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˜rude™ state, wealth can be unequally divided, but the differ-
ences do not amount to much: ˜To enjoy their magni¬cence
they must live in a croud [sic]; and to secure their possessions
they must be surrounded by friends that espouse their quar-
rels™ (238). For Ferguson, I believe, the interesting question
was: Why does commercial capitalism undermine the coin-
cidence of self-interest and reciprocal or co-operative social
relations?
There is no basis in the work of Locke and Ferguson
for constructing binary oppositions around the construct
modern = rational, pre-modern = non-rational or ˜primordial™.
Civil society and social cohesion 33
The restriction of civil society to the modern bourgeoisie was
introduced by Adam Smith and Karl Marx (see Gouldner
1980: 356“7, Tester 1992: 49, and Kingston-Mann 2003
on Marx™s changing views). The German sociologist Max
Weber is best known for arguing that the Protestant doc-
trine of free will facilitated the rise of capitalism, but he also
constructed an in¬‚uential theory of political organisation in
which he contrasted ˜traditional™ with ˜bureaucratic™ govern-
ment. The equation of rational with ˜modern™ and irrational
with ˜pre-modern™ is based on Weber™s theory of develop-
ment from traditional to bureaucratic government, that is,
from blind adherence to tradition, to acceptance of a rational
order (Weber 1947: 300, 327). Locke and Ferguson cannot be
cited in support of the claim that universal citizenship was
developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to cre-
ate a broader solidarity to replace that based on ˜particular
and often primordial criteria of trust and solidarity™ (Selig-
man 1992: 146, my emphasis). Seligman, however, repeatedly
opposes rational to primordial social relations. Ties between
individuals are no longer ˜de¬ned by a tradition of primordial
“givenness” (membership of a territorial or kinship collec-
tive)™ (Seligman 1992: 69, my emphasis). Seligman attributes
recent ethnic nationalism in southeastern Europe to ˜partic-
ular, primordial criteria of membership, trust and solidarity™
(151). The case of Yugoslavia, outlined above, shows this is
an over-simpli¬cation. Bette Denich points out that, at a crit-
ical point in the break-up of Yugoslavia, adoption of ethnic
identities became a rational strategy. Jobs and housing and
therefore, she argues, personal survival depended on how the
new state would be constituted and in whose name. ˜If the
state was to be rede¬ned, average citizens needed to rede¬ne
their way of accessing it and had reason to fear being “left out
in the cold” in the prospective power allocation along ethnic
Order and anarchy
34
lines™ (Denich 2003: 191). Discovering or reasserting ethnic
identity was not an innate or irrational impulse.


c i vi l s o c i et y i n p r e - m o d e r n e u ro pe
Medieval civil society
Both Tester and Seligman claim that in feudal society there
was ˜no distinction between public and private ™ (Tester 1992:
14, Seligman 1992: 30“1; Tester attributes this claim to Hegel
and Marx). This is simply not true. In the thirteenth century,
the village communal assembly already operated effectively
in France and Switzerland to co-ordinate peasant resistance
against feudal overlords (Bloch 1966: 168“70, Viazzo 1989:
266). In England, the village community was ˜in a position vol-
untarily to accept fresh responsibility, to bind itself to the ful-
¬llment of obligations, and to incur ¬nancial liabilities . . . [but]
its legal status is not easy to de¬ne™ (Cam 1962: 79). Opposi-
tion to feudal lords was usually undertaken by individuals or
small groups, although villagers sometimes successfully bar-
gained collectively over the terms of their tenancies (Hilton
1962). The situation in France was quite different. Everyone
understood that public matters were resolved by bargaining
between rival centres of power: the corporate village on the
one hand, and the nobility or king on the other (Mendras and
Cole 1991: 127). My own archival research in eastern France
(Layton 2000) revealed that the villages of Franche Comt´ e
were repeatedly subject to demands for tribute during the later
years of the ancien r´gime. Documents stored in the village hall
e
at Pellaport, the locus of my research, recorded that in 1673, for
example, Pellaport™s assembly challenged the allegation made
by monks from a local monastery that they had deliberately
defrauded the monastery by mixing oats with the barley paid
Civil society and social cohesion 35
as a tithe. In 1761, a local seigneur attempted to reactivate feu-
dal rights which, he claimed, had belonged to earlier holders
of the seigneurie and were recorded in documents dated 1549
and 1657. Pellaport™s village assembly responded that it was
an incontestable principle of French law that, to enter into a
tributary relationship with a seigneur, two-thirds of the inhab-
itants must give their consent, at a freely convened meeting.
The assembly produced documentary evidence to show that
in 1657 there were between thirty and forty households in the
village, yet the seigneur™s document had only been signed by
seven men, some of whom were already bound to the seigneur
of the time by other obligations. Similar arguments were used
to reject the 1549 contract.
A long-standing school of political thought in England
held that the peasant village was the cradle of democracy.
This school™s views are in the same spirit as Kropotkin™s and
directly opposed to those of Seligman, Tester and Gellner. The
type of community it extolled was typical of the Open Field
(Champion) zone, which extended in a broad band from
Dorset and Sussex, through the Midlands, to Yorkshire.
Between the tenth and eighteenth centuries, each English vil-
lage under the open ¬eld regime chose a jury at its village
court. The court admitted new freeholders and tenants to the
community, and passed by-laws compelling residents to repair
chimneys and clear pathways and forbidding them to encroach
on access tracks by over-ploughing the edge of strips or to
allow animals to graze on ¬elds before crops had been har-
vested. The jury also limited the number of animals each
household could graze on commons (Ault 1972, Chibnall 1965:
231, Orwin and Orwin 1938: 154“9).
Advocates of village government as the source of democ-
racy traced its origin to Germanic customs brought to
England by the Anglo-Saxons. The Victorian historian
Order and anarchy
36
Edward Freeman visited Switzerland in 1863, and witnessed a
local public assembly. He described the experience as ˜the real-
isation of a dream . . . to see [men] discharge the immemorial
rights of Teutonic freemen . . . the eternal democracy . . . the
constitution which was of immemorial antiquity in the days
of Tacitus™ (quoted in Burrow 1981: 169). In the seventeenth
century the Anglo-Saxon origins of English society were used
to develop the theory of the ˜Norman yoke™. According to this
theory the English had lived before 1066 as free and equal
citizens, governing themselves through representative insti-
tutions brought to England by Anglo-Saxon settlers (Hill 1958:
64). While it disregarded the fact that there was already social
inequality in Anglo-Saxon England, the historian Christopher
Hill suggests the idea had probably been current throughout
the Middle Ages (compare MacDougall 1982: 57). Support-
ers of parliament argued that English common law stemmed
from Anglo-Saxon times and had survived the conquest, pro-
viding a legal precedent for the principle that the king was
answerable to the people. For the Levellers, a radical politi-
cal sect active during the English Civil War who campaigned
against the monarchy and private property, the Germanic vil-
lage community realised the natural rights of man (Hill 1958:
81). Ferguson may have had this tradition in mind when he
referred to self-governing villages in ˜some primitive age™.
Hill (1958: 76) accepts the broad thrust of the historical
argument, claiming that early Anglo-Saxon society was cer-
tainly much freer than the Norman society that supplanted
it. The dif¬culty, he notes, was that little was known about
the actual form of Anglo-Saxon society (and, one might add,
even less about the earlier society described by Tacitus; see
Layton 2003: 106“7). The essential weakness of the histor-
ical school of thought was that it failed to explain why the
supposed Germanic customs had survived, to show whose
Civil society and social cohesion 37
interests they served and to explain how such people had been
able to perpetuate them. It fails, as Hill wrote, to see ˜society
as a whole, with institutions and ideas themselves related to
the social structure, and of relative not absolute validity™ (Hill
1958: 116).

The enclosures “ two visions of civil society
The village democracy celebrated by writers such as Freeman
came to an end with the enclosures. Enclosure privatised
common land and dissolved the communal village institutions
that had managed common resources. Enclosure impacted
most heavily on the Open Field zone. The open ¬eld system
originated in later Anglo-Saxon times as a way of managing
an economy based on both cereal cultivation and livestock
rearing. The better land near the village was divided into
individually owned strips of land that was ploughed and on
which cereals were grown. The strips were long and nar-
row to accommodate the dif¬culty of turning heavy, medieval
wheeled ploughs pulled by oxen; the more oblong the strip,
the fewer the number of times the plough had to be turned at
each end. Households™ strips were intermixed to ensure each
family had access to different types of soil. A long, narrow
strip has, however, a much greater perimeter than a square
¬eld of the same area. Keeping livestock away from the cereal
¬elds precluded the need to fence the land. Livestock were
herded on the poorer land farther from the village. Keep-
ing the village livestock together allowed one person to look
after many more animals than a single household would have
owned, freeing others to work in the ¬elds. In order to rest
and reinvigorate the plough land, strips were grouped into
larger ˜open ¬elds™, one of which was left fallow in any year.
Livestock also grazed on the fallow, manuring the soil.
Order and anarchy
38
The open ¬eld system was thus a very effective adapta-
tion to medieval agriculture. It was displaced for a number
of reasons. Some households began to plant crops formerly
con¬ned to gardens, such as peas and beans, on the fallow.
Legumes also rejuvenate the soil, but must be fenced against
livestock. Innovative households came to see the strict collec-
tive regulation of the open ¬eld system as old fashioned. A
number of recent authors have, however, argued that the prin-
cipal drive to abolish the open ¬elds came from large landlords
who wanted to develop new crops, to take advantage of the
growing market in agriculture. Smallholders had to be turned
into tenants and the commons brought under cultivation.
The political arguments for and against enclosure reveal the
emergence of two schools of thought that persist in the mod-
ern debate concerning civil society. Promoters of enclosure
would support the claim that civil society ˜can be said to equal
the milieu of private contractual relations™ (Tester 1992: 8).
Its opponents would advocate the claim that civil society is
˜a web of autonomous associations . . . which bind citizens
together in matters of common concern™ (Tester 1992: 8, cit-
ing Charles Taylor). Claims that commons were overstocked
and that grazing was unstinted (i.e. unregulated) were used
to justify enclosure (Neeson 1993: 36“7), but there are many
documented examples of village juries enforcing control of
common land through ¬nes (Neeson 1993: 88, 116).
Since the 1970s there has been renewed debate about the
effective management of common land. The political scientist
Garrett Hardin (1968), reviving the ideas of William Lloyd
(Lloyd 1964 [1833]), held that, unless coercion is applied by an
authority, common property is inevitably less well managed
than private property. If there are no controls over access, self-
restraint by some households in the number of animals they
grazewillbeunderminedwhenothersputtoomanyanimalson
Civil society and social cohesion 39
the commons. These free-riders cause degradation of the niche
on which all depend, but they are the only ones to bene¬t from
the higher numbers of stock they have pastured. The rational
strategy is therefore for everyone to overstock, destroying the
commons™ value. Hardin argued that only sanctions imposed
by government, or privatising the commons, would enable
responsible management. He discounted the possibility of self-
regulation among the users.
The other school, founded by the political scientists and
anthropologist Bonnie McCay and James Acheson (1987)
and Elinor Ostrom (1990), uses aspects of neo-Darwinian
theory to argue that individual and collective ownership are
both adaptive, but to different circumstances. Self-regulation
depends on limiting access to, and use of, a shared resource.
The commons must therefore be treated as a territory.
Socio-ecology studies social behaviour according to the
principles of Darwinian evolution. It differs from the more
determinist approaches of sociobiology and evolutionary psy-
chology in allowing learned, cultural behaviour an important
role in human social evolution, but argues that where sev-
eral alternative social strategies are practised, the strategy
that offers the best adaptation to the local social and natural
environment will tend to replace competing ones. The socio-
ecological theory of territoriality was originally developed to
explain animal behaviour, and ¬rst applied to human territori-
ality by Rada Dyson-Hudson and Eric Alden Smith (Dyson-
Hudson and Smith 1978). The theory holds that it will only be
adaptive to defend the boundaries of a territory if the resources
within it are suf¬ciently dense and predictable to outweigh the
costs of defence. When resources are scarce and unpredictable,
it is a waste of effort for individual households to fence off
small portions because the risk of resources within each patch
failingwill betoogreattojustifytheirdefence.Dyson-Hudson
Order and anarchy
40
and Smith argued that the cattle-herding Karimojong of East
Africa defend grazing land as a ˜tribe™ because the distribution
of grass and water is too unpredictable to justify dividing it
into small areas defended by individual lineages. Small ¬elds
of maize are, on the other hand, defended by the Karimojong
households who cultivate them. The geographer Robert Net-
ting used the same argument in his analysis of land ownership
in the Swiss village of T¨ rbel. Grass on the alpine pastures
o
is too dispersed and unreliable to justify the cost and risk of
dividing it into ¬elds owned by individual households. Col-
lective management is more ef¬cient. Privately owned ¬elds
are located on lower, richer soils (Netting 1981: 60“7).
Far from allowing open access to the commons in T¨ rbel,
o
use of the alpine commons is closely regulated by the com-
munity. Only citizens of the village are allowed to use it and
the number of cattle they can graze is controlled. McCay and
Acheson point out that, under the medieval and post-medieval
open ¬eld system, use of English commons was also gener-
ally regulated by the communities to which they belonged.
Ostrom argues that Hardin™s model is not wrong, but lacks
the generality Hardin claimed for it. The ˜open-access™ sce-
nario proposed by Hardin is not the only possibility. The
application of game theory to the study of the evolution of
social strategies predicts the conditions in which individuals
can form stable coalitions based on mutual trust that can avert
the ˜tragedy™ of over-exploitation. When individuals inter-
act repeatedly co-operation can become a stable strategy (see
discussion of the ˜Prisoner™s Dilemma™ in chapter 2). People
who interact regularly in a local context, who have developed
shared norms and patterns of reciprocity, who can monitor
whether their associates are adhering to the agreed level of
exploitation and who can punish free-riders are most likely to
succeed (Ostrom 1990: 184“8). Intense pressure to conform
Civil society and social cohesion 41
develops in ¬re crews, army units etc. as well as in peasant
villages. The historian J. M. Neeson claims overstocking on
English common land was rare and that deliberate overstock-
ing was in fact a strategy used by wealthy landowners who
advocated enclosure, to justify their argument that common
grazing was inef¬cient (Neeson 1993: 88, 116). McCay and
Acheson argue, in opposition to Hardin and Lloyd, that the
English enclosures were precipitated by conditions peculiar to
the rise of capitalism (improvements in agricultural methods
and the growth of a market for farm products) and not by an
inherent weakness in commons management.
Gouldner traces the origin of civil society to the ˜inde-
pendent self-managed social organisation outside of the feu-
dal structure that developed in the West both in villages and
towns™ (Gouldner 1980: 361) and opponents of enclosure con-
demned the loss of village democracy (e.g. Nourse, quoted in
Neeson 1993: 20). They argued that destroying village society
through enclosure also endangered relations in the nation as a
whole, bringing about an open dissatisfaction that risked mob
rule (Neeson 1993: 22).
Supporters of enclosure argued that common property was
a more primitive condition than private property; fenmen in
East Anglia were compared to Native Americans and Tartars
(Neeson 1993: 30“1). Here one can detect the origin of Selig-
man and Gellner™s treatment of ˜primordial ties™ (for the wider
currency of this idea, see Duf¬eld 2001: 110). European ˜pro-
gressives™ saw private property as the source of all virtue, from
economic initiatives to high moral character: in The wealth of
nations Adam Smith linked the advance of reason to private
property; Blackstone™s Commentaries links private property,
and the right to exclude others, to freedom (Kingston-Mann
1999: 10“20). Accounts of the English agricultural revolution
published by Toynbee and Prothero in the 1880s captured
Order and anarchy
42
popular imagination by attributing particular innovations to
˜great men™ who triumphed over a conservative mass of
country bumpkins (Overton 1996: 3). All these claims are
antecedents of the approach taken by Seligman and Gellner.
Whether enclosure was really necessary to implement
improvements in agriculture is debated. Agricultural devel-
opment originated among smallholders in the Netherlands
and took place without enclosure in parts of France and
Germany (see Layton 2000: 84“6, 261, 336“46). Michael
Havinden (1961) wrote that, although it is customary to regard
open ¬eld agriculture as backward and static, many of the most
important advances in open ¬eld farming in Oxfordshire were
made before the idea of agricultural progress became popu-
lar in the eighteenth century (cf. Neeson 1993: 157). Arthur
Young ignored his own discovery that the same outmoded
techniques were used on both open and enclosed ¬elds, and
that enclosure had little effect on yields (Kingston-Mann 1999:
17“18). Mark Overton (1996) similarly questions the view that
technological innovations in English agriculture were facili-
tated by enclosures; small farmers accomplished much growth
in productivity in the seventeenth century, and the eighteenth-
century revolution was one of landlords appropriating income
from farming (Overton 1996: 6“7, citing Allen 1991). As tech-
niques improved and the market for crops grew, enclosed land
came to be worth more, probably 30 per cent more, than open
¬eld land. This attracted owners who intended to rent land to
tenants. Abolition of tithes at enclosure increased the pro¬ts
owners could make (Overton 1996: 163).
Enclosure did not bring greater democracy to rural com-
munities. During the time between the abolition of village
juries and the Local Government Act of 1894, unelected Jus-
tices of the Peace “ often the local squires “ were responsible
for local government (Newby et al. 1978: 221“4, Plumb 1990:
34“5, Wilson and Game 1994: 42). Seligman (1992: 105) points
Civil society and social cohesion 43
out that the ¬rst English Reform Bill of 1832 left ¬ve out of
six men disenfranchised. Even the reforms of 1884“5 excluded
about half the urban male working class from citizenship. Civil
society was under threat. And, as Marx insisted, wage labour
is another form of disenfranchisement.
The view advocated by Gellner and Seligman, that civil
society is uniquely associated with private property and a
commercial economy, was thus born in a contest over who
would own and manage English farmland. Seligman repro-
duces the enclosers™ view when he claims that feudalism lacked
the complete realisation of ˜a civil society of autonomous,
moral, and economic individual agents™ (Seligman 1992: 107).
The civil society of the open ¬eld village stood in the way of
powerful interests. Dissolving that society released the land
it controlled. Rural riots against enclosure were disciplined
events aimed at preserving common rights and face-to-face
marketing (Overton 1996: 190). Ester Kingston-Mann notes
that Marxist opposition to the Russian village community, the
mir, was also based on the threat semi-autonomous commu-
nities posed to the power of the state. ˜Soviet of¬cials viewed
the localism and autonomy of the commune as a danger to the
state™s monopolistic claims to leadership, authority and con-
trol™ (Kingston-Mann 1999: 183). Marxists turned their atten-
tion to the urban proletariat because they found it dif¬cult ˜to
establish their social control over a social element which still
possessed powerful ties to family, land and community™ (175).
The debate has continued. The claim that the open ¬eld sys-
tem prevented rational land management can be compared to
T. E. Day™s description of Aboriginal land in central Australia
as ˜dormant wealth lying about in almost criminal uselessness™
(Day 1916, quoted in Layton 1986: 64). According to Day, only
cattle ranching, and the consequent fencing of the land, would
realise that wealth. John Cowper™s comment in 1732, that ˜the
pro¬t of a few landlords was nothing compared to the “Good
Order and anarchy
44
of the Whole”™ (Neeson 1993: 21) parallels that of a missionary
who objected to pastoral settlement of central Australia. ˜This
great area the source of food to such a considerable number
of natives may not be taken from them for the bene¬t of one
white man™ (Albrecht 1937, quoted in Layton 1986: 65). The

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