Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two kinds of society

At some level of generality, there are these two types of society: those fused by the autonomous intention of their members, which is to say true democracy, and those fused by power relations. And although it would be a bit reckless to assert that it was a "law of social organization," it is a safe assumption that societies characterized by stratification of privilege/power will be fused by power rather than democratic will. But small-scale societies throughout the history of humans have resisted the path of stratification and maintained their native practices of true democracy for hundreds and thousands of years.

Modern people are led to think of small-scale societies as "primitive," somehow left behind by progress and social evolution. This is an ethnocentric delusion. When a particular society would start down the path of hierarchy and centralization, small-scale groups at its edges would often resist incorporation into the "progress," even if it meant moving further into the hinterlands and/or fighting to the death. To those in the centralizing society, those on the outside look poor and backward; but from the outside perspective, the people are struggling to continue their traditions of free, self-governing societies. They weren't left behind by "civilization"; they were fighting it off as long as they could in defense of true democracy!

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