LINEBURG


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archaeologist Randall McGuire describes two common reac-
tions among white Americans to the traditional Pueblo soci-
ety of the native southwest. Collier was a Superintendent of
Indian Affairs who advocated Indian self-government in the
southwest, but ˜where Collier and his reformers had found
communal co-operation, the conservatives [who sought to
abolish native land tenure] found the violation of individ-
ual rights and freedoms™ (McGuire 2002: 139). The analytical
waters become muddied when the proponents of a social order
that may well be appropriate in particular circumstances ele-
vate that strategy to a political ideology for which they claim
universal validity.

c on c lu s i on
At the start of this chapter three questions were posed:
How should ˜civil society™ be de¬ned?


Is civil society necessarily associated with a commercial


economy or can it occur under different regimes?
Does civil society necessarily tend to support or undermine


the state?
I have argued that, to avoid prejudice, a descriptive de¬ni-
tion is necessary, de¬ning civil society as ˜the social structures
occupying the space between the household and the state that
enable people to co-ordinate their management of resources
and activities™. Much of the recent discussion of civil soci-
ety concerns the engagement between civil organisations and
Civil society and social cohesion 45
the state. To appreciate how such engagement occurs, how-
ever, we need to look at a broader ¬eld of organisations and
investigate the circumstances that bring about their political
mobilisation at particular times. A functional de¬nition that
speci¬es what role civil society should play in relation to the
state (whether it should oppose or uphold state policy) will
inevitably be quali¬ed by the writer™s evaluation of the state.
The claim that civil society, and the rational human social
behaviour that underpins it, is uniquely associated with com-
mercial capitalism originated in the enclosure debate and is
too politically biased to underpin the cross-cultural study of
civil society. Seligman concedes, ˜I am not arguing here that
the existence of group identities as such militates against the
existence of civil society™ (Seligman 1992: 163). Voluntary
associations, political parties, interest and corporate groups
are, he admits, vital. But groups of this kind, Seligman con-
tends, are different to ethnic groups. Only the former are
organised ˜for the pursuit of mutual interest on the institu-
tional level™ (164). However, this is precisely the purpose of
ethnic nationalist associations. According to Seligman, only
ethnic groups ˜posit an alternative moral vision to that of soci-
ety at large™ (164), but political parties do just that! Seligman
claims that only voluntary associations, corporate groups etc.
are based on ˜instrumental-rational modes of behaviour™. But
in a zero-sum game, as in post-communist Yugoslavia, ethnic
exclusionism may be very ˜rational™. If the concept of civil
society was devised to explain how people acting rationally
in their self-interest can create a stable fabric of social rela-
tions (as Locke and Ferguson argued), this approach should be
tested against all forms of human society, seeking to establish
which forms of society most effectively promote self-interest
in different social and natural environments.
c h a pt e r 2
Self-interest and social evolution



c i vi l s o c i et y i n lo c k e ™ s s tat e o f nat u r e
The individual and society
Chapter 2 reconsiders the question posed by Adam Ferguson:
is there a contest between commitment to social relation-
ships and sel¬shness, or is it in the individual™s interest to
sustain social relationships? The chapter gives some exam-
ples that show how people strive for order as much as for
disorder. It argues that success or failure in sustaining social
relations must be explained by the ˜ecology™ of social inter-
action. What are the bene¬ts to the individual of investing in
social relationships? Different social strategies are most likely
to succeed in different social environments and, if the social
context deteriorates (as it did with the collapse of socialism
in Yugoslavia), people may respond by narrowing the scope
of their social relationships. The chapter therefore also asks
to what extent ecological approaches to biological evolution
can provide appropriate models for explaining social process.
Chapter 3 will use this framework as a basis for analysing the
breakdown of social order.
Thomas Hobbes envisaged the natural human condition
as one of random disorder, in which every individual sought
their self-preservation by trying to control others (Hobbes
1970: 65). People would only be willing to work for the general
46
Self-interest and social evolution 47
good if they could be con¬dent anyone who cheated was pun-
ished. Just as Garrett Hardin supposed ˜freedom in a commons
brings ruin for all™ through over-exploitation (Hardin 1968:
1244), so Hobbes imagined that people living in the ˜natural
human condition™ would readily surrender suf¬cient personal
freedom to a chosen sovereign to enable him to enforce peace.
Chapter 1 recalled that John Locke disagreed with Hobbes™s
claim that the natural human condition was a war of every man
against every other man. Locke argued that people could live
together according to reason, without a sovereign, an insight
that anthropology and behavioural ecology have con¬rmed
(not least through showing that co-operative management of
commonpropertycanbesustainable).Lockeagreed,however,
that men living together without a higher authority are vul-
nerable to the state of war because there is no one authorised to
intervene (see chapter 1). Hobbes™s main aim was to construct
a logical opposition between order and disorder, rather than
to identify an actual condition against which contemporary
European society could be assessed (Hill 1958: 271). Even if his
answer seems simplistic, Hobbes identi¬ed an important prob-
lem that Locke acknowledged, and people are still attempting
to answer: how can people create a condition in which it is
to their advantage to forgo individual, immediate sel¬sh goals
in order that they themselves may bene¬t in the long run?
Recent research has converged with, or returned to, Hobbes™s
dilemma, but provided more detailed answers that explain
the relationship between social order and anarchy. On the one
hand authors such as Napoleon Chagnon (whom we will assess
in chapter 4) argue that endemic warfare is indeed character-
istic of small-scale societies; on the other hand behavioural
ecologists (socio-ecologists) follow Locke in arguing that co-
operation and reciprocity can develop through natural selec-
tion or rational self-interest. Most importantly, behavioural
Order and anarchy
48
ecologists have shown why social order does not always
depend on a sovereign. Locke was right to argue that the ˜state
of nature™ was not necessarily a war of every man against every
other man. The ¬rst part of this chapter looks at the ways in
which social order can be sustained in self-governing, local
communities. The second part adopts an evolutionary per-
spective, in order to assess the conditions that make social
strategies sustainable or unsustainable.
Social scientists have long been suspicious of evolutionary
theory, both because it focuses on hereditary traits and because
it takes the individual as the unit of analysis. This chapter will
argue, against such suspicion, that there is scope for a fruit-
ful reconciliation between evolutionary and social theory. The
debate originates partly in the work of the sociologists Herbert
Spencer (1820“1903) and Emile Durkheim (1858“1917), who
argued that the good of society took precedence over the good
of its individual members and that society therefore upheld
laws for its own bene¬t. Spencer and Durkheim were right
to recognise that society is an ˜emergent™ phenomenon.
Language, law, kinship, government are created by social
interaction and are not properties of the solitary individual.
Chapters 3 and 4 will return to this insight. Human evolu-
tion has taken place for millions of years in a social envi-
ronment, and the individual has become adapted to bene¬t
from the advantages of living in society. However Durkheim
(1938 [1901]) went further, arguing that when the individual
ful¬ls family obligations, when he worships at a church or
accepts contract law, he is conforming to social phenomena
that impose themselves on him regardless of his individual
will. While conforming to the requirements of society the
individual may not be aware of its constraints. Once he steps
out of line, Durkheim argued, society enforces its morality
through public ridicule and its laws by formal punishment,
Self-interest and social evolution 49
either as repression or as restitution. Many social scientists
therefore consider it inappropriate to take the individual as
the unit of analysis when studying social life.
There is an interesting coincidence between the develop-
ment of this theory and the rise of the European nation state,
which is hinted at in the work of the French postmodernist
philosopher Michel Foucault. Durkheim may have unwit-
tingly incorporated statist ideology into his theory. Foucault
(1977) challenged the prevailing view that the Enlightenment
brought in a new respect for the rights of the individual as citi-
zen. Foucault associates the Enlightenment with the transition
of methods of social control from the public display of pun-
ishment to more insidious means, from torture to discipline.
Surveillance and discipline are, he argues, tools of the modern
state ¬rst developed in the Prussian army to straighten those
who deviate from the ˜common good™. Concealed, or justi¬ed
in terms of the collective good, such practices in fact (Foucault
argued) bene¬t a powerful elite. Isaiah Berlin (Berlin 2002: 47,
68) similarly regarded the equation of the individual will with
that of the state, and the idea that an elite is uniquely qual-
i¬ed to govern, as the two principal enemies of individual
freedom.
A Darwinian evolutionary approach starts from the oppo-
site extreme to Durkheim by asking how upholding conven-
tional rules may work to the individual™s advantage rather than
the group™s. This offers a way of moving beyond Durkheim™s
collectivist approach. Anthropologists tend to address this
type of question by looking at the simplest human societies,
where the fundamental aspects of social life can most clearly
be seen. Useful though it is as a starting point, the analysis of
reciprocity and co-operation among hunter-gatherers evades
the issues of power identi¬ed by Foucault that need to be
addressed once analysis moves to more complex societies.
Order and anarchy
50
Some aspects of the Functionalist school, which dominated
anthropology in Britain from the 1920s to the 1950s and was
paralleled in the work of the US sociologist Talcott Parsons,
are consistent with evolutionary theory, but other aspects fol-
low in Durkheim™s footsteps. The anthropologist Bronislaw
Malinowski proposed a theory of social behaviour consistent
with Darwinian evolutionary theory. He de¬ned the function
of a custom as ˜satisfying (the individual™s) primary biological
needs through the instrumentalities of culture ™ (Malinowski
1954: 202). Malinowski carried out extensive ¬eldwork on the
Trobriand Islands of the western Paci¬c. A complex network
of trading relations between islands was sustained by alliances
between leading men who exchanged valuable shell armbands
and necklaces as tokens of their continuing relationship. Mali-
nowski saw the Trobriand islander of the Paci¬c as a reason-
able man, manipulating the possibilities in social relations to
his advantage, although unaware of the total network of rela-
tions to which he contributed. Malinowski™s islander is very
similar to John Locke™s rational participant in civil society.
The dominant school of functionalism led by Alfred
Radcliffe-Brown followed Durkheim in subsuming the inter-
ests of individuals to the interests of ˜the social system™ and
thus perpetuating the split between social and biological sci-
entists. The behaviour of individuals provides examples of
customs, but to be truly scienti¬c, Radcliffe-Brown argued,
the anthropologist should build up a picture of regularities
in the emergent social order. His aim was to discover how
institutions ˜work together with a suf¬cient degree of har-
mony or internal consistency [to continue as a system], i.e.
without producing persistent con¬‚icts which can neither be
resolved or regulated™ (Radcliffe-Brown 1952: 181). Radcliffe-
Brown™s approach risks committing the ˜group selection™ fal-
lacy, of assuming individuals who suppress their self-interest
in favour of the common good will prosper at the expense of the
Self-interest and social evolution 51
sel¬sh. The dif¬culty with this hypothesis is that, if such social
behaviour were for example genetically determined, those
individuals who forgo their own sel¬sh reproductive inter-
ests to bene¬t others will not transmit their altruistic genes
to the next generation. On the contrary, altruism will be dis-
placed by sel¬shness and, by analogy, the same outcome will
apply where people act through rational self-interest: the self-
ish will ¬‚ourish at the expense of those who sacri¬ce their own
interests to bene¬t ˜society™ or ˜the group™ (see Trivers 1985:
79“85). The ˜Tragedy of the Commons™ is a famous example
of this dif¬culty that arises where it is impossible to control
the use of a scarce communal resource. If some people cannot
be prevented from over-exploiting the resource, then others
will not bene¬t from showing restraint: their restraint merely
leaves more for the ˜free-riders™ to take beyond their fair share.
Garrett Hardin (1968) predicted that once over-exploitation
of a common resource begins, everyone will therefore aban-
don restraint and grab as much as they can of the diminish-
ing resource before it disappears. This is a genuine risk, but
Hardin was wrong to argue that it was inevitable, since there
are numerous historical examples of common resources that
have been successfully managed by local communities. Hence,
too, the logical problem that Adam Ferguson identi¬ed in his
history of civil society: are the principles of altruism and ego-
ism contradictory, or can people advance their self-interest
by contributing to social relationships? In order to explore
this problem, I shall therefore start with some examples from
small-scale communities but then consider stability at the level
of the nation state.

Two examples
When confronted with the evidence for violence in small-scale
and frontier societies (e.g. Wrangham and Peterson 1996: 77),
Order and anarchy
52
it is easy to overlook the fact that people are also striving
to limit violence and create order. The ¬rst two case studies
are therefore taken from the Inuit and the nineteenth-century
South African colonial frontier. The Inuit present an interest-
ing paradox: they had one of the simplest social systems known
among recent human societies yet, among hunter-gatherers,
they had one of the most complex technologies, which they
needed to survive in the Arctic. There were only two essential
roles in traditional Inuit society, those of adult man and adult
woman (I am here glossing over the cultural importance of
the shaman). The nuclear family formed the basic social unit.
Husband and wife were absolutely dependent on one another
for survival. But the nuclear family is not isolated. Between
300 and 600 people belonged to a ˜community™ which owned a
territory, and there was a high degree of co-operation between
families in the same community. Each community was called
˜the people of ™ (-miut) their territory (Nunamiut, Taremiut),
and its members combined to defend the territory and its
resources against outsiders.
Successful Inuit hunters gained respect, and might attract
followers, becoming leaders in their community, but leader-
ship in traditional Inuit society was based on consensus, not
power. There was no guarantee a man would succeed to his
father™s status, nor that a man™s sons would inherit his property.
The Inuit lived in a risky environment, and were willing to
share belongings because everyone knew relative status could
easily be reversed. ˜The most fundamental consideration in
traditional Northwestern Alaskan strategies of af¬liation was
that not a single goal in life, including the basic one of sheer sur-
vival, could be achieved without the help of kinsmen™ (Burch
1975: 198).
There were few rules of social conduct that merited pun-
ishment if they were broken. The essential principle was that
Self-interest and social evolution 53
the active adults on whom everyone else depended had to sur-
vive. The two basic offences were therefore stealing a married
woman and killing a hunter. If either of these offences was
committed, the community expected the wronged husband,
or the dead man™s relatives, to gain redress through ˜self-help™.
Wife-stealing within the community was dealt with through
the song-duel, in which the man who best entertained the
audience with the ridicule he directed at his rival had the right
to keep the woman. It was more dif¬cult to deal with a case
of murder. The expected response was to kill the murderer,
but one man™s revenge is another™s murder, and a chain of
retaliatory killings could descend into a feud that threatened
everyone.
E. Adamson Hoebel argued the difference between a mur-
derer who only killed one person and one who killed many was
thatthe¬rstcommittedaprivateoffenceagainstthedeadman™s
family, but the second committed a public offence against the
whole community. Killing several hunters threatened every-
one™s food supply. Both offences were judged at what Hoebel
called ˜the bar of public opinion™. The response was, how-
ever, different. ˜A single murder is a private wrong redressed
by the kinsmen of the victim . . . Repeated murder becomes
a public crime punishable by death at the hands of the agent
of the community™ (Hoebel 1954: 88). It was vital that the
executioner ¬rst obtained community approval. Hoebel cites
a case (described by Boas 1888: 668) in which the headman
of the Akudmirmiut gained permission to execute a multiple
murderer: ˜When such approval is obtained no blood revenge
may be taken on the executioner for his act is not murder.
It is the execution of a public [offender]™ (Hoebel 1954: 88;
cf. Burch 1975: 198, 204, and Mary-Rousseli` re 1984: 440“1).
e
Black frontiers (Kemp 1932) is a vivid ¬rst-hand account of
the Johannesburg gold rush of 1886 that graphically conveys
Order and anarchy
54
the lack of social order among gold miners on the colonial
frontier. Sam Kemp left England at the age of seventeen, and
sailed to Durban, trekking from Durban to Pretoria. While he
was in Pretoria, news spread that gold had been found thirty-
six miles away. There was a wild stampede to the gold ¬elds,
and the town of Johannesburg sprang up, a single straggling
main street. Kemp describes the scene as follows:
Eastward of the spot where the town mushroomed into existence was
an outcropping, a reef of greyish rock. In the sand around it and
extending yards on both sides was gold, plenty of gold . . .
Obviously the ¬rst problem was to stake out a claim along the
reef. That was easy enough, but a far more dif¬cult task was holding
that claim against all comers. Somewhere in the seething settlement a
mining commissioner was supposed to be located, but no one seemed
to know who he was or where he kept himself hidden. The result was
a grand jamboree, a free-for-all. Gun-play started very soon; it grew
wilder during the days that followed.
The state had evidently abdicated its sovereignty. Social order
was at its most tenuous; narrow self-interest held sway until,
eventually, a spate of murders led ˜the more respectable “ or
more timid citizens™ to propose the appointment of a mar-
shal, supported by a judge and public prosecutor. No one
wanted to take on any of the posts. It was, as Kemp puts it,
˜a suicide club™. Eventually a seemingly meek Englishman
nicknamed Lispy Jones accepted the job of marshal, but the
murders continued. ˜Every criminal had a group of friends
who would lie themselves black in the face, or, if necessary,
make things extremely disagreeable for the judge, prosecutor
and jury.™ Kemp reluctantly agreed to become Lispy Jones™s
deputy. Matters reached a head after an eight-man gang of
strangers raided one of the bars and stole all the gold from
thirty or forty gamblers. No one dared shoot until the gang
left the bar, then someone belatedly shot out the lights and
Self-interest and social evolution 55
the gang escaped to ˜a blind canyon twenty miles from town™.
For once the town was united against a common enemy. Lispy
Jones assembled a posse, choosing eight of the best shots in
town. On arrival at the canyon he told his party to wait, as
the bandits were trapped. Hargreaves, the gang™s hardened
leader, came out and challenged Lispy to a duel. To avoid
unnecessary bloodshed, Jones accepted. The two men rode
toward each other, ¬ring their revolvers. Miraculously, Lispy
triumphed. Their leader dead, the entire gang surrendered
as agreed, and were taken back to Johannesburg. ˜Without
friends to perjure themselves or help shoot their way out, the
criminals were convicted and sentenced to death.™ Evidently
Hargreaves made two mistakes. The ¬rst was to steal gold
from so many people at once that his gang, like the Inuit mul-
tiple murderer, was identi¬ed as a threat to the community at
large. This error was reinforced by the fact Hargreaves™s gang
were strangers without local support (Kemp 1932: 23“31).
Unfortunately Lispy did not last long and Kemp does not say
whether anyone came forward to take his place.


b i o lo g i c a l t h e o ry an d s o c i a l s t r at e g i e s
Kinship and social adaptations
Kinship and ethnicity provide powerful bases for social group-
ings within civil society that may undermine the state. Rather
than dismissing them as ˜primordial™ and, by implication, irra-
tional, as did Ernest Gellner and Adam Seligman, they can

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