The common behavioral legacy of the African Apes.: Be under no illusions, our behavioral predisposition are the products of evolution and intelligible in terms of it.
What makes humans different.
When we say, "All men are brothers" we are echoing our most basic basic behavioral predispositions
The practical difficulties of being a food-producer
Farmers "won" because they were able to support a larger population. We've already said that this "victory" involved tradeoffs with nutrition and health. How did it interact with our behavioral dispositions? -> Need to "intellectualize" kinship through broad affiliation. -> Need to alter mating practices to "legitimize" ownership and inheritance of real estate. -> Need to live peacefully (more or less) with strangers in a complex society. -> Ultimately, need to surrender sovereignty to central authorities for the "common good" Diamond's anthropological hierarchy of social organization
The condition in which humans have lived for most of their history, in which the unit of society is a small family unit numbering up to dozens of members. In the modern world, bands are limited to physical environments that no more powerful society really wants, such as:
Typically, these localities are so food-resource poor that they can't support any higher human population density. Prior to the invention of agriculture, virtually all humans who weren't lucky enough to live in some exceptionally productive environment (like the Pacific Northwest) lived in this condition. The specs:
Before you decide that this is paradise, recall that in band-grade societies of which we have knowledge, murder is a Major cause of death, and encounters with outsiders are occasions for great tension.
As agriculture began to emerge, a new pattern of human settlement arose, featuring higher population densities clustered in relatively permanent settlements numbering hundreds of people. Just barely small enough that a person can be personally familiar with everyone else in the community. Affiliation is still base on family ties, but in this case they are somewhat abstract in that they are based on descent from some distant common ancestor. Typically, tribes are subdivided into more closely related "clans." The specs:
At this point, human nature has to be bent a little to make things work:
The thing about agriculture is that it encourages higher population densities. Eventually, a point is reached at which:
We see the emergence of chiefdoms in which the position of "big man" becomes a permanent specialized profession and a status that is passed down to the big man's descendants. In this case:
Living in a chiefdom requires radical changes in human nature:
Different from chiefdoms in extreme but not really in kind, representing continued enlargement of population and increase in population density
Specs. In this case:
Life in a state requires significant discipline and the surrender of much autonomy to the authorities:
In the modern world we don't see societies freely passing from band to tribal or tribal to chiefdom organization. We see bands, tribes, and chiefdoms being absorbed and assimilated by states. We do have historical records of the rise of states from tribal societies, however. Note, this is not a choice that people make automatically or without misgiving.
Cases on record:
In some cases, the rise of states is intimately connected with the rise of ideologies and religious beliefs - E.G. the rise of Islam. In others, people seem to have decided to "back a winner" - enjoy the fruits of the career of a particularly energetic, creative, and effective leader - E.G. Shaka Zulu. Sometiems these priorities come together, as in the city-states of the classical Maya, whose ruling class monopolized the ability to open portals to the other world through special ceremonies and practices.
States have their drawbacks. Consider the relationship of Gilgamesh and his subjects.
He walks around in the enclosure of Uruk,
Have people ever gotten sick of it and backed away? Yes, but rarely. Normally, when a state fails it is absorbed by another state. The Classic Maya are an exception. They ultimately failed because they overwhelmed the carrying capacity of their environment. Eventually, their people decided that nobility who could communicate with the gods just weren't worth it and abandoned their cities. In their case, the inability of their rulers to cooperate with one another contributed. The capital of the neighboring Itzas, Chichen Itza, sailed through the classic Maya collapse in good shape, thanks, in part, to a different model of social organization and ideology.