Re: Different patriarchy Model

Gerold Firl (
5 Dec 1994 12:54:07 -0800

In article <3bp5kb$> (PioneerTom) writes:

>I would like to suggest that the model put forward by Marvin Harris
>in his popularisation "OUR KIND" may specify this "difference" so fully
>that it obviates the need for "Kurgan Influence" at all, much less
>invasion. This model notes that societies in which warfare, usually
>related to land scarcity, is at a "high" level, you often find that the
>instruments of warfare, and male muscle advantage in their use, allows
>and to some extent encourages the domination of society by those male

Right. I really like the approach Harris takes to analyse the origin and
success of patriarchy; I just started his _cows, pigs, wars, and witches_
yesterday, and I'm very impressed with the lucidity of his analysis of why
and how war and patriarchy exist. (Note: this book is another
popularisation, published in 1971 or so.)

For anyone who isn't familiar with Harris, the argument runs something like

As human groups begin to compete with one another for resources, a
situation will be reached where the costs of waging "war" (meaning violent
attacks against other groups) will be more than compensated by the benefits
in terms of both short-term and long-term gains. The former consists of
booty and the spoils of war, with perhaps an additional benefit due to the
elimination of population surplus. The long-term benefits are due to an
expansion in lebensraum *and* a temporary respite for the ecology, as
Harris so eloquently shows for the Maring of new guineau. The Maring have a
unique form of ritualised warfare centered around a highly developed
spiritual relationship with the pig which results in an approximately 10-12
year period between wars. Harris argues (convincingly, as far as I'm
concerned) that the stability of this system is due to a resonance between
this cycle and the fallow time required for slash-and-burn jungle clearings
to avoid long-term deforestation. When the inhabitants of a particular
village site have begun to exhaust the soil, their pig-rearing capability
begins to drop. This makes it difficult to recruit allies for war against
neighboring groups, since allies are recruited at the great pig-feasts held
on these 10-12 years periods, and people who have not produced the
customary surfeit of pigs are considered poor allies. Thus, they tend to
fare poorly in "war" (generally a low-casualty affair, desultory by
civilised standards), and thus must abandon their primary habitation sites.
By the time these sites are re-inhabited (often by the previous
inhabitants, but sometimes by the victors), a sufficient fallow period has
passed to allow the land to regenerate.

The reason this system has evolved such a level of ritualised conflict is
that new guineau is small and isolated. The situation on the eurasian
landmass is much more open-ended and fluid. The same logic applies,
however. Males are at a premium, since they are much more effective than
women at hand-to-hand combat. harris cites a typical male-female sex ratio
of about 1.5 for juveniles in primitive cultures, tending back towards 1.0
past adulthood as male attrition thins the ranks through war. Female babies
are either killed outright, or "accidentally" attrited through neglect or
inattention. To do otherwise would be to invite attack from cultures which
skew their population distribution toward higher male ratios, giving a
larger fighting force.

Now, Harris wrote this in 71, yet people still prattle about nomadic vs
agricultural peoples. Eisler does look pretty silly; is she ignorant of
Harris, or does her ideology blind her?

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf