The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire

Hardcover (Print)
Rent
Rent from BN.com
$12.56
(Save 69%)
Est. Return Date: 09/09/2014
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
$31.33
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $25.43
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 36%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (20) from $25.43   
  • New (12) from $29.36   
  • Used (8) from $25.43   

Overview

Our early ancestors lived in small groups and worked actively to preserve social equality. As they created larger societies, however, inequality rose, and by 2500 bce truly egalitarian societies were on the wane. In The Creation of Inequality, Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus demonstrate that this development was not simply the result of population increase, food surplus, or the accumulation of valuables. Instead, inequality resulted from conscious manipulation of the unique social logic that lies at the core of every human group.

A few societies allowed talented and ambitious individuals to rise in prestige while still preventing them from becoming a hereditary elite. But many others made high rank hereditary, by manipulating debts, genealogies, and sacred lore. At certain moments in history, intense competition among leaders of high rank gave rise to despotic kingdoms and empires in the Near East, Egypt, Africa, Mexico, Peru, and the Pacific.

Drawing on their vast knowledge of both living and prehistoric social groups, Flannery and Marcus describe the changes in logic that create larger and more hierarchical societies, and they argue persuasively that many kinds of inequality can be overcome by reversing these changes, rather than by violence.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jared Diamond
The origin of inequality is one of the most basic questions about human societies. We all arose from egalitarian hunter/gatherer ancestors. Why, then, do almost all of us poor peasants now tolerate affluent leaders, whether they are democratically elected presidents or military dictators? In this clear, readable survey, the distinguished archaeologists Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus extract the answers by comparing the histories of societies over the whole world for the last 10,000 years. This book will become the standard account of long-term political evolution.
Robert L. Carneiro
By carefully articulating and integrating archaeological and ethnographic data, Flannery and Marcus present a panoramic view of the development of particular cultures in various parts of the world. Moreover, in selecting case studies the authors have gone beyond the familiar examples so often cited in anthropology textbooks. The Creation of Inequality promises to be a landmark work.
Charles S. Stanish
Flannery and Marcus are two of the most distinguished anthropological archaeologists in the world. The Creation of Inequality distills two lifetimes of work on the origin and evolution of complex societies throughout the ancient world. This work brings much of this together in an eminently readable and fascinating way.
Choice - L. L. Johnson
Extraordinarily erudite...It would be an excellent addition to collections on the rise of civilization or on how to use the data gathered by cultural anthropologists and archaeologists to understand broad patterns of social change. Professionals in the field will also benefit from this tour de force by two of archaeology's most provocative scholars.
Times Literary Supplement - Peter Turchin
Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus have done a remarkable job in synthesizing the two key disciplines of social anthropology and archaeology, and their book represents a significant advance in our understanding of the evolution of complex societies.
London Review of Books - Steven Mithen
This is a work of profound importance...[It] yields insights into a multitude of societies

in the recent and prehistoric past...Flannery and Marcus's magnum opus...[This] is a deeply impressive achievement.

Library Journal
Flannery and Marcus (anthropological archaeology & social evolution, respectively, Univ. of Michigan) examine the rise of inequality in human societies around the world and explore its possible causes in this scholarly yet accessible work. They begin by looking at the basic personal equality thought to be present in nomadic bands of Ice Age hunters and gatherers and then explore the development and manifestation of social and political inequality in many human societies, prehistoric and modern, around the world. A few factors involved in the transition from equality to inequality include the formation of clans, the rise of agriculture, and the growth in population size of sedentary village- and town-based societies. The authors provide a wide variety of examples of the development of hereditary inequality and examine how this inequality was manifested in increasingly complex societies, culminating in the formation of chiefdoms, kingdoms, and empires. They seamlessly combine evidence from excavated archaeological sites with relevant data from modern studies to support their points. The final chapter assesses implications for the future. VERDICT This provocative work, likely to become an important contribution to the literature of social and political anthropology, will be of interest both to scholars in the field and to anthropology and archaeology enthusiasts seeking understanding of the development and perpetuation of inequality in human societies.—Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674064690
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Pages: 648
  • Sales rank: 388,402
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kent Flannery is James B. Griffin Distinguished University Professor of Anthropological Archaeology and Curator, Environmental Archaeology, Museum of Anthropology, at the University of Michigan.

Joyce Marcus is Robert L. Carneiro Distinguished University Professor of Social Evolution and Curator, Latin American Archaeology, Museum of Anthropology, at the University of Michigan.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2: Rousseau’s “State of Nature”



Rousseau felt that to understand the origins of inequality, one had to go back to a long-ago time when Nature provided all human needs, and the only differences among individuals lay in their strength, agility, and intelligence. People had both “anarchic freedom” (no government or law) and “personal freedom” (no sovereign master or immediate superior). Individuals of that time, which Rousseau called the State of Nature, displayed self-respect but eschewed self-love.

Most anthropologists do not like the phrase “State of Nature.” They do not believe in a time when archaic modern humans had so little culture that their behavior was directed largely by nature. While conceding that the capacity for culture is the result of natural selection, anthropologists argue that humans themselves determine the content of their culture. Many anthropologists, therefore, bristle when evolutionary psychologists presume to tell them which parts of human social behavior are “hardwired into the cerebral cortex.”

Suppose, however, that we pose a less controversial question to anthropologists: What form of human society, because of its highly egalitarian nature, best serves as a starting point for the study of inequality? In that case, many anthropologists would answer, “those hunting and gathering societies who possess no groupings larger than the extended family.”

In this chapter we examine four such societies: the traditional Caribou and Netsilik Eskimo, who lived in a setting as cold as Ice Age Europe, and the traditional Basarwa and Hadza, who lived in a world of African game like many of our earliest ancestors. We do not look at the 21st-century descendants of those ethnic groups; we look, instead, at the way they lived when anthropologists first contacted them. The less altered by contact with Western civilization any foraging group was when first described, the more useful that group’s description is to our reconstruction of ancient life.

Some of the first Westerners to visit clanless foragers considered them Stone Age people frozen in time. This idea was so naïve and demeaning that it triggered a backlash. Soon revisionists were claiming that recent foragers can tell us nothing about the past, because they are merely the victims of expanding civilization. That revisionism went too far, and now the pendulum is swinging back to a more balanced position.

Some of the most eloquent spokespersons for the balanced position are anthropologists who have spent years among foragers. The late Ernest S. (“Tiger”) Burch, Jr., who devoted a lifetime to arctic hunters, conceded that the industrialized nations’ tendency to swallow up ethnic minorities has left few foraging societies unaltered. This situation does not mean, however, that we cannot make use of recent foragers to understand their prehistoric counterparts. What we need to do, according to Burch, is to select a distinct form of society —- clanless foragers would be one example —- and create a model of that society that can be compared to both ancient and modern groups. If we do our work well, some aspects of our model should apply to all clanless foragers, regardless of when they lived. In other words, if you find that the foragers of 10,000 years ago were doing something that their counterparts were still doing in the year 1900, that behavior can hardly have resulted from the impact of Western civilization.

One of the most important behaviors we look at in this chapter is the creation of widespread networks of cooperating neighbors. We also examine the archaeological record for comparable networks in the distant past.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part I Starring Out Equal

1 Genesis and Exodus 3

2 Rousseau s "State of Nature" 19

3 Ancestors and Enemies 40

4 Why Our Ancestors Had Religion and the Arts 54

5 Inequality without Agriculture 66

Part II Balancing Prestige and Equality

6 Agriculture and Achieved Renown 91

7 The Ritual Buildings of Achievement-Based Societies 110

8 The Prehistory of the Ritual House 121

9 Prestige and Equality in Four Native American Societies 153

Part III Societies That Made Inequality Hereditary

10 The Rise and Fall of Hereditary Inequality in Farming Societies 187

11 Three Sources of Power in Chiefly Societies 208

12 From Ritual House to Temple in the Americas 229

13 Aristocracy without Chiefs 251

14 Temples and Inequality in Early Mesopotamia 260

15 The Chiefly Societies in Our Backyard 298

16 How to Turn Rank into Stratification: Tales of the South Pacific 313

Part IV Inequality in Kingdoms and Empires

17 How to Create a Kingdom 341

18 Three of die New Worlds First-Generation Kingdoms 367

19 The Land of die Scorpion King 394

20 Black Ox Hides and Golden Stools 422

21 The Nursery of Civilization 448

22 Graft and Imperialism 475

23 How New Empires Learn from Old 503

Part V Resisting Inequality

24 Inequality and Natural Law 547

Notes 567

Sources of Illustrations 615

Index 623

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)