Background to the book
Order and anarchy grew out of several of my research interests. One originated in my doctoral research on social change in a cluster of French villages close to the Swiss border (see Layton 2000). I conducted several periods of fieldwork between 1969 and 1995, and relied on local archives to reconstruct continuity and change over a period extending back to the ancien régime that predated the French Revolution of 1789. The overwhelming impression I gained was that village life had remained remarkably orderly through a period that encompassed the 1789 Revolution, the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (associated with the turmoil of the enclosures in England), military occupations in the Franco-Prussian and Second World Wars, and the post-war mechanisation of agriculture. Knowing something about English village life, I was also impressed by the comparative vitality of local democracy and the freedom ‘my’ villages had to manage common pasture and forest. While I was analysing this material, however, state socialism in Eastern Europe was collapsing; sometimes in a more or less orderly fashion, elsewhere disintegrating into civil war. Political thinkers in both Eastern and Western Europe saw the creation of ‘civil society’ in the Eastern bloc as the key to future political stability, and believed this would be facilitated by the development of a market economy.
This chapter addresses two questions: what turns civil society against the state? What causes co-operation and reciprocity within civil society to give way to competition and conflict? The analysis is based on a combination of two theoretical approaches, the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens, and the applications of game theory developed by behavioural ecologists. Bourdieu and Giddens, whose ideas are mentioned in chapter 2, were critical of two preceding schools of thought in social science. They argued for a synthesis that would acknowledge the strengths of both, but overcome the weaknesses of each school. On one hand there was a sociological tradition that considered individuals to be embedded in a social system, not free agents (classically represented in anthropology by Durkheim 1938 and Radcliffe-Brown 1952). According to this school, we are born into a society that allocates us to pre-determined social roles, so that everyone plays their part in sustaining the social order. Bourdieu and Giddens objected to this school's tendency to imply that social systems were inherently stable, and that individuals' interests were subordinated to the needs of society (Bourdieu 1977: 5, Giddens 1984: 25). Such ‘structural’ analysis also tended to render variation in individual performances as deviations from an unwritten score (the roles that individuals play on behalf of society), but Bourdieu argued that these roles are in fact sociological constructs built by the analyst. Both Bourdieu and Giddens argued that social order emerges spontaneously through interaction.
CIVIL SOCIETY IN LOCKE'S STATE OF NATURE
The individual and society
Chapter 2 reconsiders the question posed by Adam Ferguson: is there a contest between commitment to social relationships and selfishness, or is it in the individual's interest to sustain social relationships? The chapter gives some examples that show how people strive for order as much as for disorder. It argues that success or failure in sustaining social relations must be explained by the ‘ecology’ of social interaction. What are the benefits to the individual of investing in social relationships? Different social strategies are most likely to succeed in different social environments and, if the social context deteriorates (as it did with the collapse of socialism in Yugoslavia), people may respond by narrowing the scope of their social relationships. The chapter therefore also asks to what extent ecological approaches to biological evolution can provide appropriate models for explaining social process. Chapter 3 will use this framework as a basis for analysing the breakdown of social order.
Thomas Hobbes envisaged the natural human condition as one of random disorder, in which every individual sought their self-preservation by trying to control others (Hobbes 1970: 65). People would only be willing to work for the general good if they could be confident anyone who cheated was punished. Just as Garrett Hardin supposed ‘freedom in a commons brings ruin for all’ through over-exploitation (Hardin 1968: 1244), so Hobbes imagined that people living in the ‘natural human condition’ would readily surrender sufficient personal freedom to a chosen sovereign to enable him to enforce peace.
As chapter 3 has shown, there have been many violent conflicts in Europe, Africa and Asia during the 1990s. Society seems increasingly vulnerable to apparently mindless acts of destruction. Some authors have concluded that humans are genetically disposed to violence and that culture provides an inadequate safeguard. Robert Kaplan argues that where there is mass poverty, people find liberation in violence. ‘Only when people attain a certain economic, educational and cultural standard is this trait tranquilized’ (Kaplan 1994: 73). Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson argue there is evidence to suggest ‘that chimpanzee-like violence preceded and paved the way for human war, making modern humans the dazed survivors of a continuous, 5-million-year habit of lethal aggression’ (1996: 63). Chapter 4 therefore looks at evidence for the evolutionary significance of human warfare. It argues that warfare and peacemaking are equally important in human social evolution.
WAR IN SMALL-SCALE SOCIETIES
Paul Sillitoe defines war as ‘a relationship of mutual hostility between two groups where both try by armed force to secure some gain at the other's expense’ (Sillitoe 1978: 252; cf. Ember and Ember 1997: 3). The frequency of warfare among human populations has led some to argue that warfare is the product of an inherent human disposition, a genetically determined drive to aggression. During the 1960s, writers such as Robert Ardrey (1967) and Konrad Lorenz (1966 ) popularised the idea that warfare was linked to ‘instinctive’ defence of territories, and therefore part of human nature.
The commodification of culture poses questions concerning value, ownership and ethics both in terms of those marketing culture and, more specifically, with regard to the role of anthropologists and archaeologists in facilitating or challenging the process. Here we look at ethical issues that arise in two contexts: where there is tension between the status of artefacts as commodities and as cultural property, and where rights to cultural property are contested.
Culture consists of learned patterns of thought and behaviour that are characteristic of a particular community. Culture includes beliefs, values, language, political organisation and economic activity; also technology, art and material culture. A commodity is an item that can be freely bought and sold through the market economy. In a narrow sense, commodities are raw materials or primary agricultural products, but the term can be extended to any useful or valuable thing that has a price, payment of which transfers ownership from the seller to the buyer. All commodities (even raw materials) are cultural artefacts in the sense that demand for them is culturally constructed. The market economy is itself a cultural phenomenon.
Although culture is shared, anthropologists no longer think of it as a ‘collective consciousness’ (Durkheim 1915) but rather follow Bourdieu's (1977) concept of habitus, which stresses the interaction between ideas and their material expression. When Bourdieu attempted to discover the structure of culture among the Kabyle people of Algeria, he found each individual carried a slightly different mental model. Bourdieu termed this mental schema the individual's habitus.
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