I was waiting for this slide. Kinda like watching the movie Titanic the first time…you know what’s coming, but that doesn’t take away from enjoying the story that leads up to it.
I really, really love your “Permanence” panel. Using the black & white negative to echo the abrupt change taking place, plus exaggerating the root structure to symbolize the magnitude of this change, and the choice of a tree and its roots to reinforce the meaning of “permanence”, was all very artistic and visually effective.
Thanks, Stephen! I’ve been looking forward to this one, too (though it’s nothing at all like I originally sketched it out many moons ago). And I’m very glad you appreciated that last panel!
There is a theory in political economy that preferences for redistribution of income is directly proportional to variability in income over time. When income is highly variable over time, even the wealthy will favor that wealth be evenly spread to a certain extent, because they will know that they can easily be poor tomorrow. By that same logic, when income is fixed over time, the wealthy have no incentive to favor income redistribution, because it will only ever be a loss for them. The poor always favor income redistribution, because it can’t be a loss for them. In a society with highly variable income over time, the poor could be the rich tomorrow. But they can easily be poor the day after tomorrow. So they still benefit from redistribution. When income is predictable, redistribution is only ever a gain for the poor. So they support redistribution regardless.
I wonder if that is what happened with the Junk Food Revolution, just with food supply instead of with money income. So by that logic its not so much land-ownership that led to the decline of sharing as it is the rise of reliable food supplies. When food supply is unpredictable, enforcing sharing makes sense, because you will need others to share with you later even if you don’t now. But when food supply is predictable, enforcing sharing only makes sense for the people who have no food, and starving people have very little political leverage, since they don’t make good politicians or revolutionaries.
You make an excellent point. And I made mine inexpertly: it wasn’t that owning land changed the willingness to share, it was the new reality of what counted as having skin in the game, of being invested enough in the team to be worthy of sharing in its produce.
To a band-level forager, the mere fact of being a member of the team meant you got an equal share in the food, regardless of whether you had a hand in finding THIS particular meal. Refusing a share of the food was theft! Stealing from a fellow bandmate.
But to a farmer, demanding a share without sharing in the labor to help grow and process the food? THAT was stealing. It was a huge shift in world view, a drastic change in our very perception of reality. (And there were more to come! All the way up to modern-day political differences.)
That kind of fits with the redistribution theory you mention, but then again the entire band would be farming. And probably all of its neighboring bands. So as a farming band, the norm would be everyone pitches in. The story of the Little Red Hen would have been about an asshole bird to a forager, but to farmers it’s a story of fairness and basic common sense. As everyone lives by the norms as a rule, there wouldn’t be very many people who DIDN’T pitch in. If you were starving, so was everyone else.
Each society was very much homogeneous and very much on the same page about right and wrong and how life is lived. It wouldn’t be until the rise of heterogeneous societies encompassing multiple cultural worldviews that you begin to see the need for political leverage or revolutionaries.
“So as a farming band, the norm would be everyone pitches in.” Isn’t that also the norm for foragers? You said earlier that in forager bands, if you can’t even keep up with the kids and the elderly, you get left behind or killed. If the point of that wasn’t to make sure that everyone pitches in, then what was it?
Yup. Cooperation was the name of the game for foragers, and it was still the name of the game for farmers. But what counted as cooperation had changed. I’ll be touching on this in a little more detail.
But the point of excluding the unhelpful wasn’t to coerce people into being helpful. It wasn’t a way to compel future behavior, but to react to present conditions. Properly socialized, you wouldn’t have a fear of exclusion driving your behavior; you’d act right because it was the right way to act, it felt right.
Perhaps there was coercion of a sort in normal socialization, where individual urges had to be suppressed by one’s conscience and the gentle nudging of one’s peers, but it’s not the kind of power struggle I think you’re envisioning. Everyone in a particular band, whether foraging or farming, was in agreement over what was right and what was wrong. And each one had the same voice as the others. It’s not until you get cultures mixing, people with different senses of right and wrong living together, that you start seeing compulsion of norms by more powerful segments of society. We’re not quite there yet in the comic, but we’re getting there!