That Devil Ag

Agriculture gave us the civilization and the world we live in today, but it was hardly a win-win for the human race during most of its existence.  I previously mentioned a few of the downsides: epidemic disease, malnutrition, war, slavery, bankers and lawyers.

I would like to focus here on how agriculture created hierarchy and the repression of women.  Mobile hunter-gathers (HG) have hardly any property - only what one can carry.  Similarly they have few children, because a woman can usually only carry one.  Once agriculture is created, land becomes the central item of property, and it cannot be moved and is capable of only limited subdivision if it's to sustain the owner.  Since farmers typically have many children, usually only the oldest son can inherit.  Others become landless, with the option of going to war or becoming landless workers.  Almost always, land ownership becomes increasingly concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few, and societies usually divide up into the relatively rich, a class of lower status individuals, and slaves.  Since wealthy farmers can have many wives, women become the property of their husbands.

Because of the large numbers of dispossessed, and their greater fecundity, farmers drive HG off any land suitable for farming.  A recent example was the genocide of American Indians in the New World.

Such was the world, only slightly changed when North America was settled, with English traditions adopted almost unchanged - a tiny class of the wealthy and super wealthy, many much poorer individuals who often had no vote since they could not meet the property owning requirement, women who were virtually owned by their mates, and large numbers of slaves and indentured servants.

So how and why did so much of the hierarchy get weakened and the weak gain power over the next two centuries?  That's the question I'm trying to understand.  I have some ideas, but I will not share them yet.


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