LINEBURG


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Hillard Kaplan and Kim Hill calculated the bene¬ts of sharing
food between households among the Ache hunter-gatherers
of South America. They found sharing honey increases the
food available to each household by 20 per cent, sharing of
meat increases it by 40per cent, while all observed food sharing
increases the level of nutrition by 80 per cent (Kaplan and Hill
1985: 233; cf. Kaplan, Hill and Hurtado 1990). There can thus
be strong incentives to honour reciprocal obligations, and the
evolution of the mental skills required to keep track of such
relations will be favoured by natural selection.
Order and anarchy
68
As Axelrod predicted in his study of the Prisoner™s
Dilemma, reciprocity will develop as partners learn to be trust-
worthy, and each expects their mutual dependence to continue
inde¬nitely (Trivers 1985: 364). During human evolution, we
have developed the complex cognitive skills required to track
social relationships, reward those who honour their obliga-
tions to us and punish those who cheat. This kind of altruism
only works when A knows he/she has a continuing social
relationship with B, and that B is trustworthy. For this reason,
reciprocal relationships are often framed in the idiom of kin-
ship, even though such kinship is ˜made up™, or ¬ctive. In the
language of the Anangu of central Australia, for example, the
word walytja means both a kinsperson and someone you care
for (Goddard 1987). People who lived together as members of
the same hunting and gathering band became walytja, both to
each other and the country they jointly looked after. Cousins
who grew up together called each other ˜brother™ and ˜sister™
(Layton 1997).
Reciprocal aid between households is also widespread in
peasant societies. Every household needs to call on neighbours
for help when a member falls ill, or crops fail through acci-
dent, but none can anticipate when it will need help in future
(Erasmus 1996, Scott 1976, Panter-Brick 1993). Ethnicity
is a form of ¬ctive kinship on a larger scale, in the sense
that it alleges relatedness based on common ancestry, or
˜brotherhood™. The dynamics of ethnic communities are con-
sidered below.

Equilibrium points
The case of the Johannesburg gold rush illustrates how some
social settings make it dif¬cult to secure co-operation, leading
to minimal levels of social order. Tilo Gr¨ tz (2002) describes
a
Self-interest and social evolution 69
gold miners in northern Benin, West Africa, as occupying a
˜semi-autonomous social ¬eld™. The African miners are work-
ing illegally and are therefore reluctant to appeal to the state
for arbitration during local disputes; a somewhat different
situation to the South African gold rush, where the sought-
after mining commissioner kept himself hidden. Here it is
the gold miners who are deliberately placing themselves in
Locke™s state of nature: ˜Men living together according to rea-
son, without a common Superior on Earth with Authority
to judge between them, is properly the state of nature™ (Locke
1960: 280). Nonetheless, while there is violence, the miners
do not live in the Hobbesian condition, a war of every man
against every other man. The miners disregard the state™s
demands, but there are stable principles governing the shar-
ing and distribution of yields from mining among themselves,
for paying assistants and leasing houses and equipment, pre-
sumably because the costs of disregarding these principles take
immediate effect.
Use-rights to shafts in the gold ¬eld are less stable and
are the cause of most disputes. These are less easily resolved
and miners do occasionally seek help from the local village
headman. The headman has some authority among miners
because each immigrant must ¬nd housing in a local village.
An unruly miner can be forced to leave the village. Gr¨ tz iden-
a
ti¬es several incentives to accept the resolution of a dispute.
Someone who fails to regain ownership of a shaft they had
abandoned may accept some shares in the renewed operation,
or exploit a new shaft. The supply of gold is evidently not
¬nite; this is not a zero-sum game. Workers excluded from a
team for antisocial behaviour can form their own team. Also,
˜the permanent threat of governmental authorities to expel
the miners . . . makes immigrant miners especially want to
avoid longer processes of negotiation of a particular case and
Order and anarchy
70
to accept a verdict in favour of maintaining the general and
continued access to resources™ (Gr¨ tz 2002: 17).
a
Frontier-like societies may exist in the midst of an oth-
erwise well-regulated nation state. Dick Hobbs et al. (2003)
investigated the policing of the night time economy of clubs
and pubs in contemporary Britain. They argue that the state
deliberately withdrew its authority to allow commercial inter-
ests to prosper. Local governments idealistically hoped that
relaxed licensing laws would create city centres like those of
continental Europe, where people thronged to pavement caf´ s, e
theatres and art galleries. Unfortunately English weather, the
demolition of traditional city centres and the sense that city
economies could only survive through cut-throat competi-
tion led to explosive growth in the number of bars and clubs
catering largely for young people in the transitional life stage
between childhood and adulthood. This set the scene for both
high pro¬ts and a high level of disorder.
Hobbs et al. argue that the night is archetypically a time
when the normal order is put aside (269). Since commercial
interests have ¬‚ocked to exploit the developing night club
economy, including the sale of drugs, it is not surprising that
some are criminal. As one bouncer remarked, there was cer-
tainly a continental atmosphere in the city, but it was the
atmosphere of the Somme, not Paris. Hobbs et al. argue that
the state has effectively abdicated responsibility for policing
the night time economy, and private security has therefore
been introduced to protect commercial interests. While the
police retain sole authority and responsibility for patrolling
public spaces, bars and night clubs are privately policed. The
night time has become an enclave within the state that exists
in Locke™s state of nature.
Since policing clubs lies outside the scope of public author-
ity, it relies on the threat of violence to be credible (there are no
Self-interest and social evolution 71
private lawcourts).Bouncers lackthe authority ofthe state that
police possess. The physical force used by door staff is often a
response to the disorderly situations it is their job to resolve.
Bouncer-to-customer relations are ˜moral contests™, but they
are also interpersonal contests. Using a bouncer who does not
look capable of violent enforcement ˜could put the sovereignty
of the door at risk™ (Hobbs et al. 2003: 143, my emphasis).
The state has sacri¬ced its monopoly over the control of
force. Force has therefore become ˜both dispersed and concen-
trated into the institutions of civil society™ (Reyna: 2003: 265;
chapter 3 returns to this phenomenon).
The overwhelming desire to prevent violence against cus-
tomers, staff and bouncers must be balanced against commer-
cial considerations in a very competitive market place, includ-
ing the management™s perception of the market niche the club
is exploiting. Bouncers make decisions in a chaotic, noisy and
confusing environment. ˜Acceptable levels of disrespect, dis-
honour, and discourtesy are negotiated and renegotiated in
the light of a few enforceable formal parameters of behaviour
in an environment whose very existence as a commercial zone
of liminality promotes transgression™ (Hobbs et al. 2003: 161).
The key problem is that of spotting free-riders who are unwill-
ing to conform to minimal regulations of conduct in a context
where only limited mutual trust can develop. The problem
was exacerbated when drug gangs imposed their free-riding
with arms.

Some problems in locating the ˜state of nature™
Do these cases really constitute social life in Locke™s state of
nature? In one sense they do, since actors are frequently nego-
tiating among themselves without recourse to a higher author-
ity. On the other hand, they are generally using strategies that
Order and anarchy
72
already exist as part of their cultural repertoire and are there-
fore, in another sense, governed ˜by the Customs or Laws
of the Country they live in™ (Locke 1960: 321). Locke had
probably not appreciated that there could be ˜settled rules™
outside the nation state. The peacekeeping roles of gold rush
Johannesburg were not created on a blank slate, but based on
a known repertoire (marshal, judge, jury). In northern Benin,
a meeting of all major shaft owners working at a particu-
lar site to resolve a dispute follows a traditional West African
procedure (cf. Bohannan 1958: 54“6 on the Tiv ˜moot™). Gr¨ tz a
writes that seeking the help of a village headman ˜is transferred
from the general relationships between hosts and rural labour
migrants in the region and is also to be found in Burkina Faso
and elsewhere™ (Gr¨ tz 2002: 10). Bourdieu demonstrates that
a
any interaction must take place within the idiom of a culture
if agents are to understand each other™s intentions. People
rely upon their learned habitus (Bourdieu 1977: 72, 100“9)
or practical consciousness of appropriate strategies. ˜Practi-
cal consciousness consists of knowing the rules and tactics
whereby daily life is constituted and reconstituted across time
and space™ (Giddens 1984: 90).
People who renege on their reciprocal obligations, or fail to
contribute to co-operation, are a threat to self-regulated social
order. However, Johannesburg was not the only place that had
dif¬culty ¬nding people willing to enforce the law. Identifying
and punishing free-riders is often unpleasant. There are some
excellent studies of self-government in European villages that
illustrate the problem. In rural Le´ n, northern Spain, the most
o
important of¬ce was that of elected procurador or village head-
man (Behar 1986). He organised collective work parties to
maintain village property. Many were reluctant to take on the
role since the occupant had to enforce ¬nes on fellow villagers
who failed to join collective work parties (Behar 1986: 149). A
similar problem existed in the Swiss Alps, where of¬cials were
Self-interest and social evolution 73
elected to convene community assemblies, organise commu-
nal work parties to make good avalanche damage and so forth
(Friedl 1974: 23).
Ruth Behar nonetheless gives a detailed account of how
social order is negotiated by members of the community act-
ing in their own interests. Tenure of newly created ¬elds in
her village of Santa Mar´a was allocated by drawing lots once
±
the land was cleared, to prevent anyone working harder on the
portion which would become their own (Behar 1986: 232“4).
John Friedl records similar strategies in the Swiss village of
Kippel. When a set of brothers build a house together in
Kippel they allocate the ¬nished apartments by lottery, to
ensure no one puts more effort into the apartment they will
acquire (Friedl 1974: 60“1). Families in the Swiss village of
T¨ rbel agree on the division of the family landholding into
o
equal portions before drawing lots to determine who will
receive each part (Netting 1981: 193“4). Lotteries are used in
Pellaport, the French village I studied, to allocate wood from
the communal forest and, in the past, portions of common
meadow (Layton 2000: 59, 84). In every case, the opportunity
for favouritism or appropriation by the powerful is eliminated.
The inhabitants of both Kippel and Santa Mar´a rely on the
±
rigorous application of rotas to ensure that each household
can rest assured that every other one will make a fair contri-
bution to work on behalf of the whole group (Friedl 1974: 55,
Behar 1986: 203“5). Communal obligations and work parties
persisted in Santa Mar´a ˜as a result of the conscious agree-
±
ment of villagers to be bound by them . . . The rules existed to
insure that not merely the majority, but everyone would carry
out their vicinal obligations . . . whether willing or reluctant™
(Behar 1986: 185).
Con¬dence that one™s efforts will not be undermined by
free-riders is therefore essential, if the co-operation of equals
is to be sustained. This con¬dence depends on knowledge that
Order and anarchy
74
the community possesses reliable strategies to enable equitable
access, to enforce compliance and to provide the opportunity
to detect cheaters. When everyone lives and repeatedly inter-
acts with one another in a nucleated village, it is relatively easy
for each to check on whether their neighbours are living up
to the community™s standards. Gellner represented this local
civil society as the tyranny of the community, of cousins and
of ritual (Gellner 1994: 7). It is true that such mutual surveil-
lance may be perceived as oppressive, but also clear that it
is in everyone™s long-term interests to sustain it. Once such
an organised consensus breaks down, or free-riders can act
with impunity, disorder is harder to control and units in civil
society are at risk of disintegrating.

Limited forms of sovereignty
Hobbs et al. (2003: 143) wrote of the ˜sovereignty™ of the
night club doorway. Harriet Rosenberg (1988: 39) and Robert
Netting (1981: 78) have described alpine villages as miniature
republics. There are many degrees of sovereignty and the state
of nature is an ideal or extreme that lies beyond this contin-
uum. Sovereignty does not necessarily imply a literal king. A
republic can assert sovereignty. Sovereignty arises where indi-
viduals have surrendered some of their autonomy, or agency,
to another that acts on their behalf to regulate social relations.
As soon as the Inuit agreed the Akudmirmiut leader should
execute Padlu, the multiple murderer, they had conferred a
minimal amount of sovereignty upon him. When the night
club claims exclusive right to decide who shall enter, it is claim-
ing to have appropriated a limited degree of sovereignty from
the state. When those disputing ownership of a mine shaft
among the Benin gold miners submit to the decision of the
major shaft owners, they accept the sovereignty of in¬‚uential
Self-interest and social evolution 75
men in their community. At times miners go beyond the min-
ing community to seek the authority of village headmen.
The use of force is the ultimate sanction. Sovereignty may
be conferred voluntarily or asserted as a right (this was the
basis of the debate between Hobbes, Locke and Filmer), but
force always underlies politics. It is most visible in the absence
of an agreed authority. When the police, as representatives of
the state, decline to regulate access to night clubs, the bouncers
have only their own force to draw upon. When the representa-
tive of the state kept himself hidden during the Johannesburg
gold rush, the local community was driven to persuade one of
their own number to arrest Hargreaves™s gang by force.
Anthony Giddens described the process through which
agents are bound together in a social network as ˜structura-
tion™ (Giddens 1984: 35). Agents cannot achieve their goals
without the help of others. The individual™s agency, or abil-
ity to act in ways of their own choice, is always limited by
mutual dependence, whether through reciprocity or domina-
tion. The distribution of power in society both constrains and
enables interaction, opening up some possibilities for agency
while precluding others (Giddens 1984: 173). This was the
phenomenon recognised by Morgenstern and von Neumann,
but game theory only models a minimum number of play-
ers (or teams) interacting over a limited period. Structura-
tion extends the insights of game theory to extensive social
networks. It recognises that the actions of some people may
in¬‚uence the options open to others without the actor neces-
sarily being aware of the others™ presence. Structuration is a
long-term process in which agents™ actions either reproduce
or transform their position in society, depending on whether
the distribution of power is reinforced or destabilised.
If the sovereignty of the state is incomplete, is there a risk
that the existing social order will break down? This is not
Order and anarchy
76
necessarily so when the state has voluntarily delegated par-
tial sovereignty, as in the case of local government. However,
where the distribution of sovereignty is contested, the distri-
bution of power will in¬‚uence the stability of society. Here
lies the origin of disorder, of anarchy in the negative sense
of the term. Once recreational drug use became a feature of
the British night time economy, drug dealers began to contest
club and bar owners™ partial sovereignty over their premises.
Sovereignty was becoming increasingly dispersed, and social
order was breaking down. In gold rush Johannesburg force
was evenly distributed and the rewards of free-riding were so
great that mutual trust had no opportunity to develop. Stephen
Reyna (Reyna 2003) explains the repeated episodes of civil
war in Chad in similar terms: the power to assert sovereignty
has largely been wrested from the state, and competing local
concentrations have been amassed among rebel groups within
civil society.


a da rw i n i an a p p roac h to s o c i a l e vo lut i on
Progress versus adaptation
The manner in which agents™ strategies transform the social
environment in which other agents act can be modelled as an
evolutionary ˜¬tness landscape™. So far in this chapter, evolu-
tionary theory has been used to explain how stable patterns of
co-operation and reciprocity can develop over time. How can
evolutionary theory be used to explain change? Nineteenth-
century social scientists™ theory of evolution differed in impor-
tant ways from Darwin™s theory of natural selection (table 2.1).
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, social scientists
thought of evolution as progressive: societies evolved from
Self-interest and social evolution 77
Table 2.1 Nineteenth-century theories of evolution
19th-century social scientists Darwin
evolution has a direction evolution is random
change takes place at the level of change takes place at the level of
the system the individual
change is driven from within the change is caused by the pressures of
system the environment


simple to complex, human thought evolved from irrational to
rational. Progressive change was taken to be normal.
At least some social scientists are still in¬‚uenced by
the nineteenth-century approach. Giddens, as was noted in
chapter 1, rejects the use of evolutionary theory in the social
sciences on the grounds that to succeed, the theory must
achieve an impossible goal. It:
Must identify a [single?] mechanism of change, which must be linked to
a sequence of changes in which types or aspects of social organisation
replace each other, and the theory must work across the whole spectrum
of human history. (1984: 232)

Giddens™s characterisation of evolution makes implicit ref-
erence to the work of Herbert Spencer. Spencer considered
that societies develop in the way individual animal or plant
organisms grow. Just as the embryo begins as a small clump
of undifferentiated cells and develops into a complex system
of tissues and organs so, according to Spencer, the structure of
human societies becomes increasingly differentiated through
time (Spencer 1972 [1857]: 39). Spencer™s ideas have long since
been rejected, but some societies do change through time even
if they don™t all progress in the same direction. How can this
be explained in terms borrowed from Darwinian theory? If
Order and anarchy
78
a society is stable this must also be explained, rather than
taken for granted or attributed to ˜inertia™. Such tendencies
can be explained through the recursive effects of ˜positive ™
and ˜negative™ feedback during the structuration of social
relationships.

Atomistic and systematic models
The introduction to this chapter noted that social scientists
have continued to resist the individualistic bias of Darwinian
evolutionary theory, on the grounds that social systems have
emergent properties. The following section argues that at least
some evolutionary theorists recognise the importance of inter-
action between organisms of the same or different species in
understanding the rate and direction of evolution, and recog-
nition of the emergent properties of ecological systems can
therefore be incorporated into a Darwinian framework. It is
plausible to think, by analogy, of social systems providing the
ecology of individual action.
The preceding examples show that local communities do
not necessarily depend upon a sovereign to prevent the war
of every man against every other man. Stable strategies of co-
operation and reciprocity can develop out of self-interest. The
breakdown of social order cannot be attributed to a natural
human anarchy breaking free as the state loosens its grip. A
more sophisticated theory of social order is needed that places
self-interest in the context of social interaction, in order to
show why social order is sometimes sustained and at other
times disrupted. Mark Duf¬eld (2001: 28) makes a similar point
in his analysis of disorder in Third World states. He points out
that Dependency Theory (Gunder Frank 1971, Wallerstein
1974) acknowledged the way in which the powerful northern
states exploit those in the south. Dependency theory fell out
Self-interest and social evolution 79
of favour and southern states are now commonly blamed for
their own instability. Duf¬eld argues that in doing so, the north
refuses to acknowledge the impact of its dominant position
in the world economic system. He sees current claims that
southern states should develop their own civil society as a way

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