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hi I am utterly delighted to welcome David wengrow and David Graeber as the keynote speakers of our DPA plus yes I did say that yes
as our keynote speaker I don't think either of these speakers need much of an introduction especially to this audience but not to many audiences I don't think so I am NOT going to take up any more
time or space really the title of the lecture is the myth of the stupid savage and now up to you and I well I keep hold of this for later so we'll do 3/4 of an
hour of talk and then the same again for questions or something like that right floor is yours is that yeah that's
definitely working oh he's starting you're the first two sentences that I'll pick up okay we don't want to lecture at you as you
can see everything I'm an archaeologist and I just want to thank the organizers of this for inviting an archaeologist to talk about these kinds of quite
fundamental issues about politics and I'm not going to bore you as archeologists often like to do with pictures of 30,000 year olds
royal-looking burials or magnificent stone temples from before the Neolithic period Mazda they are cool yeah but we'd rather try and attempt something like a dialogue
because in a way that is what we propose to talk about is the importance of dialogue in human history yeah well okay and and we chose to call her paper about
the myth of the stupid sandwich because well this came out of our work on Russo we were original going to write a book on the origins of social inequality and the more we
started researching the topic the more we realized that this is kind of a weird question to even be asking first of all it assumes a sort of primordial state of innocence or and that inequality you
know sort of comes out of that and look the reason why we started is because you realize that essentially for the last two three hundred years people have just
been giving variations on the same narrative of that's Rousseau over and over and over again and it never seems to go away so we wanted to create an alternative narrative but finally yes why was he asking this question to begin
with the interesting thing about Rousseau was that he was actually writing the famous essay on the origin of social inequality for a context for
the best essay on the origins of social inequality was put up by the Academy t-zone and I please 17:51 or up to it must be slightly earlier because the
discourse is 1754 the contest was the year before yeah yes yes yeah he basically basically the joke was he didn't win and there was I actually
managed to get a hold of all the other essays that were submitted there's one book where you could find out and it was hotly tested hotly contested many of the arguments that you see nowadays were
already being bounced around in 1751 and and the thing which fascinated me what I started remus is ok ancien régime friends here we have a society where presumably you know no one had ever
walked into a room where they didn't know exactly where everybody ranked in relation to each other so on the most hierarchical and elaborately hierarchical societies that one could imagine why did they think
that social inequality had an origin at all that you know it doesn't go back to the Bible in the Middle Ages you know everybody seemed to Adam and Eve out of my brain deep you know at the very beginning there's higher
and so but on the other hand you know here they have their at doing essay contest we just assume that everybody starts from the question of there was primordial equality and and something
changed what was it so so he started a process of asking how that came about and what we discovered was unknown the cut completely to the end but he
discovered is that what we're so really chained introduced was not the idea of the noble savage um it's just kind of a dubious concept at all it was really introduced by very conservative
explicitly racist thinkers actually in the 19th century as a way of for making the font of the sort of people who believe that now have attitudes which
were typical of cultural anthropologist was somewhat relativistic and or said that cult non-western cultures really had any value at all oh it wasn't the idea of the noble savage or this I you
know there are people out there who have something to teach us that was very much assumed in the discourse he came out of but the idea that they had something to teach us because of what they didn't know that they were somehow innocent
creatures who were so even argued that that he won a state of nature have no imagination in their sense of history they can't project themselves into the future their happiness is based on their the school their complete
simplemindedness and that was actually a new idea that wasn't in the previous discourse as we'll see so in that in turn made me reflect on the very idea of
political self-consciousness and I thought it would start by talking a little bit about that um we are have a notion that somehow what makes humans
humans is the fact that we are self conscious that we can fully conscious beings that can reflect on the nature of our reality in our situation and that that has both a individual
the station's know if you go back to Cartesian dualism thought or self-reflection is the definition of what makes us a sentient beings different from animals and that notion
of self-consciousness is simultaneously reflected in the idea that society itself can and should at least ultimately become self conscious the
ideal of social evolution was seen as getting us to a point of self-consciousness whether in the philosophical sense in Hegel where all history leads up to the point where you can have someone like Hegel reflecting on the nature of history um or the idea
that you know self-consciousness is embodied in actual control over the conditions of your existence and um Marx and other socialist thinkers so so it's actually a very interesting notion
because even have people for example arguing that you know in ancient Greek sort in Homer weren't actually conscious at all the bicameral mind is arguments
on their their people and so that somehow our consciousness or self-consciousness advances over time but even more which is actually quite odd if you the idea that you and these
are self conscious and that's the definition or that we are more so under a scientists actually say that self-consciousness tends to last about seven seconds in human beings a sort of window of consciousness when you're
consciously reflecting on you're aware that you exist basically we're on autopilot almost all the time and might as well be asleep that's why you know people who do these kind of forms of elaborate sleepwalking where they get into cars and drive off you know 200
miles and suddenly say where am I these you might as well be asleep when you're doing most of that stuff anyway there's an exception ah yes indeed there is an exception to that which is largely
when you're talking to someone else so in conversation and in dialogue you're actually can maintain consciousness for very long periods of time well which is why you need to imagine you're talking
to someone else to really be able to think out a problem so actually Khan business is a social phenomena it's dialogic opposite so rather than you know self-consciousness being this
incredible achievement that we eventually have most ancient philosophers for example assume that you know they start with dialogues almost all ancient philosophers in China India or Europe takes the form of
conversations but their conversations about thinking about how you can become a self-conscious individual which is the kind of person they cart service assumes that we start us even though we're not
um however so social consciousness in most of the world's histories assumed your starting point and individual consciousness something something you maybe will someday achieve instead we flip that over and holidays we seem to
have this idea that the very idea that we can imagine and create a society is something that it's something that you know takes huge amounts of historical
evolution to get to and and that's in a way I think one of the phonemes should probably say we came at these kind of rather general issues through some very
specific parts of evidence because as David was pointing out we initially set out about what six or seven years ago to contribute to this burgeoning literature
on the topic of inequality and the origins of inequality and it was in the process of actually thinking about what kind of contribution we would make as an archaeologist and an anthropologist that we just began to realize how peculiar
the starting point of the question really is insofar as it assumes that there was something else in order for a social inequality to have an origin so in looking back at the origins of the
question what we found were a number of interesting things that we would want to talk about today but it might be helpful to follow or maybe for me to follow some of those sort of trains of thought
initially which really are about this issue of what you might call self conscious political behavior what would most human history look like if we wrote it
from the starting assumption that people have always had and exhibited that kind of self conscious awareness of their own political arrangements now there's a
sort of paradox here because if you read evolutionary biologists and evolutionary theorists like Christopher berm whose book hierarchy in the forest he's a primatologist is quite explicit about
this and says well this is precisely what makes human politics different from the politics of say chimpanzees or bonobos or orangutangs is what he calls our actuarial intelligence which I
believe what he means by this is the fact that we can in fact imagine what another kind of society might be like so imagine a group of hunters and gatherers who can picture what might in fact
transpire if they didn't make fun of the very skilled hunter who brought down the ideal catch that day well if they didn't share out the meat and other resources
from the hunt in an equal sort of way without prejudice towards those who actually engaged in it they can sort of imagine what kind of society they might be living in if they didn't make fun of
exceptionally talented individuals and therefore they build their own society on the basis partly of imagination but there is paradox here and the paradox is
that when he and other writers actually talk about what happened in human history it's almost as if they don't want to explore the implications of their own hypothesis because what what
he writes quite explicitly is that for most of human history at least in political terms nothing really happened people lived in these small egalitarian bands of foragers hunters foresters and
gatherers for 100,000 plus years then there was the origins of Agriculture and then six seven or eight however many great civilizations with their alpha-male
pharaohs and kings and leaders and you know as we all know this is effectively the story in outline that Rousseau was telling two hundred and fifty or so
years ago now to me as an archaeologist this is very interesting would it not be very bizarre and fascinating if all the efforts of me and all my archaeological
colleagues to actually dig down into the traces of what humans have got up to just happened to conform perfectly to what some Swiss philosopher imagined
might have been the case in 1754 wouldn't that be an extraordinary coincidence and in fact that is roughly the sort of consensus when you read sort
of big history type books it's very much the impression you get it's also were quite convinced wrong to say this in almost every respect and a lot of what
we've been doing for the last few years is quite sort of detailed in peer achill work actually looking at what the evidence tells us now and other ways to conceptualize it because it's very easy
to say it's all wrong you could do that in about 20 pages but if you want to say what actually happened it's an enormous amount of work because essentially it's not just that people don't write for
people outside their specialties they don't write for people outside there are some specialties that's not an enormous work of synthesis that just nobody's been doing yeah and I mean the reactions to that have been quite instructive
because we it's quite hard to find an archaeologist I think or even harder to find a social anthropologist these days who openly says yes I am a social evolutionist I believe that human
societies evolve and go through these stages simple to complex yeah and if if you study anthropology you do an intro anthropology course you know you get rid of the evolutionists in the first lecture well you know then
first those the guys who were really dumb you know nobody takes that seriously anymore and then he could take the structural functionalist as a sort of more worthy idiot opponent but you know in fact yeah and we take it at face
value when people tell us that evolutionist so they're not however every time we seem to propose an interpretation of some body of
archaeological evidence or anthropological evidence that goes against the assumptions of a kind of linear with notion of social evolution we seem to get into all sorts of trouble people freak out none of the evidence I
mean the evidence in some ways I mean maybe it's worth giving a few small sort of examples or case studies of what we've been up to possibly talk about the a little of the so for example it's very
striking thank you yes if you go back to the earliest evidence the earliest sort of concrete evidence we have for how human societies are organized you can't really say very much
about let's say the first two hundred thousand years because all we've got are these great expanses of time in which they might just be you know various small scatters of flint tools and the odd teeth or skull remnants or something
but if we go back to let's say roughly the time of the last ice age or the last glacial maximum sort of 200 me twenty thousand thirty thousand years ago
particularly in Europe simply because Europeans and practicing archeology for a very long time with a lot of resources there is actually enough evidence to say something in outline about what human
societies were like and what we find in those cases is really nothing like these rather boring sort of abstractions that you get from evolutionary theory which tell us we ought to be expecting
small-scale vaguely egalitarian societies actually what you see concrete in the archaeological evidence are things like these extraordinary burials
which in any other context one would interpret as princely or regal I mean individuals buried with huge amounts of personal wealth ornamentation regalia
and so on and so forth we see architectural constructions that are clearly different from everyday dwellings implying some sort of public
building and it's very peculiar because what we don't find alongside these things are any of the usual trappings of
a very hierarchical organized sort of stratified society we don't find fortifications we don't find storage administration or centralized storage
it's almost as if you have these sort of almost sort of ritualistic pageants of what it might be like to have a king or a queen or something like that and then it comes into the archaeological record
and then it sort of fades out again so we started looking into the literature of what people actually make of this evidence which is kind of intriguing I think it's actually burnt it puts it very nicely when he says we seem to be
trapped in this endless kind of to and fro between Hobbes on the one hand and Marisa on the other so on the one hand they were the sort of neo Rousseau type of commentators who
basically just ignore all this evidence the civil is basically inconsequential we're just going to write as if people were living in smaller gallate Aryan societies for most of human history that's one sort of view then there's
sort of Hobbesian for you which goes quite the other way and says well there must have been ranked stratified aristocracy's all the way back to the Ice Age actually someone just proved to my attention there's going to be a big
meeting of specialists in Paleolithic archaeology in France which is sort of the spiritual hotland all this kind of research called something like aristocracies in the Stone Age just in a
few months time rather in the Dordogne and we don't really find either of these accounts terribly plausible yes I mean for one thing there is the fact that the
vast majority of the skeletons that seemed to get the Regal treatment are giants or hunchbacks or dwarfs or otherwise physically deformed in some way which seems to make it rather
unlikely that the you know we're dealing with some Harrison distrain is deformed aristocracy right and also you know presumably if they were princes there's
one famous example from Liguria which archeologists you know I feel just love to give names to things so they call this particular burial deeply G Bay and now if he really was prince in the
Machiavellian sense then presumably he would have got people to do more on his behalf than just make very elaborate headdresses out of small shells he would have had them you know for little armies
or might someone very much in hook art you know Kings come from rituals that people were putting on these theatrical rituals sort of performing that royalty before they actually even had it in fact
that ritual is a sort of zone of experiment where they played around of different social possibilities and it sounded really wacky when he proposed in the 1920s but you know the archaeological evidence that we've got
now that's a much more plausible interpretation than the conventional evolutionist view everybody seems to feel they have to buy it might not be right but it's a lot closer to the evidence so what we found ourselves
doing and I think you know this is one of the advantages of talking to each other from our different sort of training is thinking about seasonality because there's a great literature in
anthropology about the way that hunter-gatherer societies and many other societies action flip and alternate between very different kinds of political
arrangements depending partly on the time of year so one will have periods of great economic abundance let's say when the Bison or the deer or the woolly mammoth if we're in the Pleistocene
europe are coming through the valleys and you'll have extremely elaborate social measures put in place to make sure that hunting is successfully completed and during those periods you
might have a very authoritarian kind of political organization but once it's all over the society changes shape Marcel Mauss actually used the term social morphology I think to describe this
society moves and transforms from these very large dense aggregations often into precisely the kind of little small scattered bands that people often imagine we lived in for most of human history now it doesn't really take a
genius to see that ice age europe is bound obviously to have produced these kind of seasonal variations we're talking about a very different kind of europe in terms of climate and
environments fauna and flora there anything we see around us today i mean it was more like Serengeti Park with forests all along the Mediterranean coast and then this great zone of tundra leading up into the ice sheets and then
these little sort of what geographers called refugia or refugia where humans and animals and plants can actually keep themselves going for long periods of time so putting these two things
together drawing on decades of careful research by prehistoric we started developing the notion that actually what one is seeing with these very elaborate burials and expressions of hierarchy are
exactly that kind of fluidity or flexibility now then we turned to the ethnographic literature which allows you to see what it actually might mean in something more like psychological and
philosophical terms to actually flip your society round between two quite radically different social structures which brings us to the core sort of issue about consciousness right right
because the irony is that rather than living in this sort of naive state of not having figured out complex social arrangements yet people living in these societies what most called a dual social
morphology who sees extreme seasonal variations actually more self-conscious about social possibilities than probably anybody living today because nothing completely shifted social structures
every year to the extent that in some societies people actually had different names at different times of year you know you'd have one summer name in one winter name other the northwest coast societies were like that um you'd belong
in different those original associations you have different settled mom settlement type of households kinship everything changed and it could change in any number of different ways it
wasn't it wasn't just you know it one season you might have an authoritarian you all get together and create a little king or some authoritarian structure then you disperse and you're egalitarian bands the famous example with Marcel
most seasonal variations of the Eskimo it came out 1902 they pointed out that they actually had authoritarian events you know in a little patriarchal units during the summer and they got together in the summer and they like had common
property and had giant way of swapping orgies and yeah had all sorts of fun but but there's we really can't predict other societies they would have police you know with actual course and powers
to enforce rules arbitrarily for but only for two months a year yeah and other and the group who would get to do it anybody who year what always rotates so would never be the same people two years in a row but then they then they'd
go to become you know scatter and bands where the resolved everything by consensus so by the evolutionary and the sort of classic banned tribe chief state hierarchy that
archeologists anthropologists still apply you know you have a group that's you know half the year on the very bottom of the scale and half the year the very top you know they were a state for two months because they have like
our you know core separated group with monopoly of the use of course of force you know but other than they went back to being like bands again ya know I mean again it's very hard to find anyone who
will say I believe the human societies evolved from bands to tribes chiefdoms to States most anthropologists will just laugh in your face and say oh we've got a we did away with all that rubbish you know generations ago yeah and by and
large because for most archeologists but you know when we started publishing on this topic and presenting it and saying well look is really interesting these are groups that seem to actually flip between almost a band and a state on an
annual basis the kind of reactions we we got were really well you know you're getting this all wrong you're blowing this out of proportion it doesn't really affect the large story of human history
those aren't really monumental architecture they're just big cuts yeah we can just call them complex hunter-gatherers so that one still retains the possibility of talking about a simple to complex projectory
until you start farming and you know another example of the same sort of thing we we got very interested in the ethnography of the west coast of North
America where you have these very extensive distributions of non-farming populations hunters gatherers fishes and so on going all the way down from the
the northwest coast of what's now British Columbia was right on Alaska right away down to California and reading our way into this literature one thing kept really striking us about this
which was the issue of slavery now uh so in the discourse says slavery is an outcome of agriculture and farming and presumably he's got things on his mind like slave plantations and very things
at Romans or the ancient Roman slavery and so on and this is something that I think you know most people trained in our subjects are aware of is the
phenomenon of slavery among non farming populations and actually the classic example is precisely that of the the indigenous societies of the Northwest Coast who are known to have kept slaves
who were actually hereditary slaves in their households which were organized on these highly stratified aristocratic sort of lines what nobody seems to have
been interested up to now is why this practice of keeping slaves seems to sort of fizzle out and stop as you head south into what is now broadly speaking the
area of coastal California in fact we found this extraordinary paper from 1951 I think by Goldschmidt Walter Goldschmidt which nobody's read it has
got a very strange title something like a contribution to ethical and philosophical sociology or something which tells you very little about its content but it's about these Californian foragers who live next door to the
highly aristocratic slave keeping fishermen of the northwest coast and what Goldschmidt who was a student of Alfred Kroeber I believe the great sort of Dayan of
California anthropology what he argues there point four point is that these Californian hunter-gatherers actually had a kind of work ethic which is remarkably similar to what Max Weber
classically described as the Protestant work ethic of central and northern Europe as a kind of spiritual called foundation for the rise of
capitalism but this is all going on in forager societies in California right adjacent to these other guys who seem to have a moral ethical political system
that is precisely the opposite yeah they were extreme aristocratic ethos of you know pop lobsters and the passive displays and destructions of Wells whereas the other guys are showing la
palma how frugal and and and and you know they can work and sweat now sand steaming off their fat and and basically in endless numbers of points there that one societies clearly have this complete
inversion of the values of the other and a rejection of the values the writing thing was that we couldn't find and we didn't mind down into this literature which i mean we have no bur fees are online now and it's all out there in the
public domain we virtually couldn't find a single example of a historian or an ethnographer or an archaeologist actually saying so how did it end up
this way how do you end up with two almost diametrically opposed political and ethical systems among hunter-gatherers living along the same stretch of coastline and the reason for this is basically that all of these
groups regardless of the really quite profound differences between them tend to get shunted into a single category of complex hunter-gatherers it doesn't matter what they get up to enslaving
each other rejecting slavery having an abolitionist movements somehow there's something going on that says as soon as you see a cob of corn or a woolly sheep all of this counts for nothing and we
reset the whole clock of social evolution we're back to zero which again sounds a very evolutionary yeah right yeah very evolutionary so I mean we've got this thing published in American oak
some doing but again what seems remarkable is that people weren't asking this kind of question right is this not interesting because there are once
Paige and what's important about them is the fact that they don't farm so the fact that they are like completely different and very self-conscious again what was interesting to us about this is
clearly self-conscious and it is you can even found a California myth about these people from the north who came and took a bunch of slaves and you know and how their society fell apart because they
all got fat and lazy and eventually the slaves ran off and they have nothing you know they didn't know how to make food anymore um it was sort of a it's a cautionary tale what happens if Ryu's but it made yeah certainly of people were thinking about
this right yet somehow none of this registers or you know the idea that people are living the way they are because they actually think that's the way people ought to live and that there's different philosophies and values and and and and politics going on
in societies you know these people are actually adults like us thinking well yeah the nature of human society and what it shouldn't could be like you know it's just considered unthinking yeah and you know what we realized in doing this
is that we're coming up against decades of research for example in the field of behavioral ecology which will try and explain these kinds of differences in other ways like for example the Californians historically relied a lot
on gathering acorns whereas the guys to the north spent a lot of time fishing and you know the assumption is that somehow within the ecology we will find a causal explanation for their social
structures which is a long way from saying we're talking about people like you and me people who can reflect on the kind of societies they live in their neighbors live in and build their
societies and their political systems in a conscious fashion and here's where we see the link back to Rousseau oh very nice segue okay yeah because when I
started looking into the well basically the origins of the question of the origin of inequality and this iñárritu that we are all these kind of naive creatures until some idiot goes off and
invents agriculture and you get private property and we all know how what goes on from there um when I looked into the origins oh why is it the
Academy of Dijon is asking this question I am seventeen fifty two or three or whatever it was um I found a really remarkable story which is not much told
first of all the phrase equality inequality so we wasn't used in the Middle Ages at all um you know they've got enough stuff on database that they can do word searches now you know so
people have gone through them and confirmed that this wasn't an issue nobody talked about it the concept of equality and inequality really you know talk about it in math Italian PhD and
wasn't it two guys actually did a systematics went through yeah they did a word search took a whole medieval literature is that discovered that no basically until the fifteen hundreds of pieces these words at all and it really
comes in with natural law theory with discussions of what he what do we make of societies in the new world which presented a problem legally actually a lot of this stuff came out of a legal problem of was it
okay to conquer people who had never heard of Jesus that therefore couldn't be set to a rejected Christianity that was the basic problem they had legally oh no it's easy if they're infants but
like if they've never heard of Christianity at all you know the pink-quistador would do this thing where they would make a declaration okay you have 12 minutes to convert and they put up so in Latin but legal scholars back home were not
impressed look at this any more than we would be is it oh come on no you know so these are a real justification to to have done this and it was hotly debated so that led to the question of you know
what we now call human rights do people have rights that just just bite into the existing at all or being human that you could have violated by attacking them the conclusion was a good but but the question is how do you
establish what those are um yes you need to look at the simplest societies and this is why they became faceted in societies that they thought as egalitarian no he's ever seen as a sort
of almost plasmatic stuff of which sociality comes from you find people with who seem to have no religion and no state and no writing and so forth and so
on what do they have you know what do people minimally think they owe each other in that primordial state then you can start getting at the sort of ground basic ground rules of love what if the theory of human rights could come from
so so talk of equality came out of that but what really was interesting and what really drove the conversation much more than the kind of legal theories from
which it started was we started actually talking to people in the new world and and those conversations mean a huge impact on Europe and this is what where
there's almost a kind of the only way I can describe it is a kind of covert racism whereby you're always ascribing such racism to the European observers
that you assume that they paid absolutely no attention to what anybody was saying to them and therefore you have to pay no you don't have to pay attention to what anybody was saying to them so any any statement or opinion
attributed to a non-western person can be written off as some little savage a trope they didn't really say that so you don't have to think about what they might have actually been thinking or saying basically suck puppets so
Montesquieu or lontel or somebody writes a dialogue with a savage what they're actually doing is hurt supposedly having a dialogue with themselves but avoiding going to prison etc not putting it into
the mouths of a savage so-called person they have invented it's incredibly patronizing scribed view and it's fascinating that that is like just absolutely assumed by everyone with the exception of scholars
hurt themselves Native Americans who say well no actually a lot of these arguments are the kind of arguments people like that would have made you know and and very few know that that whole debate this sort of surpassed um
but if you look at what actually happened um then I took the French enlightenment because you know that's the one that leads up to so it's it's
absolutely clear what's going on you could reconstruct the whole thing because starting in the 1600s you have these Jesuits writing reports from what's now Quebec um which are just you
know incredibly popular the Jesuit relations are is like on one hundred and twelve hundred volumes of this stuff like everybody bought them I mean middle-class households would typically have these travelers reports and just
ways and so far along the shelves externally popular and widely debated and and and one of the things which was always in there and was attracted the most attention were the critiques of
indigenous people of friends and European society which almost always took the same form and the interesting thing is that they at first they weren't explicitly about egalitarianism at all
actually they're mainly about freedom and mutual aid the usual accusations where personal you guys don't take care of each others mean and hyper competitive but but the other one was
that you know you're not your slaves you know you follow orders all the time this is actually a typical quote it gives you a sense of this is from 1640 to about the montanus NOS copy they imagined that
they ought by right of birth to enjoy the liberty of wild asphalt's rendering no homage to anyone will whomsoever except when they like they ever approached me a hundred times because we
fear our captains while they laugh at and make sport of theirs all the authority of their chief is in his tongues and and for his powerful and so far as he is eloquent and even if he kills himself talking and her hanging
he will not be obeyed unless he pleases the savages so there's all of the the word captain from pretty much anyone an obsession of authority but you know they're always
going on about um how these are the freest people on earth and it's very interesting when which they didn't prove up at all um one of the interesting things when you read this literature is the sort of reversal because we're
taught to think of this as this is the Western gaze you know the Europeans are kind of us and they're observing these exotic people you can't completely understand but in fact and you read it it's the indigenous people are making
pretty much all the arguments that we would be making too if we've met a bunch of Jesuits fear right of kings and reveal the faith and it's actually it's
the indigenous sort of looking rationally exactly and bring off them you know you have these you'll say well you know this just biologically this makes no sense but so you know we need
some distance on this here um so for example and the case of freedom this is most dramatic because nowadays you can't be against freedom right so the usual line is that you know personal liberty
and individual freedom is obviously a value unto itself you can't build a society entirely on that basis there's limit because it wouldn't work in practice the Jesuits you know we're exactly the opposite they they were like well you
know they have nobody ever takes orders from anybody else they completely refuse that they don't use punishment of criminals even and it actually works really well and there's less crime here than there is in France but it's
terrible in principle I mean how are they gonna learn the ten commandments if they don't ever command each other you know no kidding order is necessary it's a moral duh so it's exactly the opposite you know of
the the opinions that most people would have today um so so however you know people read these accounts and they're very impressed ah the the interesting thing is the
debate at first was entirely about liberty and you can trace over tie and has indigenous people particularly the when dog Iran they were called at the time by iroquoian-speaking people
um start diplomat started visiting cities like Montreal New York actually being sent on delegations to France a lot of them actually did go to France met louis xiv um and and came back to
report essentially they started doing those not that sonography of european society that they understood what was going on the discourse gradually shifted from freedom to a simultaneous emphasis
the one on freedom never went away on on equality and and i think the reason why first they didn't really care about differences of property is in their own societies there was no really no way to turn differences of property into power
over anybody else so it never really occurred to people that that would be you know okay I have some more corn there's some more beets that you know the that why does that mean I can give anybody orders saying it it just didn't
make any sense within the terms of their own society as when they figured out that you know European societies differently organized they gradually shift it to critiques of inequality and money in particular more and more and
and this really comes to the fore the most in the writings of a guy named Baron lankan who was a French impoverished French aristocratic family he joined the army at the age of 17 and
and learned Huron and Algonquians and he's a great source because he was a free thinker who hated the Jesuits so you know his line was like okay well the Indians tell me what they really think about these guys you know there were two
what's it Louis among the long dos de la Tom better known as a strong connection times today which we'll get to in a moment
yeah yes the he became particular friends of a gentleman by the name of candy ronk known by many names um he's usually known as Conde Rock in the literature but you know all these
because oh just doesn't make any sense and then he ed Iroquois in language so the old indigenous residents but open a okay yeah I says the wooden couldn't possibly mean anything yes oh so they said I must
be a um anyway uh but but Connor your uncle who was basically the you're on ambassador who's in charge of dealing with live the European and it turns out this guy was as utterly brilliant he he
had been to France to meet louis xiv himself on a diplomatic mission and you know he's constantly outsmarting the Europeans at the diplomacy he was clearly but the thing is he was an amazing orator people said things people
would come from miles around just to hear to see him give a speech because even people that hated him would applaud after his bees are so good they just like it was they everybody enjoyed listening to talk so eventually there's a kind of a salon this in the 1680s
right and 90s we've fronton op who is the the governor would have him over for dinner and they would debate about you know economics politics Christianity
sexual mores um and and long gone probably took notes on a lot of these things um later lon Tong himself got in trouble he had to flee couldn't go back to France he ended up here in Amsterdam
well he's actually homeless and working as a kind of freelance spy and not doing very well at all but he saved his fortunes but he came out of a series of memoirs and 1703 and 1704 which
culminated in a book of dialogues with a character he called the Dario who was one of condi rocks many names in which he included all of these critiques of European society and particularly of
Cetaphil inequality and in this became an instant bestseller it was a huge was translated all European languages everybody read it there was a play inspired by it that like ran in Paris for like 20 years
you know it was like cats it never went away it was everybody yeah exactly yeah so this is this was like Norma's
cultural phenomenon and and you know every single major enlightenment thinker imitation of this book yeah and the funny thing is you know all writers
assume that you know a dario's a made-up character and even when you show like these fresh sources saying oh yeah you know he was the smartest man who ever lived it was amazing you know like like and would document that he engaged and
did in fact engage in these kind of debates of Europeans somehow we're all supposed to believe that you know the guys who witnessed the baton thought he was a smartest person who ever lived then wrote them up and didn't use any of his actual arguments but instead like
just made up other ones denial in reading the other day begins very early I mean some of the Jesuits use soul on Tom as the enemy we're already saying oh he can't really speak the languages how can he possibly
head on together yeah yeah yeah and this continues right up to the present day where you find these very long sort of lit Crypt type pieces about enlightenment literature in literary
journals about you know the invention of it Dario and I Dario as honest construct of the European imagination Rose get
into trouble yeah ignored that is very correct but we should catch him let me move quicker all right so so
everybody every single Enlightenment thinker it's an imitation of this book I mean you know Montesquieu paper says Persian but but mostly it's it's I think
Diderot has a Polynesian Voltaire has a half you're on there's not chairs up there every every sort of indigenous person could imagine um and of course
these ones are made up but they're inspired by the Jesuit literature by the actual accounts of what people actually did say that are available um and and it all comes to a peak and this is like the
smoking gun this is I'm really found pleased they found this by a woman named Madame Yvonne she girl Feeny sorry who
is one of the solid East's who's you know all the Enlightenment salons have had sort of women facilitators who of course it's been forgotten and and marginalized in the history but she was one of those and she wrote a book which
is up Peruvian letters which was supposedly the letters home by a captured Inca princess who's trapped in France and they're commenting on French society and this is later remembered it
comes out in his late 1740s um it's later remembered as the first book which suggested the idea of the welfare state you know but she says at one point well why don't they just do like being cousin
taking a little bit of everybody's gonna be distributed the more rational which is fascinating because nowadays you constantly read people saying well you know this idea of the Incas having some kind of welfare state as a projection of
European categories on to them well actually my and she's actually considered this book is considered
something to be feminist milestone B's it's the first book will be female protagonist where the female protagonist doesn't either marry or die at the end but be this as it may him she has a
problem she gets ripped off for the first edition she has to change it around a little for a second and since she's actually gonna get some money on the books a best-seller is usually popular um but um so we have these letters she sent to all her friends
saying okay I got to change it around a little what should I do one of them goes to tour go the physio crime you know one of the great founders of modern economic theory and this is like 1751 right
before Rousso is writing um and we have triggers response he says well you know all this liberty equality stuff it's kind of dangerous in a way I mean I
understand we're all for liberty and equality but you know I think you should have your character gradually realize over the course of the book that this is appropriate to a certain level of social
development you know imagine he says you know there's forum foragers and then farmers and we have a complex commercial civilization like we have you know and these are stages in each one you have a more complex division of labor and our
wealth and prosperity is based on a greater division of labor which means that we can't have as much freedom and equality as we would in a society where everyone is equally poor so basically he comes up with evolutionism and and he's
the guy who then next year gives a speech on the concept of progress he basically made it up um and he comes up with the you know the four stages what capitalism is in there the four stages of development which I hear later is
taken up by Adam Smith and then all this yeah yeah so this is this is it this is like the smoking on where it comes from the very idea of social evolution based on means of livelihood which wasn't
considered all that important before this based on means of livelihood was essentially concocted as a direct response to the indigenous critique of the inequalities of European society
so it's neutralizing its neutralizing you know the idea that these people could in any way have anything valid or questioning to say about Europeans because they are effectively trapped
within a particular mode of subsistence now it's all we need to get this is yeah and then I'll pass it back um because if
you look at Rousseau he's writing two years later you know this is what everybody's discussing and the sort of social circles he's in so what does he do he synthesizes there's these two positions there's the evolutionist position and there's this sort of
indigenous critique possession and he does both so he comes up with the the first fusion well yes there was this primordial state where we were truly free and equal and that's cool but of
course then social evolution sets in and we lose it but you know someday we might get there again so basically by synthesizing these two opposed positions he essentially invents leftist discourse
yeah but he does so by us you know relegating indigenous critique to remain of like he's naive innocent stupid people who like you know have insight just because they don't know anything or they you know they don't have the sort
of social complexity which comes to ruin us so which of course was the classic conservative position that he invented of years before that in a weird way we were so invented both the right and the left in two different essays for the
same contest the first one he want the conservative one the second one he lost right so this is what Rousseau did essentially you know he he put the two together and we've been stuck with this
crazy synthesis of these two contradictory positions ever since the really insidious part about it is not the idea of the noble savage actually there is no noble savage in Russo's
discourse because his state of nature involves creatures which are like humans but actually lack any sort of philosophy at all because what they call do is project their own lives into the
future and imagine themselves in other states they're constantly inventing things and chasing their own tails or rushing headlong for their own chains as he puts it they invent agriculture but
they can't see the consequences they invent cities but they can't see the consequences so we're talking about no imagination political self-consciousness sort of
receding as one goes further back in time there was a book published in 1946 by the Dutch archaeologist Henry Frank Ford's called befall philosophy which
was about the the ancient Middle East Mesopotamia and Egypt and all that sort of thing but he wasn't actually arguing that these people didn't have the capacity for philosophy he was simply
pointing out that they didn't have an explicit written tradition of speculative thought like that of the ancient Greeks so that when they did speculate they did it in other ways
through images through discourse on the nonhuman world etc etc to find the idea that there have actually ever been individuals who didn't possess any capacity for philosophical reflection
one has to go to Rousseau but of course Rousseau is very explicit in saying that this isn't supposed to be history well yeah I don't actually believe any of this really happened I mean he says it very clearly it's right
there oh yeah do not take this as a basis for your reconstruction of what actually happened in the past this is a thought experiment and what seems so
extraordinary to us is how this thought experiment has somehow mutated into what still appears to be the standard meta structure for human history so what we
find ourselves doing is kind of sort of fighting on two fronts on the one hand trying to reinterpret the facts the evidence of archeology and history to
try and put together some of the the pieces of a new sort of story also simultaneously having to go right back to the philosophical roots of the existing story so that we're not
constantly just sort of pushed back and buffeted back into what seems to be an incredibly powerful myth when it isn't myth and you know one can show it's a
myth in in fairly concrete ways I mean do we have any more time or should we be winding over all of you will be discovering okay well we wanted that little question answer but how about this I'm shall I talk about how we end up
with Condor you're on to begin with or sure okay um all right to show the power of this myth if you look at the history
of the background to Condor ankh and other people engaging in this critique which was taken so seriously and seems to have had such an enormous impact on
on European and hence world's lot you see that people are still trapped in these sort of trigo style categories you know that people there's stages of evolution based on what you do for your
material subsystems and that you know even though maybe it's not strictly linear people go back and forth there's a suction there's a lot of the people and you placing people along that ladder
as what's really significant about them um the fascinating thing is you know because people apply that there's this really obvious thing that's happening that nobody seems to notice first of all
you look at the history of the Eastern woodlands of North America is this looks nothing like what it's supposed to according to these models you start with for say Hopewell civilization we have people living and isolated on homesteads
getting together in these kind of screams geometric micro cities that are only inhabited in a few months a year leaving these elaborate astronomical rituals of them so it seems something
like it's not even a band system they're just like an individual households but they get together to these cities and then suddenly it turns into a state you get Cahokia this big city located in what's now he
st. Louis um and tens of thousands of people laugh seems to be some kind of caste hierarchy extensive human sacrifice it couldn't be an empire maybe a train apart no beep there's arguments
about what was going on it's very centralized and hierarchical and something happens the whole thing collapses the area around it turns into it's almost like the Forbidden Zone and Planet of the Apes or something nobody
lives there or anywhere nearby for like you know hundreds of years after the clock so whatever happened there people really didn't you know stayed away afterwards ok then there's a series of
successor kingdoms those collapse and then you get these kind of polis sized Republic's you know so so by the evolutionary thinking you have something not even bands going to a state
chiefdoms two tribes you're going backwards basically but these these Republic you know often are very self-consciously creating new
constitutions and political and social structures for they sometimes even record Leo sautè where the guys who seem to be most directly related to whoever it wasn't lived in Cahokia know if you
look at their a snog Rafi we're lucky enough to have a guy who actually spoke the language well because he was himself half indigenous the ethnography they talked about how you know these complicated twelves sky clans and seven
earth clans and you know we have a moiety system all that kind of levee stress diagrammatic village stuff who's wonder like you know who made that up I mean how did they come up with that was there some point were people too sat
with a stick and trying to figure it out and yes there was he then they actually have a record that when that happened how people's Irv got together and figured out their constitution and and interestingly enough a bunch of of
Sanjay is also visited Paris and met Montesquieu and seemed to have had an influence on his whole idea that Constitution orders create the strength of societies so so again the Enlightenment ideas kind of came out of
these guys more than anything else but but - these societies often put a great emphasis on a kind of skeptical rationalism especially the your acquaintance ones actually they also
often have very explicit myths saying things like well they're used to the Cherokee does have this well you know there used to be hereditary chief priesthood but they pushed people around did terrible things so one day we killed
them all and then we don't have predatory priests anymore um again this has just been wiped out of the narrative Oh so instead settlers show up and they find these like highly egalitarian you
know rationalist and people against um inherited authorities um part of them are basically kind of hippies and and it never occurs to them there's a history
here they just think that they must just be like that primordially and to this day people write about this so it never seems to occur to them that the fact that these guys essentially over through a series of hierarchical care uh
societies um might have something to do of their opinions on the subject of hierarchy right um the history's wiped out but clearly you know condi wrong is anything giving these people the
ideology of the movements that overthrew Cahokia that successor states and you know it seemed pretty to anybody that that this is self-conscious political thought which comes out of a long
history of political struggle and that it was so powerful that it affected Europe as well and this is roughly what we referred to as the myth of the stupid savage because on the one hand you know there is actually quite a big literature
on how European societies in the age of reason adopted various facets of material culture and cuisine from the new world of the whole idea of smoking tobacco in pipes sitting around in
salons drinking chocolate but nobody ever quite seems to bother asking were they highly caveum basing what in doing today in preparation for this lecture but
nobody ever seems to bother asking whether they also listened to what the people who were smoking the pipes were actually talking about which turns out largely to be about constitutional law various other things that found their
way into European thought there is of course the whole debate about the influence of the Iroquois on the US Constitution this is all later we're talking about core enlightenment thought within European salons and coffee houses
itself and I was assuming that when they started looking into this that you'd have to tease out hints because they wouldn't admit that this is where they were getting it from they would pretend they're giving classical sources but I was amazed to discover no they were just
totally explicit yeah that they know we got this from Native Americans and then just nobody believes them I mean we
could sort of finish the our dialogue there and get sort of have a wider dialogue [Applause] you
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