The Ecology of Freedom

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Lou Gold
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The Ecology of Freedom

Post by Lou Gold »

Here's an intriguing review of "The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity" by David Graeber and David Wengrow

These are questions that Graeber, a committed anarchist—an exponent not of anarchy but of anarchism, the idea that people can get along perfectly well without governments—asked throughout his career. The Dawn of Everything is framed by an account of what the authors call the “indigenous critique.” In a remarkable chapter, they describe the encounter between early French arrivals in North America, primarily Jesuit missionaries, and a series of Native intellectuals—individuals who had inherited a long tradition of political conflict and debate and who had thought deeply and spoke incisively on such matters as “generosity, sociability, material wealth, crime, punishment and liberty.”

The Indigenous critique, as articulated by these figures in conversation with their French interlocutors, amounted to a wholesale condemnation of French—and, by extension, European—society: its incessant competition, its paucity of kindness and mutual care, its religious dogmatism and irrationalism, and most of all, its horrific inequality and lack of freedom. The authors persuasively argue that Indigenous ideas, carried back and publicized in Europe, went on to inspire the Enlightenment (the ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy, they note, had theretofore been all but absent from the Western philosophical tradition). They go further, making the case that the conventional account of human history as a saga of material progress was developed in reaction to the Indigenous critique in order to salvage the honor of the West. We’re richer, went the logic, so we’re better. The authors ask us to rethink what better might actually mean.

"The Dawn of Everything" is not a brief for anarchism, though anarchist values—antiauthoritarianism, participatory democracy, small-c communism—are everywhere implicit in it. Above all, it is a brief for possibility, which was, for Graeber, perhaps the highest value of all. The book is something of a glorious mess, full of fascinating digressions, open questions, and missing pieces. It aims to replace the dominant grand narrative of history not with another of its own devising, but with the outline of a picture, only just becoming visible, of a human past replete with political experiment and creativity.

“How did we get stuck?” the authors ask—stuck, that is, in a world of “war, greed, exploitation [and] systematic indifference to others’ suffering”? It’s a pretty good question. “If something did go terribly wrong in human history,” they write, “then perhaps it began to go wrong precisely when people started losing that freedom to imagine and enact other forms of social existence.” It isn’t clear to me how many possibilities are left us now, in a world of polities whose populations number in the tens or hundreds of millions. But stuck we certainly are.

Be calm - Be clear - See the faults - See the suffering - Give your love
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Lou Gold
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

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"The Dawn of Everything" is written against the conventional account of human social history as first developed by Hobbes and Rousseau; elaborated by subsequent thinkers; popularized today by the likes of Jared Diamond, Yuval Noah Harari, and Steven Pinker; and accepted more or less universally. The story goes like this. Once upon a time, human beings lived in small, egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers (the so-called state of nature). Then came the invention of agriculture, which led to surplus production and thus to population growth as well as private property. Bands swelled to tribes, and increasing scale required increasing organization: stratification, specialization; chiefs, warriors, holy men.

Eventually, cities emerged, and with them, civilization—literacy, philosophy, astronomy; hierarchies of wealth, status, and power; the first kingdoms and empires. Flash forward a few thousand years, and with science, capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution, we witness the creation of the modern bureaucratic state. The story is linear (the stages are followed in order, with no going back), uniform (they are followed the same way everywhere), progressive (the stages are “stages” in the first place, leading from lower to higher, more primitive to more sophisticated), deterministic (development is driven by technology, not human choice), and teleological (the process culminates in us).

It is also, according to Graeber and Wengrow, completely wrong.
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Jim Cross
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

Post by Jim Cross »

Lou,

This sounds like a ridiculous premise with little more validity than conventional explanations. And the critique of conventional explanations seems like straw man arguments.

I doubt anybody believes there was a sort of monotonal march from small bands to massive civilizations. All civilizations rise, expand, shrink, expand, fail. The ways people live through all of it are varied with all sorts of different types of groupings depending upon circumstances - ecology, technology, climate, political interactions. Prime example is the Mayan civilization which likely evolved from small bands of hunter-gatherers through small agricultural communities to city states and back to small agricultural communities embedded (at present) in world civilization. Virtue isn't always on the side of indigenous any more than evil solely on the side of civilization.
ParadoxZone
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

Post by ParadoxZone »

Jim,

Where did Lou imply this in the above posts :

"Virtue isn't always on the side of indigenous any more than evil solely on the side of civilization"

Let's leave aside undefined notions of virtue and evil. Isn't Lou just pointing to both/and, emphasising that some modern notions of progress are just plain wrong?

Furthermore, this "wrongness" is having more urgent and severe implications in current times? So isn't it imperative that the wrongnesses be identified accurately?

I saw somewhere recently here that you don't read most of Cleric's posts. Among all the other things those posts give a clear account of all the topics mentioned in the above excerpts from Lou. Quibble with details if you want, that's not my point. My point is that, for whatever reason, you won't look. I could easily speculate, but that's not appropriate right now.

The above is written from a sense of urgency. I'd doubt whether there's much time left to bash the above concepts together, endlessly arguing over the best interpretations.

Prejudice alert : I like Graeber and anything that takes a swing at Pinker is always somewhat satisfying. I'm confident that prejudice is not what's motivating this post.
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

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I know I just wrote a post elsewhere that I never bring up Steiner first... BUT, I just came across this tweet from Matt Segall and it seems too relevant here to pass up sharing. As usual, Steiner takes a spiritual evolutionary understanding and integrates it with sociocultural dynamics. We have a habit of thinking new solutions to our problems can be found by recovering ancient methods, or alternatively that we can simply wait for the new solutions to be found by some miracle of modern science in the future. Steiner looks to strike a balance between past-present-future which naturally leads to the Threefold Social Organism.








https://www.rudolfsteinerweb.com/Threef ... nd_Art.php
Stephen Usher wrote:Historic Context

A good historian could take us back to the early part of the 20th Century when Rudolf Steiner developed his idea of the Threefold Social Organism. By 1917, when the idea was first articulated in his two Memoranda, the Great War was in its third year, a war like nothing humanity had ever experienced. They called it “total war” because it consumed the entire energy of the populations in the warring nations. And it consumed more than energy; it consumed lives. Upwards of 20 million were dead by the armistice on November 11, 1918 and another 20 million were wounded. It was a time of tremendous questioning and debate about the right way to organize modern social life. The western capitalist model was being challenged by socialist movements and by the communist revolution in Russia (1917). Workers chained to the harsh environment of smoke belching factories were yearning for a better life, and by the millions they read the writings of Karl Marx. Rosa Luxemburg had organized the Spartacus League in Germany and was agitating for a communist revolution to parallel the disaster enacted by the Bolsheviks in Russia. Capitalist businessmen were at their wits’ end trying to understand what would constitute the future structure of Germany. Rudolf Steiner introduced his great threefold idea in this fiery milieu, when many people really wrestled with the riddle of how best to organize human society. His efforts left their mark on historic documents. For example, Raymond G. Fuller reviewed Steiner’s seminal Towards Social Renewal, in a full-page article in the January 14, 1923 edition of the New York Times Book Review under the title “New Scheme of Social Organization.”

The intensity of questioning died down during the course of the 20th Century, but, as we enter the 21 Century, symptoms of social turmoil and discontent are reaching such a pitch that real striving for better ways of organizing social life is emerging again. Perhaps this will lead to re-examination of Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Social Organism.
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Soul_of_Shu
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

Post by Soul_of_Shu »

AshvinP wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 2:56 pm I know I just wrote a post elsewhere that I never bring up Steiner first...
Tsk-tsk ... Sometimes I get the feeling that I could start a topic about the pros and cons of using the bongcloud opening moves in chess, and there would be a Steiner lecture somewhere that pertains to that too :D
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AshvinP
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

Post by AshvinP »

Soul_of_Shu wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 3:51 pm
AshvinP wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 2:56 pm I know I just wrote a post elsewhere that I never bring up Steiner first...
Tsk-tsk ... Sometimes I get the feeling that I could start a topic about the pros and cons of using the bongcloud opening moves in chess, and there would be a Steiner lecture somewhere that pertains to that too :D

“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
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Lou Gold
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

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Be calm - Be clear - See the faults - See the suffering - Give your love
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Lou Gold
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

Post by Lou Gold »

Listening to talks by Chief Oren Lyons probably has been among the most impactful teachings I've received. Every time I listen again I feel even more grateful.

I confess that when I hear indigenous or shamanic traditions discussed as a bygone stage of spiritual development a la Rousseau or Hobbes or Wilber or many others of the Western philosophical tradition something doesn't fit for me into those models. Where is the model or stage or category for the modern evolved indigenous person such as Oren Lyons?
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Lou Gold
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Re: The Ecology of Freedom

Post by Lou Gold »

Jim Cross wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:28 pm Lou,

This sounds like a ridiculous premise with little more validity than conventional explanations. And the critique of conventional explanations seems like straw man arguments.

I doubt anybody believes there was a sort of monotonal march from small bands to massive civilizations. All civilizations rise, expand, shrink, expand, fail. The ways people live through all of it are varied with all sorts of different types of groupings depending upon circumstances - ecology, technology, climate, political interactions. Prime example is the Mayan civilization which likely evolved from small bands of hunter-gatherers through small agricultural communities to city states and back to small agricultural communities embedded (at present) in world civilization. Virtue isn't always on the side of indigenous any more than evil solely on the side of civilization.
Jim,

I don't get your point. The book's authors, according to the quoted selections of the review do not bifurcate indigenous and civilized. They assert a diversity of indigenous civilizations and a fluidity not unlike the Mayan example you offer. They don't equate good/indigenous or evil/civilized and neither do I. And yet, this seems as a persistent 'fig in your mind'. Why?
Be calm - Be clear - See the faults - See the suffering - Give your love
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