Get yer Egalitarian Society Here!
er, just a minute...
Our lefty friends long for a more equal society. And in their lefty search for the great white whale of the egalitarian society in The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow find it. Here and there in the pre-literate past.
So they can’t tell us why certain societies in ancient North America or in the Middle Eastern fertile crescent were egalitarian. And why our society is not.
But Francis Fukuyama in The Origins of Political Order is fairly matter of fact about the question. Pre-state tribal societies could be egalitarian — and often were — because they lacked the means of compulsion that is a consequence of state organization.
Fukuyama sets forth five qualities of the state society:
Centralized source of authority — “king, president, or prime minister” — that “deputizes a hierarchy of subordinates”.
“monopoly of the means of coercion” with an “army and/or police”.
Territorial rather that kin-based authority, allowing for a bigger state.
“states are more stratified and unequal than tribal societies”. Rulers tend to separate themselves from society. And serfdom and slavery appear.
“states are legitimated by much more elaborate forms of religious belief”.
You can see that all these characteristics would militate against an egalitarian society. And so Fukuyama writes:
Tribal societies are egalitarian and, within the context of close-knit kinship groups, very free. States, by contrast, are coercive, domineering, and hierarchical, which is why Friedrich Nietzsche called the state “the coldest of all cold monsters.”
However, this is not to say that modern states have abolished tribalism. In our day we have transformed tribal loyalty into the reciprocity and personal ties of patrons and clients.
If we define tribe more broadly to include not just kin claiming common descent but also patrons and clients linked through reciprocity and personal ties, then tribalism remains one of the great constants of political development.
Obviously that is precisely how politics works in the ethnic neighborhood in the United States, starting no later than the Irish in New York and Boston.
But the idea of our lefty friends is that they will create a more powerful state society that will enforce equality.
Only, of course, if the rulers are enforcing equality they are in fact establishing a new structure of inequality.
But, you can see that there is a certain brutal elegance to the lefty program. You grab power in the wake of military defeat — Bolsheviks — or civil war — Maoists — and then every time equality fails to appear you call for more political power to defeat the saboteurs and wreckers. Or, in our case, the racist-sexist-homophobes.
And the program of the lefty regime follows the necessary logic of the concept of the political, the distinction between friends and enemy, in which the lefty regime fights the enemy and rewards its loyal regime friends. And so our lefty friends are Allies of the Oppressed Peoples fighting the White Oppressors, and generously distributing benefits to the Oppressed Peoples from the booty seized from the monster White Oppressors. But because they are running a state society their efforts amount to nothing more than gathering more power and resources into the state and distributing it to their supporters minus ten percent for the Big Guy.
But enough of our lefty friends. Whatabout us? Our dream — conservatives, libertarians, populist middle class — is for a smaller state, with less power and less scope to rule our lives with regulations and administration. Is that even possible, given the “internal logic” of the state society and the hierarchy that is the very warp and weft of its fabric?
I guess the only way is to find our. After we grab power from the present regime when it loses the next war or plunges us into the next depression.