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“We can do it differently!” is the liberating message looking back on a colorful, creative social history of humanity.

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Beginnings – a new history of humanity (Part 2) What needs to be done?

After first overview about the epochal work of David Graeber and David Wengrow in their book Beginnings” a new history of humanity2022 on 672 pages, I provide a detailed summary (excerpt) of the results and conclusions for our work and open tasks.

(4980 words, reading time 20 minutes)

“So there is no way out of the invented order,” writes Yuval Noah Harari in A Brief History of Humanity.

"If we tear down the prison walls to walk to freedom, we will inevitably end up in the courtyard of an even bigger prison."

Harari, as we saw in the first chapter, is not the only one to come to this conclusion. Most authors who treat history on a large scale seem to have come to the view that we were stuck as a species and there is really no escape from our self-made institutional cages. Apparently Harari has, once again based on Rousseau, trying to capture the prevailing mood.

Roots of the logic of war in Roman “law” - law is essentially designed as the law of war

Why was it? heads of households (Latin: "pater") allowed one of his slaves to rape, torture, mutilate or even kill any of his slaves at any time and in any conceivable way, without this being seen as anything other than his Private matter would have been considered.

Only in the reign of Tiberius (42 BC-37 AD: Roman emperor from 13 AD) was there any legal restriction on what a master could do to a slave, but the restriction was only that The landlord had to obtain permission from a local magistrate if he wanted to have a slave torn apart by wild animals. He could continue to impose and carry out all other types of execution at his own whim. On the one hand, freedom and independence were a private matter, but on the other hand, private life was characterized by the absolute power of the patriarch over the defeated people, who were viewed as his private property.

The fact that most Roman slaves were not prisoners of war in the literal sense does not make much difference here. What is important is that you legal status so defined was. What is striking and revealing for our purposes is that Roman law is deeply influenced by the Logic of war, according to which enemies are interchangeable and, if they surrender, are either killed or are considered "socially dead" and can therefore be sold as a commodity.

As a consequence of this attitude, the potential for arbitrary violence penetrated into the most intimate sphere of social relationships - including the relationships of care that made domestic life possible in the first place. If we look at the »Captive-taking companies« When we recall the Amazon or the process by which dynastic power took root in ancient Egypt, we recognize the importance of this peculiar intertwining of violence and care. Rome took this interconnectedness to new extremes, and its legacy continues to inform our fundamental concepts of social structure today.

Just the word »Family« has a common root with the Latin word in familia famulus, the "House slave" means. Familia referred to all persons under the domestic authority of one father familias or male head of household. From domus, the Latin word for household, is not just the English word domestic (domestic) and the German »domesticate« derived, but also the Latin dominion - the technical term for the sovereignty of the emperor and the citizen's power to dispose of his private property.

This leads us to the familiar ones in English (“family“) ideas about what it means, »dominant« to be and to »dominate«. 546

The logic of corporal punishment

...because according to Delâge, in 1st century Europe almost all penalties including the death penalty, was associated with severe physical torture: the victim had to wear an iron collar, was whipped, had his hand chopped off, was branded... Penalties were a Ritual that clearly demonstrated power and thereby revealed the existence of an internal war. The sovereign embodied a superior power that exceeded that of his subjects and which they were forced to recognize... While the cannibalistic rituals of the Indians were characterized by the need to... To acquire the strength and courage of the strangerIn order to be able to fight him better, the European ritual revealed the Existence of asymmetry, an irreversible imbalance of power.

The Wendat's punitive actions against prisoners of war (who were not adopted) required that the community form a unit - united by the ability to commit violence. In France, on the other hand, "the people" were united in that each individual was a potential victim of the king's violence.

But the contrasts go even further: as a traveling Wendat noted with regard to the French system, any citizen – guilty or innocent – could be made a public example of. Among the Wendat, on the other hand, violence was strictly banned from family and household. A captured warrior could either be treated with loving care and affection or fall victim to the worst treatment imaginable. There was no middle ground. The sacrifice of prisoners was about strengthening group solidarity and proclaiming the inner sanctity of the family and the domestic sphere as spaces of female domination in which violence, politics and rule through command and obedience had no place. The Wendat households were diametrically opposed to the Roman ones family Are defined.

Patriarchal logic on a small and large scale

“… model of subordination. Both institutions were modeled after the other: The patriarchal family now served as a template for the absolute power of kings and vice versa.” p. 547

  • Children were their parents,
  • women and their men
  • Subjects subjected to rulers,
  • whose Authority from God ran out of.

In any case, the superior party was expected to take severe punitive measures if it deemed appropriate. This means that she was allowed to commit violence with impunity. All of this, according to the general assumption, was also there feelings of love and affection tied together. Ultimately, the court of the Bourbon monarch, just like the palace of the Egyptian pharaoh, the Roman emperor, the Aztec Tlatoani or the Sapa Inca, was a house of rule and also a House of Care, in which a small army of courtiers worked day and night to satisfy the monarch's every physical need, doing everything humanly possible to ensure that he never felt anything but divine.

Bonding through violence and care

In all these cases the Bonding through violence and care both downwards and upwards. We couldn't put it better than King James I of England in The True Law of Free Monarchies (1598):

As it is the paternal duty of the father to provide for the nourishment, education and virtuous guidance of his children, so too the king is obliged to provide for all his subjects...

Just as the father's anger and rebuke against each of his children who commit an offense should be a paternal chastisement tempered by compassion, as long as there is still any hope of improvement in them, so should the king be against each of his subjects who commit an offense , acting in this way...How the father's chief joy should be to provide for the welfare of his children, to rejoice in their welfare, to mourn and pity for their evil, and to work for their safety ...this is how a good prince should think of his people.

Public torture was common practice in Europe until the 18th century

Public torture in 17th-century Europe produced intense, now-forgotten spectacles of pain and torment to convey the message that a system in which men brutalized their wives and parents were allowed to beat their children was ultimately a form of Love. The torture of the Wendat produced unforgettable spectacles of pain and anguish in the same historical period to demonstrate that no form of corporal punishment should ever be tolerated within a community or family. Violence and care were completely separate among the Wendat. Viewed in this light, the peculiarities of prisoner torture become clear.

As we suspect, the connection (or probably better said confusion!) of care and domination is crucial to the more relevant question of how we humans have lost the ability to freely recreate ourselves by reshaping our relationships with one another. The answer to this question is important for understanding where we have stopped and why today we can hardly imagine anything other than a change from smaller to larger cages for our own past or future.

Errors in size and complexity

Perhaps the most persistent errors we have had to contend with have to do with "size." P. 548

  • An apparently common prejudice in the academic world, and not only there, is that a population, when it grows many times over, inevitably needs certain power structures, so there is a necessary connection between social and spatial hierarchies. Again and again we came across the assumption in writings that the organizational system of a social group must have been more "complex" the larger this organization was and the more densely populated its territory was.
  • complexity is still often used as a synonym for today hierarchy. Hierarchy, in turn, is the euphemism for Chains of command (the “Origins of the State”). But these orders mean that when a large number of people decide to live in one place or join a common project, they necessarily their second Freedom – the freedom to refuse orders – must be given up. This second freedom is replaced by legal mechanisms so that people who do not do what they are told can, for example, be beaten up or imprisoned.

As we have seen, all of these assumptions are theoretically baseless and tend not to be borne out by the historical evidence. Carole Crumley, an anthropologist and expert on the Iron Age in Europe, has been pointing this out for years: Complex systems need not be organized from the top down, either in the natural or in the social world. The fact that we usually assume something completely different probably says more about ourselves than about the people and phenomena we study. Nor is Crumley the only one to hold this point of view. P. 549

egalitarian administration or politics

We don't have appropriate terminology for these early cities. Describing them as "egalitarian" can, as we have seen, take on very different meanings: it can either refer to a city parliament and coordinated programs of social housing, as in some pre-Columbian centers in North and South America, or as in the prehistoric megasites to the north of the Black Sea point to the self-organization of autonomous households in neighborhoods with citizen assemblies and probably also, as in Mesopotamia of the Uruk period, to the introduction of an explicit idea of equality based on principles of uniformity and sameness.

Nothing about this diversity is surprising if we remember what preceded the cities in each region, namely, not at all rudimentary or isolated groups, but rather widespread social networks that spanned different ecologies and between which people, plants, animals, drugs , valuables, songs and ideas moved with infinite sophistication. The individual units, especially at certain times of the year, were hardly noticeable demographically, but were typically organized in loose coalitions or confederations. p. 550

The first freedom is: being able to come and go as you please

At the very least, they logically followed directly from our first freedom: the freedom to be able to leave one's homeland with the certainty that one would be welcomed, cared for and even valued in a far away place.

But at best they were cases of »Amphictyony«, the phenomenon that a formal organization (e.g. city associations such as Delphi, Delos or the Twelve Tribes of Israel) is entrusted with the care and maintenance of holy sites. Apparently Marcel Mauss wasn't entirely wrong when he said we should use the term »civilization« reserve for such large regions of hospitality.

We usually think of "civilization" as something that emerges in cities - but given the new evidence, it is clearly more realistic to look at things the other way around and imagine the first cities as small, compressed, large regional confederations.

The core question

If there is a salient story we should tell, a salient question we should ask of human history (instead of the origins of social inequality), it is precisely this:

How have we become stuck in a single form of social reality, and why have relationships ultimately based on violence and domination become normal in this reality? P. 553

The scientist who probably came closest to answering this question in the last century was the anthropologist and poet Franz Baermann Steiner (1909-1952), whose life was fascinating and tragic at the same time. The brilliant polymath came from a Jewish family in Bohemia and later lived with an Arab family in Jerusalem until he was expelled by the British authorities. He conducted field research in the Carpathians and was twice forced to leave mainland Europe by the Nazis, tragically ending his professional career in southern England. Most of his closest relatives were killed in Birkenau. According to one legend, he had an 800-page monumental dissertation about the comparative sociology of slavery written, but the suitcase containing the manuscript and notes about his research was stolen on a train journey. At Oxford he was friends with Elias Canetti, another Jewish exile, and vied with him for the favor of the novelist Iris Murdoch. She accepted his marriage proposal, but he died of a heart attack two days later, aged just 43.

The shorter version of his doctoral thesis survives, and its focus is on what Steiner called »pre-servile institutions«. In this work, which is moving given his life story, he examines what happens in various cultural and historical situations Happens to people who are uprooted become: people who are expelled from their clans because of some fault or mistake; Castaways, criminals, runaways. It can be seen as a historical narrative about the phenomenon that refugees, such as Steiner himself, were initially welcomed and treated almost like saints, but over time, much like the women in the Sumerian temple factories, were more and more degraded and were exploited... (553)

Hospitality and asylum law

What happens, Steiner asked, when norms that enable freedom of movement - ideals such as hospitality and the right to asylum, decent treatment and protection from threats - lose their validity? Why does this development often act as a catalyst for situations in which people can exercise arbitrary power over others? Steiner treats case studies in careful detail, ranging from the Amazonian Huitoto to the East African Safwa to the Tibeto-Burman Lushai. 554

In doing so, he finds a possible answer to the question that so puzzled Robert Lowie and later Pierre Clastres: If stateless societies regularly organize themselves in such a way that chiefs do not exercise coercive power, then how did organizational forms with hierarchies come into the world in the first place? As described above, both Lowie and Clastres came to the same conclusion: it must have been the product of religious revelation. But Baermann Steiner showed a different path. Perhaps, he said, everything can be traced back to charity.

In Amazonian societies Not only orphans, but also uncared for widows, the mentally ill and people with disabilities or deformities found refuge in the Chief's residence, where they were allowed to take part in community meals. Occasionally there were also prisoners of war, especially children, who had been captured during raids. Among the Safwa or Lushai, runaways, debtors, criminals, or others in need of protection had the same status as people who had surrendered in battle. All were included in the chief's entourage, and the younger men often took on the role of police-like order takers. How much power the chief actually had over his followers varied:

Baermann Steiner uses the one from Roman law Expression potestas, which, among other things, almost unlimited power of the father over his relatives and their possession designated. The extent to which power differed depended on how easily his wards could run away and find refuge elsewhere and whether they still had some connections with their relatives, their clan or outsiders who were willing to intervene on their behalf (p. 555: )|to add. There was also a difference in how reliably the followers fulfilled the chief's will. It came down to sheer performance.

In all these cases, when one was granted refuge, domestic arrangements changed fundamentally, particularly as female prisoners were also admitted, thereby expanding the fathers' potestas.

Traces of this connection can be found in almost all historically documented Königshöfen prove: These always attracted people who were considered strange or separate. From China to the Andes, there was apparently no region of the world where courtly societies did not harbor such apparently different individuals. There was hardly a monarch who did not claim to protect widows and orphans. It is easy to imagine that something similar happened in certain hunter-gatherer societies in much earlier historical periods.

The physically disabled people who were so lavishly buried in the last ice age must have been the focus of caring attention while alive. Undoubtedly there are phases of development that link such practices to later royal courts - we have discovered traces of them in predynastic Egypt, but are not yet able to reconstruct most of the links.

This issue may not have been at the forefront of Steiner's mind, but what he observed is directly relevant to debates about it Origins of Patriarchy. Feminist anthropologists have long held the view that external (usually male) violence and women's changes in family status are closely linked. Archaeologically and historically, we are just beginning to collect enough material to understand how this process actually worked.

Invent new terms and concepts

In practice, this meant reversing many opposites.

  • It meant the terms »equality" and "inequality« should only be used if there was clear evidence at the location examined that ideologies of social equality actually existed.
  • It meant asking what consequences it would have if we also took into account the 5,000 years of human history in which grain was cultivated no spoiled aristocrats and standing armies and no bonded labor brought about, and not just the 5,000 years in which it brought these consequences with it?

What happens if we treat the rejection of urban life or slavery at certain times and places as something just as significant as the emergence of the same phenomena at other times and places? P. 557

When we did this, we were often surprised. We would never have suspected that slavery most likely several times abolished throughout history and in numerous places became and this very probably also for him War applies.

Unfortunately, the abolition of such phenomena apparently rarely definitive. Nevertheless, the periods in which comparatively free societies existed are not insignificant. If you bracket what we undoubtedly did, that Eurasian Iron Ages From here, these free societies are quite representative of the wider world biggest Part of humanity's social experience.

Social theorists tend to write about the past as if everything that actually happened could have been predicted. This is a bit dishonest because we all know that we almost always wrong, when we try to predict the future, and that this is by no means unique to social theorists. Yet it is hard to resist the temptation to write and think as if the current state of the world at the beginning of the 21st century were the inevitable result of the past 10,000 years of history, when in reality, of course, one has little or no idea as the World in 2075, let alone a year 2150 will look like. P. 557


Who knows? Perhaps, if our species survives, we will one day look back on this now unforeseeable future and aspects of the distant past that now seem like anomalies -

  • bureaucracies operating on a community scale;
  • cities governed by neighborhood councils;
  • government systems in which women hold a majority of official positions;
  • Forms of land management based on care rather than ownership and exploitation -,

as the truly significant breakthroughs and tend to view large stone pyramids or statues as historical curiosities. How about if we took this approach now and no longer viewed Minoan Crete or Hopewell as just random potholes on a path that inevitably leads to the formation of states and empires, but as alternative possibilities, as paths we did not take have?

After all, these things really existed, even if our usual view of the past seems to push them to the sidelines rather than to the center. A large part of this book was devoted to Recalibration of such standards, to remind us, humans have actually lived this way for many centuries and even millennia.

In some ways, the new perspective may seem even more tragic than our previous standard narrative of civilization as an inevitable fall from grace. It means that we could have lived with radically different conceptions of what human society actually consists of. It means that mass enslavement, genocide, penal camps, even patriarchy or production through wage labor never had to happen. On the other hand, however, it also suggests that the possibilities for human intervention today are still far greater than we tend to think. (p. 557f)

The Kairos - nuPerspective Metamorphosis

We began this book with a quote that refers to the Greek term kairos as one of the rare moments in the history of a society when its frame of reference shifts. After this shift, a metamorphosis of fundamental principles and symbols takes place in which the boundaries between myth and history, science and magic become blurred and real change becomes possible. Philosophers like to talk about "the event" - a political revolution, a scientific discovery, an artistic one Masterpiece - a breakthrough that makes visible aspects of reality that were previously unimaginable but, once seen, can never be overlooked. If that's the case, then it is kairos the time when such an “event” usually occurs. (558)

The kairos point

Societies around the world seem to be rapidly heading towards such a point. This is particularly true for those who have lived since the First World War »west« used to call. On the one hand, it appears that fundamental breakthroughs in the natural sciences and even in artistic expression no longer occur with the regularity to which people became accustomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

At the same time, however, the scientific means for understanding the past – not just our species' past, but the entire planet's past – have advanced at a dizzying pace. Scientists in 2020 are not (as mid-20th century science fiction readers might have hoped) encountering alien civilizations in distant star systems, but they are discovering radically new societies beneath their own feet, some forgotten and rediscovered, others more familiar, but today completely different and completely newly understood.

Our third fundamental freedom: to create new and different forms of social reality

By developing the scientific means to learn about our own past, we lay the mythical substructure our “social sciences”. Axioms that were once considered unassailable, the solid points on which our self-knowledge is built, scattered like a pack of mice. What is the purpose of all this new knowledge if not to reshape the ideas we have about ourselves and our future development?

Or to put it another way, the rediscovery of ourselves third fundamental freedom: the freedom to create new and different forms of social reality?

The myth as such is not the problem here. It should not be confused with bad or infantile science. Like all societies about theirs Science everyone has their own Myths. Through myth, human societies give structure and meaning to their experiences. But the larger mythical structures of history, which we have used in past centuries, just doesn't work anymore; they are no longer at all compatible with the evidence we have today, and the structures and meanings they promote are tasteless and worn out and politically disastrous.

Undoubtedly, very little will change, at least for a while. Entire fields of knowledge, not to mention chairs and faculties, academic journals, prestigious research grants, libraries, databases, school curricula, and the like, are designed to fit the old structures and the old questions.

Max Planck once said:

New scientific truths replace the old ones not by established scientists realizing their errors, but by the representatives of the older theory eventually dying and the new generation finding the new truths and theories familiar and even obvious.

We are optimists. We believe it won't take that long. In fact, we have already taken a first step. We now see more clearly what happens when, for example, a study that is scientifically rigorous in every other respect starts from the assumption that there was some "primitive" form of human society;

  • this was either fundamentally good or fundamentally evil;
  • there was a time before inequality and political consciousness;
  • something happened that changed all of this;
  • “Civilization” and “complexity” would always come at the expense of human freedoms;
  • Participatory democracy for small groups is natural, but impossible to transfer to a large city or a nation state.

We now know that we do have to do with myths here. (559)


My (Helge) comment and resume for the nuPerspective Omega course process

That's good: our nuPerspective glasses are highly compatible with these findings because Part of this “new” enlightenment about the myths of an imperial (Roman-)Western era, which is currently being reduced to absurdity...
Instead of being celebrated as a logical civilizing achievement of humanity (and with the side effects of violent top-down rule that have to be endured), the two reveal David's a new model logic of civilization, that of the previously despised “dark interim periods”.

There is also one on this basis postcolonial theology to construct more clearly, because it takes the current results of archeology and (certain) ethnologies seriously and is prepared by new (anti-evolutionary patterns of interpretation). to question one's own logic of advancement/progress (teleological assumptions):

The patterns of previous theological interpretation can be overcome as follows:

  • Read the history of Israel and the associated reconstructions of “people” and “kingship” (with the learnings from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, etc.) in a sharper way (also in comparison to the environment at the time and its “kingship logic”). This means that the atl. Controversy over kingship a key moment in the new light (what were they really fighting about?)… The socio-historical hermeneutics of Crüsemann (Tora) / feminist readings help a lot here to reconstruct a historical-critical in-depth view.
  • The “Kingdom of God” metaphor must be consistent apocalyptic-historical (foreign) perceived (because the enlightened glasses with which we usually see them as “Eschatology“ reading unfortunately ignores the ancient intention of understanding it as a struggle with the political empires of the time.) Through the 19th century logic, which in the Christian horizon this announcement of salvation for the Jewish near future (in the imperial context there will be political liberation ) universalized and thus extended to the entire history of the world/humanity, which was not originally intended (= Perriman's merit in providing clarity here).
  • The function of the Reinterpretation of the “Kingdom expectation” of the 19th century. This makes it even clearer: This reading certainly supports the fact that the Enlightenment's concern for change is taken up: namely the longing/hope for the process-based “improvement of the human race” (Lessing). However, through the lasting frame story of irredeemably “sinful” humanity (until their day of redemption in the other world), it still continues to fixate the conservative/reactionary Roman-hierarchical understanding of Christianity (as an indissoluble “hierarchical power relationship”). The two Davids uncovered this “mythological” logic as our “fixation.” (We can do it differently too :-).
  • Theological history can finally be used (not according to the text, by the way!) The myth of original sin in paradise is abandoned (the Enlightenment remained tied to this overall view with its narrative). The myth that is better supported textually is that the fall lies in the original sin of humanity's violent history (Gen. 4-11), to which God reacts with the flood/Abraham story. What new embedding of the Bible's prehistory in this new perspective (abandoning the imperial/Augustinian original sin-redemption myth) supports the new reading of the "history of humanity"?

Through the new reading of human history, today's political struggle to assert “democracy” as the pinnacle of human civilizational achievement is no longer seen as a history of progress, but as constantly fighting ideological conflict between democratic, pluricratic, oligarian or autocratic systems marked. Because “democracy” did not exist/does not exist. But diverse attempts to construct human social orders. We are experiencing our immediate past anew (not necessarily as the “peak” of human history).

Even the 4000-6000 year “history of civilization” has to be compared with creative and innovative 30,000-100,000 years of human experience and learning. Western arrogance collapses in comparison to the indigenous cultural achievements of America. Here the postcolonial lever is very clear. The message is: the Western era of Enlightenment is not original more anti-Christian Pulse: Reason versus faith! Rather, it is inspired by visits by American indigenous people to Paris from the indigenous wisdom of thousands of years of creative, “egalitarian-democratic” anti-autocratic social forms.

Certainly: insofar as Christianity had adopted this autocratic-hierarchical logic of Roman antiquity, the “democratic” opposition was also anti-Christian. Because as long as that God top down remains as a key theological logic and thus legitimizes a paternalistic social order, there is no escape from the “imperial logic”.

So the new question is: How must/can we? Thinking of God as legitimizing “democratically”? And what elements of the pre-imperial biblical tradition might underline this reading of God? Even modern complex-paradox packaging of the incarnation idea: God is seen in the weak and the strong in Trinitarian terms, could not bring about this turn towards democratic social orders, but could perhaps support it.

Israel's faith in YHWH sets itself apart culturally and politically from the surrounding peoples. The concept of a “divine instruction” that claims to be better and fairer than that of neighboring peoples is an explicit expression of this Jewish one Schismogenesis (Different-than-neighbors identity1).

  • Would the “incomparably wise” Torah GTTes (Deut.4, 6) a model of a better social order also for today's Christians?
  • And if so, how do we have to reformulate the Torah after 3000 years of distance on the knowledge background of a post-Roman, post-colonial demythologized “history of humanity” (a la Graeber/Wengrow)?
  • So could a Torah orientation (read postcolonial!) help us orientate ourselves? Crüsemann probably tried that. But how can this attempt be given a better theological framework?
  • What impulses does the new human history give to spirituality?
  • What (better?) argumentative aid does an “earthiest” spirituality get?
  • Could (seasonal) rituals provide scope for maintaining flexibility in the form of social organization?

In any case, this story deconstructs the imperial idea of civilization: We bring the best of humanity to all those left behind... The highly contextual and interactive social concepts (always including their myths/theologies) become effective as a liberation of thought: “We can do things differently” gets historical/primeval models. In this way we free ourselves from the “mere utopias“ and argue: That existed before in human history, there is another way. Our own spirituality is given a highly contextual framework (2000 year Roman Empire thinking), for most of history societies and their myths were different, more colorful and more interesting... Let's stay willing to learn!

  1. A wonderful explanation for great social differences in a very small (neighbourly) area

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