- Capitalism and Alternatives -

(More on our 'savage past')

Posted by: bill on September 10, 1999 at 11:05:52:

In Reply to: Socialism without the state? posted by R Rockliff on September 10, 1999 at 00:02:44:

The debate about the necessity of a state is fine- BUT- the rational IMO is faulty.

[:This sort of behavior [predatory accumulation] is no doubt the result of evolutionary forces, and was at one time appropriate to the conditions that the eraliest humans lived with. The question is,
do we really want this brutal predatory instinct to continue to shape the future of the species, to the exclusion of less brutal possibilities? Can this brutal instinct continue to be the prime motivation of the species without pushing us to extinction anyway? Our
environment, as a species, is no longer the wild plains of Pliocene Africa.]

This will likely be found to have been a popular myth - one that was convenient in justifying a capitalist-free market philosophy. Prior to the discovery/invention of agriculture, in other words for tens of thousands of years, many humans lived in what's called "immediate-return" systems rather than "delayed-return" systems.

Following are some exerpts from the book: Limited Wants, Unlimited Means" Edited by John Gowdy.

"Immediate return systems have the following basic characteristics. People obtain a direct and immediate return for their labour. They go out hunting or gathering and eat the food on the same day or over the dayus that follow. Food is neither elaborately processed nor stored. They use relatively simple, portable, utilitarioan, easily acquired, replaceable tools and weapons made with real skill but not involving a great deal of labor.

"Delayed-return systems, in contrast, have the following characteristics. People hold rights over valued assets of some sort, which either represent a yield, a return for labor applied over time or, if not, are held and managed in a way which resembles and has similar social implications to delayed yields on labour." p. 88

In introducing the subject matter, Gowdy writes:

"As an economist, the most important messegas for me from these descriptions of hunter-gatherers are that (1) the economic notion of scarcity is largely a social construct, not an inherent property of human existence; (2) the separation of work from social life is not a necessary characteristic of economic production; (3) the linking of individual well-being to individual production is not a necessary characteristic of economic organization; (4) selfishness and acquisitiveness are not natural traits of our species; and (5) inequality based on class and gender is not a necessary characteristic of human society."


"The notion of scarcity is largely a social construct, not an essential characteristic of human existence. Hunter-gatherers may be considred affluent because they achieve a balance between means and ends by wanting little. By contrast, the modern industrial system generates scarcity by creating unlimited wants. Consumers are addicted to a continual flow of consumer goods and feel continually deprived because addiction can never be satiated...." (p.xxi)

"The hunter-gatherer literature shows that "rational economic behavior" is peculiar to market capitalism and is an embedded set of cultural beliefs, not an objective universal law of nature. The myth of economic man explains the organizing principle of contemporary capitalism, nothing more or less. It is no more rational than the myths that drive Hadza, Aborigine, or !Kung society. Just as the myth of economic man justifies the appropriation by a few of the human material culture that has evolved over millenia, so does it justify the appropriation and destruction of the natural world, the product of eons of evolution (Gowdy 1997)." p.xxiv

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