Post by Quadibloc Post by Joe Bernstein
Um. In general, my impression is that increased civilisation goes
along with decreases in women's rights. Women were notably freer in
primitive Sparta than in advanced Athens, for example. Our current
society isn't the only exception - Rome at its height comes to mind -
but in general, "less civilized" is *good* news for women's freedom.
At the most extreme level, you can't do hareem, and can only do foot
binding with extreme difficulty, if you're nomadic.
Mind, civilisation usually trammels men's rights too. It's normally
something of a disaster for individuals in general.
It depends on the timescale. Initially, the invention of agriculture
made everybody much worse off than they were as hunter-gatherers.
However, agriculture allowed an increased population to survive, so
the _real_ culprit was the limited supply of land.
Instead, I'm just looking at today, and comparing today to the Middle
Ages and to ancient Greece and Rome - not going any further back.
Within that narrow range, technical progress has correlated with
Why, look - it's an actual Whig!
OK, first off, I was using "civilisation" in its anthropological
sense, not simply as a synonym for "more than one human being".
Yes, the agricultural revolution was a disaster too, but I'm talking
about later phenomena, the more or less linked rises of the city
(hence "civilisation") and the state. These were almost entirely
*social* progress, as against the primarily *technological* progress
farming represented, and so they were almost entirely bad news.
(Although we today have reason to be grateful to those early bad guys,
who invented writing so as to document what they were expropriating
from the masses.) Several early civilisations had rituals in which
when the king died, so did several hundred of his servants, to
accompany him to the afterlife. I can't think of a better example
of inequality than that. But you can also test for civilisation
archaeologically. If everyone in a settlement of some particular age
shows evidence of malnutrition in childhood, that's evidence of a
famine, or some such. But if *some* people of *every* age show
evidence of malnutrition in childhood, that's evidence of the kind of
class structure civilisations normally have.
I'm not sure "today", there, means what it sounds like. Do you mean
you're comparing our entire civilisation to the equivalent areas
hundreds or thousands of years ago? Or do you mean you're comparing
Canada with mediaeval Britain, the city of Rome under, say, Augustus,
and Athens before the Peloponnesian War? People recently have been
talking about the incredible reduction in poverty globally, so this
isn't quite as crippling an argument as it used to be, but of course
poverty isn't the only problem in "today".
But OK, "within that narrow range". Dunno about Canada, but first
wave feminism in both the US and the UK was primarily about taking
back rights that women *had* had, until reformers in the 18th and
19th centuries stripped the silly creatures of such fripperies. (The
main exception, here, the main real innovation of first wave feminism,
was women's suffrage.) Seems to me those reforms are examples of
progress in society, at a time of progress in technology, that didn't
actually result in increased freedom, unless you look at the rights
men obtained to expropriate women's property, for example, as a boost
Christianity and Islam are both presented as having been, in their
original contexts, steps forward for women. (Christianity enabled
them *not* to marry; Islam, among other things, allowed them to
divorce.) The rise of both is usually understood as a step *backward*
in civilisation as a whole.
Basically, I don't understand how one can look at the history of
civilisation and remain convinced of the Whig version of history. So
I'm kinda curious how you pull it off.
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>