The Origin [The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Karl Marx] is like Yuval Noah Harari’s blockbuster Sapiens (2014) however written by a Nineteenth-century socialist: a sweeping tackle the daybreak of property, patriarchy, monogamy and materialism. Like a lot of its contemporaries, it organized societies on an evolutionary ladder from savagery to barbarism to civilisation. Though incorrect in most methods, The Origin was described by a latest historian as ‘among the many extra essential and politically relevant texts within the Marxist canon’, shaping every little thing from feminist ideology to the divorce insurance policies of Maoist China.
Of the textual content’s legacies, the preferred is primitive communism. The concept goes like this. As soon as upon a time, personal property was unknown. Meals went to these in want. Everybody was cared for. Then agriculture arose and, with it, possession over land, labour and wild assets. The natural group splintered below the load of competitors. The story predates Marx and Engels. The patron saint of capitalism, Adam Smith, proposed one thing related, as did the Nineteenth-century American anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan. Even historic Buddhist texts described a pre-state society freed from property. However The Origin is the thought’s most essential codification. It argued for primitive communism, circulated it extensively, and welded it to Marxist ideas.
That is from Manvir Singh, “Primitive communism,” Aeon, April 19, 2022.
The issue is, in line with Singh, that primitive communism was largely incorrect:
In contrast with the Aché, many cell, band-living foragers lay nearer to the personal finish of the property continuum. Agta hunters within the Philippines put aside meat to commerce with farmers. Meat introduced in by a solitary Efe hunter in Central Africa was ‘solely his to allocate’. And among the many Sirionó, an Amazonian individuals who communicate a language carefully associated to the Aché, individuals may do little about food-hoarding ‘besides to exit and search for their very own’. Aché sharing may embody primitive communism. But, [Kim] Hill admits, ‘the Aché are in all probability the intense case.’
Extra essential than its simplicity and narrative resonance, nonetheless, is primitive communism’s political expediency. For anybody hoping to critique present establishments, primitive communism conveniently casts trendy society as a perversion of a extra prosocial human nature. But this storytelling is counterproductive. By drawing a distinction between an angelic previous and our grasping current, primitive communism blinds us to the true determinants of belief, freedom and fairness. If we need to construct higher societies, the way in which ahead is neither to stay as hunter-gatherers nor to bang the drum of a make-believe state of nature. Quite, it’s to work with people as they’re, warts and all.
HT2 to the superb Cyril Morong, who additionally writes that the above article reminded him of the next passage in regards to the Kwakiutl from Ruth Benedict’s guide Patterns of Tradition:
The tribes of the North-West Coast had nice possessions, and these possessions have been strictly owned. They have been property in the sense of heirlooms, however heirlooms, with them, have been the very foundation of society. There have been two courses of possessions. The land and sea have been owned by a gaggle of kinfolk in widespread and handed right down to all its members. There have been no cultivated fields, however the relationship group owned looking territories, and even wild-berrying and wild-root territories, and nobody may trespass upon the property of the household. The household owned fishing territories simply as strictly. An area group typically needed to go nice distances to these strips of the shore the place they might dig clams, and the shore close to their village is perhaps owned by one other lineage. These grounds had been held as property so lengthy that the village-sites had modified, however not the possession of the clam-beds. Not solely the shore, however even deep-sea areas have been strict property. For halibut fishing the realm belonging to a given household was bounded by sighting alongside double landmarks. The rivers, additionally, have been divided up into owned sections for the candlefish hauls within the spring, and households got here from nice distances to fish their very own part of the river.