Friday, 2 December 2011

Hunter-gatherer, Agricultural, Modern - the three types of society

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I got from Ernest Gellner the division of human societies into these three categories.

And it seems that Christianity, and indeed most types of religiousness especially monotheism are most associated with the middle type of society, the agricultural: herders, and especially farmers.

The most religious, in the sense we understand religiousness, are those in Agricultural societies; H-Gs are something else, Moderns are anti-religious.

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Complexity goes  H-G, Agric, Modern: so does capability and (potential) power.

Agriculturalists are rational; H-Gs are pre-rational; Modernists are post-rational.

Happiness/ pleasure goes H-G (highest) to Agric (lowest). (This is why Agrics so often try to escape into Modernity.)

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In perspective and organization: H-G is cyclical; Agric is static; Modern is evolutionary. 

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In temporal focus: H-G is the present; Agric is the past; Modernity is the future.

The focus of time: H-G is the days; Agric is the seasons; Modern is the minutes and the millennia.

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In terms of incentives: H-G is custom; Agric is coercion; Modern is bribery.

Spiritually H-G is immanent - animistic - maybe totemistic, locates gods in nature; Agric includes monotheisms and creator God located outside nature; Modern locates god in humans - i.e. nowhere.

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H-G is pre-Good - non-moral, non-aesthetic, non-truthful; things just are obvious, necessary, how it is done.

Agric is in pursuit of The Good - Truth, Beauty and Virtue in Unity. Primary virtues are courage, loyalty, honour.

Modern is the anti-Good. The only primary virtue is kindness, the reluctance personally to inflict suffering here and now (except to prevent other suffering of someone or group more important).

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It seems inescapable that Man is a creature of Agricultural society, archetypal Man is a farmer of some type.

Agriculturalists seem to have least pleasure, but most religiousness, most rationality: they are un-worldly, unkind - orientated to life beyond life.

It seems inescapable that Hunter-Gatherers strike us as something less than human, less than moral, less than truthful - simply unconcerned by such matters - immersed in instinct and the here and now, doing what is needed or relaxing, regarding life as a cyclical flux of transforming souls and energies - unconcerned about where it came from or where it is going.  Just being. Much like animals, not-much like people.

It seems inescapable that moderns strike us as something other than Men, post-Men, trying to escape from being Men.

Moderns are transhumanists (unwittingly, most of the time) wanting to escape from the pain and alienation of Manhood into... something else. Not wanting to return to the child-like state of H-Gs, but to 'evolve' beyond the tragic unworldliness of Agricultural-Religious man.


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H-G, Agric; Modern - Pre-Man, Man, post-Man.

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