David Graeber and David Wengrow Do Not Understand Equality vs Hierarchy

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Polly Wiessner:

"The best anthropological definition of egalitarian societies, that proposed by Fried (1967): in egalitarian societies there are as many positions as there are qualified individuals to fill them. The respect for the abilities of different individuals creates tolerance for the variation on which cultural developments draw. It is this respect that lies at the heart of the testimony by the Huron-Wendat chief Kandiaronk about the dynamics of his own society, mentioned frequently by Graeber and Wengrow. Egalitarian and hierarchical elements co-exist in all human societies. Though both appear to have roots in our simian heritage, why were both maintained through social selection and cultural means? Institutionalized hierarchy reduces internal competition and the often-destructive race to the top, allows for efficient organization of collective action, and coordinates responses to intergroup competition which benefit many group members. Egalitarian institutions reduce the transaction costs of social and economic exchange in a number of respects. As equals, it is not necessary to work out relative social standing with every interaction. Women and men can help each other knowing that as equals they can give, ask, take and receive help when in need. With egalitarian institutions people do not fear that assistance given will be used to dominate, fostering the conditions and trust for delayed exchange. Finally, equality facilitates the mobility necessary for intergroup interaction, as hierarchies do not mesh easily."