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6029Re: RES: [ANE-2] Re: New Theory on the Evolution of Egypt

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  • Mikey Brass
    Sep 9, 2007
      Jon Smyth wrote:
      > Is it not perceived that in order for a social group to evolve
      > interaction is required between different social groups?
      > That a group which remains isolated is more likely to remain static?
      > Progressive evolution of a select society may well be as a result of
      > aggressive contact with the outside world. I think it has been readily
      > demonstrated that conflicts tend to result in 'leaps-forward' in
      > technology in all ages.
      > Ironically there can be mutual benefits from mutual aggression between
      > differing social groups.

      I do not accept the concept of "progressive evolution".

      Cultural structures, a higher abstraction level resting upon social
      organisational principles, are inherently vested with the
      trappings of power symbolism. This power symbolism has been defined as
      “a complex of thoughts, rules and practices…which describe and explain
      the functioning meaning and goal of a social group” (Skalnik 1996, 86).
      To the degree by which symbols of power are co-opted towards political
      ends, political ideology manifests itself as “a specific set of
      thoughts and rules regulating the co-existence of people on one
      territory…[embracing] more people…[and] explains why particular people
      should be rulers and others not” (Skalnik 1996, 86).

      The incorporation of symbols into the ideological trappings of political
      power questions to what degree these events parallel the transformation
      of essentially egalitarian modes of production into social hierarchies.
      Fieldwork conducted amongst the Moors and Tuaregs of the Sahara and
      Sahel (Bonte 1977), the Dii of Cameroon (Muller 1996) and the Nanumba
      polity in northern Ghana (Skalnik 1996), amongst others, has reinforced
      the notion of recognition of multiple forms of political organisation
      advocated by Fried (1967).

      The manifestations and nature of egalitarian political and
      socio-economic societies are well documented in the literature (Barnard
      1992, Fried 1967, Smith et al. 2000). What is important
      to note, however, is that while the environment is an active and
      important component of patterns of landscape exploitation, development
      of a ranked society from an egalitarian base in a pristine situation
      occurs through a combination of indigenous stimuli and variables
      (Fried 1967). Rank societies regulate behaviour through shared ethnic
      group membership differentiated into a formalised kinship network based
      on descent principles, labour divisions based on age and sex,
      redistributing integrated economic resources on a village as
      opposed to individual level (thus enhancing the status of the
      redistributor) and having the loci of co-operation centred around the
      ethnic group (Fried 1967, McElreath et al. 2003).

      Further delineations are required between centralised states and
      stateless segmentary lineage systems. In the latter, ritual and
      political influence have contrasting spheres of control:
      ritual activities in the peripheral areas are in constant flux, while
      the seat of political authority is centred on the core domains of the
      territory held in place by checks and balances of ritual sanction and
      institutionalised interdependence (Southall 1988b). The Nanumba
      political structure of northern Ghana is an example of a society whose
      power does not rest on the formalised structure of a state, but whose
      different groups and institutions function interdependently through a
      shared symbolic/cognitive manifestation of ritual, tradition and
      authority as the source of legitimation (Skalnik 1996).

      Muller (1996) has highlighted the intertwined political and ideological
      groupings of the Dii and Gbaya in Cameroon as examples of different
      political entities. The Dii chief undergoes a series of induction rites
      upon his succession which are seen to legitimise his rule and provide
      him with the strength, knowledge and humility to govern. Through this
      process, the right of rulership is based on contracts between the
      institution of the chief, who is also the chief priest, and those who
      are ruled. The Gbaya are a population living to the south of the
      Dii. While they too are organised into clans, the difference between
      them and the Dii is the Gbaya have no formalised hereditary leadership;
      their ideology of egalitarianism promotes splinter tendencies (Muller 1996).

      While constructs of societal nexus are generally orientated towards
      identifying either power symbols in polities such as state societies or
      to identify the use of symbolic constructs in egalitarian cultures,
      Renfrew (2001) has drawn attention to the feedback mechanisms of
      four crucial concepts. However, Renfrew’s model does not adequately
      account for ritual as a force for stability and change. Marxist (Bloch
      1977), ecological anthropological (Rappaport 1979) and Neo-Darwinian
      (Bettinger 1991) perspectives differ on the privileging of ritual as a
      casual or derivative principle. Despite this, there remains the issue of
      what factors integrate ritual with the social dynamics inherent in
      emerging social hierarchies. Dual inheritance theory (Boyd and Richerson
      1985) has been used to integrate ritual and social inequality into a
      model outlining how ritually sanctioned justification may be monopolised
      by high ranking individuals to increase their lineage’s wealth and
      social status (Aldenderfer 1993). Giddens’ (1984) theory of
      structuration and the concepts of agency (Barrett 2001) and
      indirectly biased transmission (Boyd and Richerson 1985) are powerful
      theoretical tools for explaining how social complexity subsequently
      became institutionalised. Spencer (1993) uses these theoretical
      constructions to hypothesize how transient “simultaneous
      hierarchy” (achieved status) evolves into permanent elite, using agency
      as the catalyst and structuration as the cultural limitations framing
      the process.

      Best, Mikey Brass
      MA in Archaeology degree, University College London
      "The Antiquity of Man" http://www.antiquityofman.com
      Book: "The Antiquity of Man: Artifactual, fossil and gene records explored"

      - !ke e: /xarra //ke
      ("Diverse people unite": Motto of the South African Coat of Arms, 2002)
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