big History best-sellers by Harari, Diamond and others have their differences. But they rest, Graeber and Wengrow argue, on a similar narrative of linear progress (or, depending on your point of view, decline).

According to this story, for the first 300,000 years or so after Homo sapiens appeared, pretty much nothing happened. People everywhere lived in small, egalitarian hunter-gatherer groups, until the sudden invention of agriculture around 9,000 B.C. gave rise to sedentary societies and states based on inequality, hierarchy and bureaucracy.

But all of this, Graeber and Wengrow argue, is wrong. Recent archaeological discoveries, they write, show that early humans, far from being automatons blindly moving in evolutionary lock step in response to material pressures, self-consciously experimented with “a carnival parade of political forms.”

(…)

“We are all projects of collective self-creation,” they write. “What if, instead of telling the story about how our society fell from some idyllic state of equality, we ask how we came to be trapped in such tight conceptual shackles that we can no longer even imagine the possibility of reinventing ourselves?”

(…)

“The Dawn of Everything” includes discussions of princely burials in Europe during the ice age, contrasting attitudes toward slavery among the Indigenous societies of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, the political implications of dry-land versus riverbed farming, and the complexity of preagricultural settlements in Japan, among many, many other subjects.

But the dazzling range of references raises a question: Who is qualified to judge whether it’s true?

(…)

James C. Scott, an eminent political scientist at Yale whose 2017 book “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States” also ranged across fields to challenge the standard narrative, said some of Graeber and Wengrow’s arguments, like his own, would inevitably be “thrown out” as other scholars engaged with them.

But he said the two men had delivered a “fatal blow” to the already-weakened idea that settling down in agricultural states was what humans “had been waiting to do all along.”

But the most striking part of “The Dawn of Everything,” Scott said, is an early chapter on what the authors call the “Indigenous critique.” The European Enlightenment, they argue, rather than being a gift of wisdom bestowed on the rest of the world, grew out of a dialogue with Indigenous people of the New World, whose trenchant assessments of the shortcomings of European society influenced emerging ideas of freedom.”

“How equality slipped away | For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?” By Kim Sterelny [Aeon]

“How equality slipped away

For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?

Kim Sterelny
is professor of philosophy at the Australian National University. His books include Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language (2nd ed, 1999), co-authored with Michael Devitt; The Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique (2012) and From Signal to Symbol: The Evolution of Language (forthcoming, 2021), co-authored with Ronald J Planer. His most recent book is The Pleistocene Social Contract: Culture and Cooperation in Human Evolution (2021).

https://aeon.co/essays/for-97-of-human-history-equality-was-the-norm-what-happened

(…)

Our particular species of humans has been around for about 300,000 years and, best as we can tell, for about 290,000 of those years we lived materially poorer but much more equal lives. For most of our life as a species, most communities lived as mobile foragers, shifting camps when local resources became scarce, but probably sticking to a regular pattern over a defined territory.

Mobile foragers live in small bands (tens, not hundreds), but with connections of kith and kin to neighbouring bands, in social worlds of a few hundred to a few thousand. In many respects, these forager cultures are varied. They have differing cultural traditions and face different environments. The Australian Western Desert and the High Arctic could hardly be less alike, and both differ sharply from the rainforests of the Congo basin. Even so, in crucial ways, their social lives are remarkably similar. They sometimes have elders or initiates, but they have no chiefs. No-one has command authority over other adult males. Relations between the sexes vary but, in many forager cultures, women are indispensable, skilled, autonomous and essential props of the foraging economy. They gather plant foods and small game, and make much of the equipment of everyday life. They often have a good deal of social and sexual choice.

(…)

There are two developments in mobile forager cultures that tend to set the stage for the establishment of inequality. One such scaffold to inequality was the emergence of clan structure. Clans have a strong corporate identity, built around real or mythical genealogical connection, reinforced by demanding initiation rites and intense collective activities. They become central to an individual’s social identity. Individuals see themselves, and are seen by others, primarily through their clan identity. They expect and get social support mostly within their clan, as the anthropologist Raymond C Kelly writes in Warless Societies and the Origin of War (2000). Once storage and farming emerged, incipient elites used clan membership to mobilise social and material support.

The second development was the emergence of a quasi-elite based on the control of information, which created a hierarchy of prestige and esteem, rather than wealth and power. This was originally based on subsistence skills. Forager life depends on very high levels of expertise in navigation, tracking, plant identification, animal behaviour, and artisan skills. The genuinely expert attract deference and respect in return for generously sharing their knowledge, as the evolutionary biologist Joseph Henrich argues in The Secret of Our Success (2015). As the social anthropologist Jerome Lewis has shown, this economy of information can include story and music, and the same can be true of its ritual and normative life. Indeed, there might be a fusion of ritual with subsistence information, if ritual narratives are used as a vehicle for encoding important but rarely used spatial and navigational information. There’s some suggestion of this fusion in Australian Aboriginal songlines, and the idea is expanded from Australia and defended in detail by the orality scholar Lynne Kelly in Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies (2015). So there can be expertise and deference not just in subsistence skills, but also with regards to religion and ritual.

(…)

So, two scaffolds of inequality developed in the still fairly equal forager world. These scaffolds became potent as communities gave up movement in favour of a settled life – storage and farming – beginning about 10,000 years ago. Some foragers developed a lifestyle around storage (sometimes called ‘collectors’ rather than ‘foragers’). Hunters and fishers of the Pacific Northwest built an economy around salmon runs and marine resources. It’s possible that, in glacial Europe, sedentary foragers intercepted migrating herds, and built their economy around stored or smoked game. But giving up a life on the move and depending instead on stored foods is mostly connected to the origins of farming, and the new climatic regime of the Holocene, beginning about 12,000 years ago.

(…)

The viability of farming depends not just on access to the few wild species that can be shaped into crops and flocks, but on predictable weather patterns. The Holocene is not just warmer and wetter than the Pleistocene glacial that preceded it. It’s much more stable. Grain agriculture never developed in Aboriginal Australia in part because of the marked annual variation in many Australian climates. Without industrial storage and transport, dependence on crops would have been suicidal. Whatever the causes of this revolutionary change, its consequences were immense. Farming and storage make inequality possible, perhaps even likely, because they tend to undermine sharing norms, establish property rights and the coercion of labour, amplify intercommunal violence, and lead to increases in social scale.

(…)

If this picture of the road to inequality is right, it leads to four expectations. First, inequality depends on a prior establishment of an economy of storage and an expansion in social scale. Second, transegalitarian communities emerge from forager communities with clan-based organisation. Third, transegalitarian communities emerge from forager communities where the normative and ritual life is in the hands of a small group of initiates. And finally, such communities emerge in regional contexts with intermediate levels of intercommunity violence, contexts in which violence is a risk, but one that can be managed.

Bottom line: egalitarian, cooperative human communities are possible. Widespread sharing and consensus decision-making aren’t contrary to ‘human nature’ (whatever that is). Indeed, for most of human history we lived in such societies. But such societies are not inherently stable. These social practices depend on active defence. That active defence failed, given the social technologies available, as societies increased in scale and economic complexity. There’s no going back to Pleistocene equality, and I for one wouldn’t embrace the social intimacy and material simplicity of such lives. But we do have new social technologies. China (especially) is showing how those can be used to enhance elite surveillance. Let’s hope they can be reconfigured to support more bottom-up social action, to mitigate some of the effects of imbalances of wealth and power.”

“The Fight to Secure Rights for Rainforests By Emily Laber-Warren [Sapiens]

“The Fight to Secure Rights for Rainforests

The Sarayaku people of Ecuador seek legal protection for Amazonian plants and animals. Anthropologist Eduardo Kohn’s work on “thinking forests” might help.

By Emily Laber-Warren

22 APR 2021

https://www.sapiens.org/culture/eduardo-kohn-sarayaku

(…)

Kawsak Sacha is an expression of the Sarayaku community’s worldview, which is Animist, based on the principle that not only people but plants, animals, and even rocks are sentient, knowing beings. Kohn’s academic writings, meanwhile, derive largely from European and American scholarship. Yet by different pathways, Kohn and the Sarayaku had come to similar conclusions. Both believe that the future not just of the Amazon but of the planet depends on reimagining our connection to nature. They also share a conviction that this message can’t stay hidden in the jungle or in the pages of a book. Political action is necessary.

(…)

If Kohn had asserted that other creatures have feelings, it would be “a much easier position to take, because more people will agree with that,” Fuentes says. For example, scientists have made the case that elephants, ducks, and dogs may grieve. But thoughts? What does Kohn even mean by that?

Early in the book, Kohn describes settling down to rest under a thatched lean-to in the jungle when his friend Juanicu, a Runa hunter, warned him: “Sleep faceup!” If a jaguar happens by and “sees you as a being capable of looking back—a self like himself, a you—he’ll leave you alone,” Kohn writes. But if he does not see your eyes and “should come to see you as prey—an it—you may well become dead meat.”

For Kohn, this insight was a revelation. It implies that humans are not the only ones who interpret the world. A jaguar analyzes its surroundings in its own jaguar way. What’s more, the jaguar’s understanding of the world, its “thoughts,” can have life-or-death consequences for people. Kohn believes this observation shakes the very foundations of anthropology.

Twenty years ago, when Kohn was still a graduate student, he went to see the legendary anthropologist Clifford Geertz. Geertz was known for “thick description,” the idea that anthropologists must gather a wealth of details to fully understand another culture’s practices. Kohn had recently returned from doing this kind of deep fieldwork in Ecuador, where he had lived for long stretches with the Runa people.

Kohn had begun to suspect that even though anthropology was developing a deeper appreciation of culture across human societies, the field still hadn’t gone quite far enough—because it excluded the meaning-making pursued by other species.

(…)

Other species, including insects, express themselves, consciously or not, through alarm and mating calls, coloration, swarming behavior, and more. If anthropologists consider only the human side of these relationships, aren’t they missing half the story?

(…)

But Kohn refused to stop asking those questions. The result was his 2013 book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, in which he argues that all life-forms engage in thought. Through evolutionary dynamics, for example, plants, though lacking a recognizable brain, thrive, reproduce, and at times effectively outmaneuver other species.

(…)

Kohn is convinced that anthropology, and Western thought in general, has artificially isolated humans from the natural world, with disastrous consequences. Instead of perceiving other life-forms as part of a shared reality, the way many Amazonian peoples do, many societies treat them as consumable resources, and “that division is coming back to bite us,” Kohn says.

(…)

For example, some Western scientists now believe that trees send out chemical signals to warn one another about insect pests and that healthy trees nurse sick ones through their conjoined root systems. On a global scale, windblown dust from the Bodélé Depression in north-central Africa blows all the way to the Amazon and seeds the rainforest with the minerals it needs to support its rich panoply of life.

“This is what the Sarayaku have been saying all along, that everything is interconnected,” says Rodriguez-Garavito. “This is not religious belief. This is not just a hunch.” But because such processes are invisible, until recently, Western science had largely overlooked them.”

Joseph Henrich and Michael Muthukrishna – “The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation”. Annual Review of Psychology, 2021

“The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation

Annual Review of Psychology

Vol. 72:207-240 (Volume publication date January 2021)

First published as a Review in Advance on October 2, 2020

https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-081920-042106

Joseph Henrich (1) and Michael Muthukrishna (2)

(1) Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA; email: henrich@fas.harvard.edu

(2) Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom; email: m.muthukrishna@lse.ac.uk

PDF:

https://henrich.fas.harvard.edu/files/henrich/files/henrich_and_muthukrishna_the_origins_and_psychology_of_human_cooperation_final.pdf

Abstract

Humans are an ultrasocial species. This sociality, however, cannot be fully explained by the canonical approaches found in evolutionary biology, psychology, or economics. Understanding our unique social psychology requires accounting not only for the breadth and intensity of human cooperation but also for the variation found across societies, over history, and among behavioral domains. Here, we introduce an expanded evolutionary approach that considers how genetic and cultural evolution, and their interaction, may have shaped both the reliably developing features of our minds and the well-documented differences in cultural psychologies around the globe. We review the major evolutionary mechanisms that have been proposed to explain human cooperation, including kinship, reciprocity, reputation, signaling, and punishment; we discuss key culture–gene coevolutionary hypotheses, such as those surrounding self-domestication and norm psychology; and we consider the role of religions and marriage systems. Empirically, we synthesize experimental and observational evidence from studies of children and adults from diverse societies with research among nonhuman primates.

Keywords
cooperation, ultrasociality, evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution, culture-gene coevolution, social behavior”

“Why Losing Bonds Sports Fans” by Martha Newson [Sapiens/The Conversation]

“Why Losing Bonds Sports Fans

A study on team loyalty among British football fans shows that the ranking of the club plays an important role in how strongly supporters identify with one another.

By Martha Newson
Cognitive anthropologist at the Universities of Kent and Oxford.

1 FEB 2021

https://www.sapiens.org/culture/football-fans

***

United in defeat: shared suffering and group bonding among football fans

Martha Newson, Michael Buhrmester & Harvey Whitehouse
18 Jan 2021
Managing Sport and Leisure

https://doi.org/10.1080/23750472.2020.1866650

***

(…)

Previous research has suggested shared dysphoric group experiences such as relegation, or a bitter derby loss, lead to bonding with other group members. While euphoric events, such as winning a competition, can be powerful in bonding us to our groups, it is the dysphoric events that really stay with us. These have the most potential to cement us to our groups through a process of reflecting on these challenging experiences.

An alternative explanation for the exceptional loyalty of fans of losing teams is provided by cognitive dissonance theory. As humans, it is highly stressful to behave in a way that contradicts one of our beliefs or values. For long-suffering fans of poorly performing clubs, the answer to the question “why do I do put myself through this?” could well be “because I love the club so much.” This might be an attempt to reduce the dissonance of spending lots of time and money on a club that never “pays out” with victory.

Yet for dissonance to occur, a fan’s willingness to suffer for the group needs to be perceived as voluntary. In theory, fans can opt out of their football support at any time. But in reality, most fans are recruited through existing relational ties—for example, through a parent, cousin, or friend. This can lead to complex and enduring networks that are hard to cut off.

(…)

A better understanding of identity fusion has huge potential benefits for clubs and the wider society. Policing football in London alone costs around 4 million pounds in the U.K. each year.

“Como a ‘mente ocidental’ foi moldada pela Igreja Católica medieval” – Joseph Henrich [BBC Future]

“Como a ‘mente ocidental’ foi moldada pela Igreja Católica medieval

Joseph Henrich*

* Joseph Henrich é professor de Biologia Evolutiva Humana na Universidade de Harvard e autor de The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous (“As pessoas mais ‘Weird’ do Mundo: Como o Ocidente se Tornou Psicologicamente Pecial e Particularmente Próspera”, em tradução livre).

BBC Future

https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/vert-fut-55566154

(…)

Em primeiro lugar, apesar de entrar nos livros didáticos como as “pessoas” pensam, quase todos os estudos que examinaram esse efeito foram conduzidos entre estudantes americanos. No entanto, os comentaristas sociais, voltando pelo menos a Alexis De Tocqueville, notaram que os americanos são particularmente individualistas e independentes.

(…)

Isso destaca o fato de que chamar alguém de “conformista” é um elogio em muitos lugares, mas não nos Estados Unidos.

Conformidade, entretanto, não é um caso idiossincrático de diferença cultural, mas representa a ponta de um iceberg psicológico.

O banco de dados que domina nossa compreensão da psicologia humana deriva principalmente — 95% dela, na verdade — de populações que são “Ocidentais, Educadas, Industrializadas, Ricas e Democráticas (esse grupo de pessoas é conhecido pela sigla em inglês “Weird”, que significa “esquisito” em português).

Ao contrário de grande parte do mundo hoje — e da maioria das pessoas que já viveram —, essa categoria de pessoas é altamente individualista, obcecada por si mesma, cheia de culpa e analítica em seu estilo de pensamento.

Os chamados “Weird” se concentram em si mesmos — seus atributos, realizações e aspirações. Ao raciocinar, as pessoas tendem a procurar categorias abstratas com as quais organizar o mundo, simplificam fenômenos complexos quebrando-os em elementos discretos e atribuindo propriedades — seja imaginando tipos de partículas, patógenos ou personalidades.

Apesar de sua aparente auto-obsessão, elas tendem a seguir regras imparciais e podem ser bastante confiáveis, justas e cooperativas com estranhos.

Emocionalmente, as pessoas da categoria “Weird” são relativamente desavergonhadas, menos constrangidas quando se deparam com outros, mas frequentemente atormentadas pela culpa por não cumprirem seus próprios padrões autoimpostos.

(…)

Até recentemente, a maioria das sociedades foi sustentada por instituições baseadas intensivamente em parentescos, construídas em torno de grandes famílias estendidas: clãs, casamento de primos, poligamia e muitas outras normas de parentesco que regulam e restringem a vida social. Essas instituições persistem em muitas partes do mundo hoje, especialmente nas áreas rurais.

(…)

Começando no final da Antiguidade, o ramo do cristianismo que evoluiu para a Igreja Católica Romana começou a promulgar gradualmente um conjunto de proibições e prescrições relacionadas ao casamento e à família. A Igreja, por exemplo, proibiu o casamento entre primos, casamento arranjado e casamento polígamo.

Ao contrário de outras denominações cristãs, a Igreja Católica expandiu lentamente o círculo de relacionamentos “incestuosos” para primos no século 11.

Apesar de frequentemente enfrentar forte resistência, esse empreendimento dissolveu lentamente as complexas instituições baseadas em parentesco da Europa tribal, deixando famílias nucleares independentes como um ideal cultural e um padrão comum.

(…)

A maioria de nós pode achar que somos pensadores racionais e independentes. Mas a forma como pensamos, sentimos e raciocinamos — incluindo nossas inclinações para a conformidade e preferências por explicações analíticas — foi moldada por eventos históricos, heranças culturais e tabus de incesto que remontam a séculos ou mesmo milênios.

Compreender como a história moldou nossas mentes faz parte de explorar e abraçar nossa diversidade.”

“Why a Universal Society Is Unattainable” By Mark W. Moffett [Nautilus]

“Why a Universal Society Is Unattainable

Our minds evolved in an Us-vs-Them universe of our own making.

JANUARY 13, 2021

BY MARK W. MOFFETT

Mark W. Moffett, Ph.D., is the author of The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, & Fall, from which this essay is adapted. He has a Lowell Thomas medal from the Explorers Club for his work in over 100 countries on the questions about the structure of rainforests, social organization in ants, and the stability of societies across different species.

https://nautil.us/issue/95/escape/why-a-universal-society-is-unattainable

(…)

In the 2016 vote, the majority of British people stubbornly chose for their country to be on its own and not part of a more encompassing group of societies. The vote appeared to run against the broader trend of European nations loosening their boundaries in acknowledgement of an identity that outweighs, or erases, the importance of the societies themselves. With the number of societies in general declining century after century,1 we might take seriously the assertion that the internationalization of culture (think Star Wars, tequila, Mercedes-Benz) and connections (with Twitter linking people from Aa, Estonia, to Zu, Afghanistan) are a harbinger of a Berlin Wall-type border collapse, making, as the British sociologist Morris Ginsberg once put it, “The unification of mankind … one of the clearest trends in human history.”2

Whatever the ultimate relationship of Great Britain and Europe may be, the current breakup underscores how deeply national identity runs through human psychology. Both psychological literature and anthropological research on societies ranging from the ethnolinguistic groups of hunter-gatherers to tribes, chiefdoms, and states (less formally, “nations”),3 reveal that a universal society is unattainable. Populations across the globe today may devour Starbucks, KFC, and Coca-Cola. They may enjoy Italian opera, French couture, and Persian carpets. But no matter how many exotic influences each absorbs or what foreign connections they make, nations don’t just fade away. They retain their citizens’ fierce devotion.4 Societies have always traded, gifted, or taken what they want from the outer world to claim as their own, and grown all the stronger for doing so. While the erasure of borders may be laudable, nothing we know about the workings of the human mind suggests it is a realistic vision.

(…)

A failure of alliances to supersede people’s affiliation to their society holds true universally. Intergovernmental organizations like the European Union and the United Nations don’t earn our primary emotional commitment because they lack ingredients that make them real for the members. The EU may be the most ambitious attempt at societal integration conceived, yet few members see the EU as an entity worthy of their loyalty the way they do their countries, and for several reasons.

(…)

To top all that off, the EU offers no grand foundation story, no venerable symbols or traditions, and there’s little sense anyone would fight and die for Europe as they might for their nation.7

(…)

Analysis of the 2016 Brexit vote shows that those who most strongly think of themselves as English went against staying with the EU. Voters saw what was intended foremost to be an economic and peacekeeping tool as a threat to their identity.9 The fact is the consequences of Brexit will be mostly commercial, setting into action a myriad of obstacles to trade.10

(…)

One possible means of attaining that unity might be to shift people’s perception of who’s an outsider. It was a point Ronald Reagan liked to make. “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world,” he remarked in an address to the UN. Indeed, science-fiction tales like The War of the Worlds depict humankind acting as one against a common enemy.

Yet even then our societies would endure the space aliens. The arrival of Martians wouldn’t make nations irrelevant any more than Europeans arriving in Australia caused the Aborigines to drop what had been several hundred clear-cut tribal groups (actually, many Aborigines first guessed that the Europeans were otherworldly, i.e., ghosts16). That would be so regardless of how much the aliens shattered the beliefs people held about their own societies, whose beloved differences would look trivial by comparison to those with the Little Green Men. Cosmopolitanism, the conviction that the diverse people of our planet will come to feel a primary connection to the human race (the term means “citizen of the cosmos”),17 is a pipe dream.

(…)

The human reliance on particular traits, or “markers,” to identify with our societies, ethnicities, and other groups may trace back far into the human past, but what comes naturally isn’t always desirable. Fortunately, our intelligence gives us some prospect of breaking free from our biology and history. When changes concern the matter of how we mark off our identities, though, any alteration would be extremely arduous and require more than education. While casting off ethnic and societal markers may sound good at first blush, the move would undoubtedly mean the loss of much of what humans cherish. Our markers are two-edged swords, causing us to discount those who differ from us, yet at the same time imparting an esprit de corps with complete strangers who fit our expectations, as when we take delight in conversing with a fellow American when traveling overseas.

To abandon our differences would strike against timeless yearnings. People care about their memberships and few would want to give them up. Nor could we simply dispose of them. Research in psychology shows that our responses to the most entrenched of our social groups, and the characteristics that define them, take place faster than the blink of an eye, and are involuntary.18 No doubt if a mass hypnotist caused us to forget our current differences, we would scramble to discover or invent new differences to hold dear.

(…)

The mind evolved in an Us-vs-Them universe of our own making. The societies coming out of this psychological firmament have always been points of reference that give people a secure sense of meaning and validation.

(…)

Social marginalization has been a motivator stronger than religious fanaticism, explaining why many terrorists originally took to extremism only after being excluded from the cultural mainstream. For the socially dispossessed, radical views fill a void.21 Organized crime groups likewise commandeer some of the properties that give a society its vitality by providing social pariahs with common goals and a sense of pride and belonging.

(…)

Being in a society (indeed, in multiple societies) is a more indispensable and ancient quality of our species than faith or matrimony, having been the way of things from before we were human.”

“James C. Scott : l’expansion de l’Etat a-t-elle standardisé le monde ?” [France Culture]

“James C. Scott : l’expansion de l’Etat a-t-elle standardisé le monde ?

France Culture

LA GRANDE TABLE IDÉES par Olivia Gesbert

https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/la-grande-table-idees/james-c-scott-lexpansion-de-letat-a-t-elle-standardise-le-monde

L’anthropologue James C. Scott poursuit sa réflexion sur les Etats modernes et la relation qu’ils entretiennent avec les communautés qu’ils gouvernent dans un livre de 1998 enfin traduit en France sous le titre “L’oeil de l’Etat” (La Découverte). Il est notre invité aujourd’hui.

On le connaît pour Homo domesticus. Une histoire profonde des premiers Etats (La Découverte, 2019), un ouvrage explorant les conditions d’émergence de l’Etat. James C. Scott est professeur émérite de science politique et d’anthropologie à l’université de Yale. Figure majeure de l’anthropologie anarchiste, il se penche sur les rapports de domination et les stratégies des populations rurales ou montagnardes pour échapper au pouvoir de l’Etat.

Paraît en français L’œil de l’État. Moderniser, uniformiser, détruire (traduit de l’anglais par Olivier Ruchet) à La Découverte. Publié en 1998 sous le titre Seeing Like A State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, il est à l’époque reconnu par The New Yorker et le Sunday New York Times.

Agustín Fuentes — Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being [Science salon/Skeptic]

SCIENCE SALON # 144

Agustín Fuentes — Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being

Agustín Fuentes — Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being

Why are so many humans religious? Why do we daydream, imagine, and hope? Philosophers, theologians, social scientists, and historians have offered explanations for centuries, but their accounts often ignore or even avoid human evolution. Evolutionary scientists answer with proposals for why ritual, religion, and faith make sense as adaptations to past challenges or as by-products of our hyper-complex cognitive capacities. But what if the focus on religion is too narrow? Renowned anthropologist Agustín Fuentes argues that the capacity to be religious is actually a small part of a larger and deeper human capacity to believe. Why believe in religion, economies, love? Fuentes employs evolutionary, neurobiological, and anthropological evidence to argue that belief — the ability to commit passionately and wholeheartedly to an idea — is central to the human way of being in the world.

The premise of the book is that believing is our ability to draw on our range of cognitive and social resources, our histories and experiences, and combine them with our imagination. It is the power to think beyond what is here and now in order to see and feel and know something — an idea, a vision, a necessity, a possibility, a truth — that is not immediately present to the senses, and then to invest, wholly and authentically, in that “something” so that it becomes one’s reality. The point is that beliefs and belief systems permeate human neurobiologies, bodies, and ecologies, and structure and shape our daily lives, our societies, and the world around us. We are human, therefore we believe, and this book tells us how we came to be that way.

Shermer and Fuentes also discuss:

– what it means to “believe” something (belief in evolution or the Big Bang is different from belief in progressive taxes or affirmative action),
– evolution and how beliefs are formed…and why,
– evolution of awe, wonder, aesthetic sense, beauty, art, music, dance, etc. (adaptation or exaptation/spandrel?),
– evolution of spirituality, religion, belief in immortality,
– Were Neanderthals human in the “belief” sense?
– human niche and the evolution of symbolism/language,
– evolution of theory of mind,
– how to infer symbolic meaning from archaeological artifacts,
– components of belief: augmented cognition and neurobiology, intentionality, imagination, innovation, compassion and intensive reliance on others, meaning-making,
– dog domestication and human self-domestication,
– Göbekli Tepe and the underestimation of ancient peoples’ cognitive capacities,
– the development of property, accumulation of goods, inequality, and social hierarchy,
gender role specialization,
– monogamy and polyamory, gender and sex, and continuum vs. binary thinking,
– violence and warfare,
– political and economic systems of belief, and
– love as belief.

Agustín Fuentes is a Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. He is an active public scientist, a well-known blogger, lecturer, tweeter, and an explorer for National Geographic. Fuentes received the Inaugural Communication & Outreach Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the President’s Award from the American Anthropological Association, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.