Eugene E. Ruyle

Department of Anthropology

California State University, Long Beach

Long Beach, CA 90814

(213) 498-5171







Recent research on the origin of the state has shed useful light on the processes of state formation, moving from the search for "prime movers" to the elaboration of "systems" with "multivariate causality." In the process, the insights of Marx and Engels on the class nature of the state have been ignored. This paper proposes a thermodynamic model of class society which attempts to incorporate both 19th century insight and 20th century data into a unified theory of class and gender inequality. The proposed model sees inequality as the consequence of the activities of ruling class men. With the progressive development of the forces of social production and the growth of population, predatory males devise ways of exploiting first women, and then men. As the systems of exploitation grow, they support ruling classes that live from the surplus extracted from the direct producers.







Social Thermodynamics

Primitive Communism

Patriarchal Class Rule

The Transition from Primitive Communism to Patriarchal Class Rule

Concluding Remarks


References Cited


AUTHOR’S NOTE, 2007: This is the text of my article written in the early 1980s. Aside from correcting some spelling errors and reformatting for the web no changes have been made. The most significant change I would make if I were to re-write it would be to change the term “primitive communism” to “ancestral communism” since I believe the former term is pejorative and does not properly honor our ancestors.




The state, therefore, has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies which have managed without it, which had no notion of the state or state power. At a definite stage of economic development, which necessarily involved the cleavage of society into classes, the state became a necessity because of this cleavage. We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these classes has not only ceased to be a necessity but becomes a positive hindrance to production. They will fall as inevitably as they once arose. The state inevitably falls with them. The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong - into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze ax (Engels 1972:232).


We no longer, however, can be sure that there will be any museum of antiquities after the state completes its career. Even leaving aside the possibility of the extinction of our species in a "nuclear winter" (Sagan 1985), the growth of the machinery of repression (Chomsky and Herman 1979) has reached a point that it may seem foolhardy to look forward to future in which, once again, there will be "no soldiers, no gendarmes or police, no nobles, kings, regents, prefects, or judges, no prisons, or lawsuits" (Engels 1972:159). Yet in such a future lies the sole hope for humanity. For this reason, if no other, we must examine, dispassionately and without prejudice, the origins of this institution which threatens our very existence.[1]


Recent research on the origins of the state has illuminated the ecological conditions, productive processes, and settlement patterns within which the earliest states developed. Modern anthropological thinking has moved from the search for "prime movers" such as conquest, irrigation, trade, environmental circumscription, and religion, to "systems analysis" and "multivariate causality" (Flannery 1972, Service 1975, Wright 1977, Cohen and Service 1978, Classen and Skalnik 1978). Current thinking on state origins focus on changes in ecological, demographic, and subsistence patterns within relatively narrow time-frames (around 3500 B.C. in southwest Asia, 2000-1500 B.C. in north China, and 500 B.C.- 500 A.D. in the New World), centering on the emergence of new authority patterns associated with the growth of redistributive networks. While this is more precise than Engels, it is less satisfying. Modern theorists, for all their sophisticated data, give little indication that they understand what they are looking for.[2]


Just as pre-Copernican astronomy could predict eclipses and chart with great precision the movement of the planets without understanding the actual structure and laws of motion of the solar system, so bourgeois anthropology can tell us with considerable precision when and under what conditions the earliest states developed without having the slightest inkling of the inner structure and laws of motion of the civilizational process.[3] For this, we need a Copernicus.


Fortunately, the social sciences have already had their Copernicus and Galileo, but have willfully denied them as surely as the Catholic Church denied these revolutionary thinkers. The founders of historical materialism saw the modern state as "but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie" (Marx and Engels 1978:475).[4] This conception of the state as an instrument of class rule was further elaborated by Engels:


As the state arose from the need to keep class antagonisms in check, but also arose in the thick of the fight between the classes, it is normally the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which by its means becomes also the politically dominant class and so acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class. The ancient state was, above all, the state of the slave owners for holding down the slaves, just as the feudal state was the organ of the nobility for holding down the peasant serfs and the bondsmen, and the modern representative state is an instrument for exploiting wage labor by capital (1972:231).


The ensemble of hierarchal and patriarchal relationships used by the ruling class to support its domination plays a role in the origin and evolution of civilization comparable to that played by the gravitational field of the sun in our solar system. One can, however, no more expect bourgeois social scientists to understand this fact that one could expect medieval priests to accept that the earth revolved around the sun. But that is their problem, not ours. A scientific, materialist understanding of the rise and evolution of civilization must focus on the processes by which the ruling class establishes and maintains its rule.


That such understanding must begin with Engels does not mean that it must stop there.[5] We must recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of Engels's formulations and incorporate more recent archaeological and ethnological thinking into his basic model of the relationship between the state and class rule.


Many of Engels's shortcomings flow from his treatment of the rise of the Athenian state as "a particularly typical example of the formation of a state" which occurred "in a pure form without any interference through use of violent force either from without or within" (Engels 1972:181). Since they had not yet been discovered, Engels was of course unaware of the civilizations of Minos and Mycenae which preceded Athens in the Aegean and of ancient Sumerian civilization which preceded the classical world by as long a time span as the classical world precedes our own (Fagan 1983:339-355, Renfew 1972). As Khavanov remarks,


it is now clear that the Mediterranean states of antiquity, which were marked by slave ownership on a vast scale, were by no means the truly pristine states of that region. They had been preceded by early states based on different systems of dependence and exploitation (1978:83)


The processes leading to the rise of the Athenian state, in short, were by no means typical when viewed against the backdrop of the earliest pristine civilizations of the Near East, China, and Native America.


Linked into this, Engels regarded commodity production as lying at the beginning of class formation (1972:233). While this may have been true in Greece, it was much less important in the earliest civilizations of Sumer and Egypt, where redistributive networks associated with temples appear to have played a central role (Adams 1966). Trade in these early empires was more state enterprise than the activity of individual commodity producers (Polanyi 1957b). The coinage of money does not begin until the seventh century B.C., begun by the Greek state of Lydia in Asia Minor (Friedman 1983:350, Kroeber 1948:729). Engels's discussion of cattle as the earliest form of property and money loses much of its force in light of more recent archaeological discoveries.


Engels also appears to have regarded the emergence of classes, and a ruling class, as a "necessity" at a particular "stage in the development of production" (1972:232), when "human labor power obtains the capacity of producing a considerably greater product than is required for the maintenance of the producers" (1972:234). This, however, requires reformulation in the light of recent studies of hunters and gatherers indicating that they are capable of meeting their subsistence needs with a few hours labor per day (see, e.g. Carneiro 1968, Lee 1968, Sahlins 1972, Cohen 1977, but also Altman 1984, Ember 1978). Of particular importance is Carneiro's "test" of this "surplus" theory indicating that the productivity of labor among classless horticulturalists in the Amazonian lowlands is higher than that of maize and potato farmers supporting a class society in the Andean highlands (1961). Clearly, as Carneiro suggests, it is not productivity of labor as such that is decisive, but other material features. I believe that Carneiro is correct in pointing to size, density, and immobility of population as the crucial variables in the emergence of class rule, and warfare as an important catalyst (1961, 1967, 1970). Carneiro errs, however, in seeing warfare as simply growing out of competition for land and ignoring the desire for plunder and slaves as vital motives for warfare in horticultural societies.


Engels is important on this point. While in places he regards the emergence of classes as a necessity, in other places he correctly points to greed and avarice as the motive force of class rule:


The lowest interests - base greed, brutal appetites, sordid avarice, selfish robbery of the common wealth - inaugurate the new, civilized, class society. It is by the vilest means - theft, violence, fraud, treason - that the old classless gentile society is undermined and overthrown. And the new society itself during all the 2,500 years of its existence has never been anything else but the development of the small minority at the expense of the great exploited and oppressed majority; today it is so more than ever before (Engels 1972:161).


civilization achieved things of which gentile society was not even remotely capable. But it achieved them by setting in motion the lowest instincts and passions in man and developing them at the expense of all his other abilities. From its first day to this, sheer greed was the driving spirit of civilization; wealth and again wealth and once more wealth, wealth, not of society but of the single scurvy individual - here was its one and final aim. If at the same time the progressive development of science and a repeated flowering of supreme art dropped into its lap, it was only because without them modern wealth could not have completely realized its achievements (1972:235-236).


The origin and evolution of class society is here correctly ascribed to simple greed and avarice, not the requirements of production.[6] As I have suggested elsewhere (Ruyle 1973a, 1973b, 1975, 1977), it is essential to analytically separate the modes of exploitation which support ruling classes from the modes of production which support entire human populations.[7] The mode of exploitation may be viewed as the "mode of production" of the ruling class, which requires certain forms of production and large, sedentary populations for its emergence. While such material conditions may be necessary preconditions for the emergence of ruling classes, and while the existence of ruling classes necessarily has a real impact on the development of productive systems, ruling classes are not now, nor have they ever been, necessary for the rest of the species. They are better regarded as a social disease that has persisted because its cure has only been recently discovered.


Continuing, Engels can be interpreted as saying that class antagonism develop, and then the state appears to reconcile these antagonism in the favor to the ruling class. Although Fried makes a parallel point in his distinction between stratified and state societies as evolutionary stages (1967), I believe this is erroneous. The evidence suggests rather that the state develops simultaneously with the ruling class as one of the primary mechanisms by which an emerging ruling class consolidates its rule (for discussion, pro and con, see Service 1975:285; Classen and Skalnik 1978:12,13,621,625,628; Fried 1978).


Finally, Engels's views on the origin and evolution of the family need to be thoroughly re-examined in the light of developments in the study of kinship since Morgan's time. This, of course, is beyond the scope of the present essay, but some comments are in order since, in Engels's view, the development of the family was intimately interwoven with the rise of patriarchy.


It is to Engels's credit that he saw the rise of class oppression as intimately associated with the "world historical defeat of the female sex" and the oppression of women, in a word, with the rise of patriarchy. Engels stressed the importance of both production and reproduction in cultural causation:


According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of immediate life. This, again, is of a twofold character: on the one side, the production of the means of existence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social organization under which the people of a particular historical epoch and a particular country live is determined by both kinds of production: by the state of development of labor on the one hand and of the family on the other (1972:71-72).


Engels found Morgan's discovery of the non-patriarchal organization of the Iroquois highly significant:


This rediscovery of the primitive matriarchal gens as the earlier stage of the patriarchal gens of civilized peoples has the same importance for anthropology as Darwin's theory of evolution has for biology and Marx's theory of surplus value for political economy (Engels 1972:83).


Several observations are in order here. First, due credit must be given to Morgan as the "Founding Father" of the anthropological study of kinship which "stands at the center of anthropological science" (Fortes 1969:4, also see White 1964:xvii), but it must also be stressed that there have been major advances in the study of kinship since Morgan's time. Here, we may simply note the discovery since Morgan's time of the importance of post-marital residence rules, the avunculate, ambilineal descent, and componential analysis of kinship terminologies ("kinship algebra"). At the same time, we must also stress the powerful influence of viricentrism on kinship studies (Schrijvers 1979). Clearly, the theory of matriarchy challenges existing gender relations no less than the theory of primitive communism challenges existing property relations. "Obviously this gynaecocratic view, which placed woman in a new relation to man, was unlikely to be permanently accepted" (Hartley 1914:27). The rejection of the theory of primitive matriarchy by male chauvinist anthropology, then, is not to be explained on purely scientific grounds.[8]


A good deal of the problem flows from misunderstanding of the concept of matriarchy itself. Male chauvinist anthropologists, reasoning that patriarchy refers to a society in which men have power to dominate and oppress women, understand matriarchy as a society in which women have power to dominate and oppress men. Such a sinister society, the anthropological establishment assures us, has never existed (cf. Schjrivers 1979). However, the concept of matriarchy involves not just a shift in who has power, but in the nature of power itself (Webster 1975:142, Briffaut 1931:179-81).[9] Male chauvinist social science has followed Max Weber in defining power in terms of control over others (Weber 1966:21; Caplow 1971:26), and can conceive of no other use of power than domination.[10] But the power of women in matriarchy is power over their own productive and reproductive capabilities. Unlike patriarchal power which is used to dominate and oppress women (and other men) this matriarchal power is not used to dominate and oppress men, although women in Iroquois society do appear to have exerted some controls over male activities. In this sense, matriarchal societies have clearly existed, although male chauvinists may regard them as equally sinister.[11]


It must be stressed, however, that the matriarchal gens of the Iroquois was not primitive, in the sense of reflecting the original condition of our species. Nor was it even a universal stage in the development of gender relations. Rather, matrilineality appears to be an adaptation to specific material conditions, conditions which were not universal at any phase in humanity's existence (Aberle 1961:725, Divale 1975, Fleur-Lobban 1979:347). Gentile society (or, in contemporary usage, societies with corporate unilineal descent groups) appears only after the neolithic revolution, when horticulture dramatically altered the material conditions of production and reproduction for our species. Among hunters and gatherers, who more nearly approximate the primitive condition for humanity, the gens, as a corporate, landowning, unilineal descent group, does not appear, and descent is typically cognatic (Aberle 1961, but see also Ember 1978). But even among horticultural peoples, matrilineality is less common than patrilineality (Aberle 1961), but as Gough notes, conditions leading to matriarchy may have been more prevalent in the past (1977). The insights of Morgan and Engels, although still relevant for understanding the history of gender relations, have to be evaluated in light of these more recent findings.


Engels, then, in pointing to the relationship between the state and class rule, and between class rule and patriarchy, provided the essential insight for the scientific understanding of the origin and evolution of civilization. This insight, however, must be re-formulated in the light of scientific advances since Engels's time.

Social Thermodynamics


Human societies may usefully be thought of in ecological and thermodynamic terms, as parts of larger ecosystems composed of matter, energy, and information (Ruyle 1976, 1977, n.d.). The material entities include the human population, its environment (including both resources and hazards), and the social product, the ensemble of goods (or use-values) produced by human labor. The human population interacts with its environment through a number of thermodynamic systems: the bioenergy (or food energy) system, the ethnoenergy (or behavioral energy) system, and the auxiliary energy system. The flow of energy through the ecosystem is controlled by the information within that system. For human populations, this includes both genetic information and culture.


Evolutionary change involves change in all of these features. While there has been no significant genetic change in human evolution for the past 40,000 years or so, there have been significant changes in cultural information, the human population has grown steadily with increasing speed, increasingly powerful modes of production have been developed, the social product has grown in size and complexity, and there have been associated changes in our environment. Our food energy systems have also grown, and in the process changed from foraging to horticulture and agriculture. The auxiliary energy systems have also grown, incorporating the energy of draft animals, wind and water power, and fossil fuels. For our purposes, however, the most significant changes have been those in the system of behavioral energy. To understand these changes we must look more closely at the thermodynamic peculiarities of the human primate.


All animals expend behavioral energy to satisfy their needs. Among humans, this energy expenditure takes a distinctive form, labor. In contrast to the direct and individual appropriation of naturally-occurring use values by other primates, humans satisfy their needs through social production, using tools and cooperating to produce a social product which is appropriated according to socially established rules (see Figure 1.). All human beings, since australopithecine times, have been dependent upon definite modes of production and it is this dependence which has generated the distinctive characteristics of our species (Ruyle 1976, Woolfson 1982).


Figure 1. Energy Flow in Non-human and Human Populations.






Now, although all human beings are dependent upon social labor, it is by no means the case that all human beings participate in social labor. Indeed, the distinctive feature of civilization is the existence of classes which, although they enjoy preferential access to the social product, do not themselves engage directly in production. Such classes live by expending their energy into a mode of exploitation, an ensemble of exploitative techniques (such as slavery, plunder, rent, taxation, and wage-slavery) and associated institutions of violence and thought-control (the State-Church). Human societies, then, may be classified into two categories on the basis of their underlying thermodynamic structure (see Figure 2.). On the one hand, there are classless societies in which all members of society, for the greater part of their adult lives, participate directly in production through the expenditure of their own labor power. The primitive commune of foragers and the matriarchal clans of some horticulturalists are examples of classless societies.


Figure 2. Energy Flow in Primitive Communism and Patriarchal Class Rule.




On the other hand, there are class societies in which there are people who, from birth to death, enjoy preferential access to the social product while not directly engaging in production. All such societies are characterized by, first, a definite mode of exploitation controlled by men who enjoy preferential access to the social product, and second, patriarchy. It is men, not women, that control and are the chief beneficiaries of the exploitative system. All historic and contemporary civilizations fall into this category.


Before looking at these two types of society, primitive communism and patriarchal class rule, in greater detail, it may be useful to discuss the concepts of social thermodynamics more fully. These concepts, it may be noted, are drawn from two sources: ecological energetics and Marx's labor theory of value (see Ruyle 1977).


Just as all animal life may be viewed as a struggle for the energy embodied in plant material and animal flesh (White 1949:362-393), so all human life may be viewed as a struggle for the labor energy embodied in the goods that satisfy human needs. In capitalism, human needs are met predominately through the consumption of commodities. The consumption of commodities is the consumption of the definite amount of social labor embodied in those commodities, and it is the labor energy embodied in commodities that ultimately determines, through the mechanism of supply and demand, their exchange-value (Sweezy 1968; Marx 1969). The exchange of commodities is, therefore, the exchange of the labor energy embodied in those commodities. Access to the commodities that make up the social product is acquired through money. The quest for money is, therefore, the form that the struggle for labor energy takes in bourgeois society.


In precapitalist modes of production this struggle for social energy takes different forms. Following Polanyi's tripartite scheme of reciprocity, redistribution, and exchange (1957a), we may characterize the modes of gaining access to the social product as kinship (reciprocity), status (redistribution), and money (exchange). Each of these modes had its own inner logic which shapes the form of struggle for energy. In kinship systems, best exemplified by the foraging commune, efforts at maximization are constrained by the small size and material interdependency of the commune, as well as the ideology of kinship itself. In status systems, best exemplified by the early empires such as the kingdom of Hammurabi in Babylonia and the New Kingdom in Egypt, "distribution was graded, involving sharply differentiated rations" according to status (Polanyi 1957a:51). As Claessen and Skalnik note,


Though the underlying principle of the early state is reciprocity, the reciprocity does not appear to be balanced: the flow of goods and labor is reciprocated mostly on the ideological level, and, in reality, a form of redistributive exploitation prevails (1978:638-39, see also p. 614).


Such systems are the product of maximization efforts which tore asunder the primitive commune. Such maximization reaches its apogee in the exchange systems of capitalism.[12]


Beneath the surface of human social life, then, are underlying thermodynamic structures which exert powerful influences on human behavior. It is these structures and their inner laws of motion must be the focus of scientific analysis of the origin and development of patriarchal system of class rule.


Before proceeding, it is necessary to discuss two key concepts, exploitation and oppression. Although these are intertwined, they are analytically distinct. While exploitation has been fairly clearly defined in the scientific literature (contra Dalton 1974, see Ruyle 1975), the term oppression does not appear either in standard bourgeois sources (Sills 1968) or Marxist sources (Gould 1946). Nor, to the best of my knowledge, is oppression defined within the literature of feminism (but see Delphy 1984).


Standard dictionary definitions of oppression include both objective ("the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner") and subjective ("the feeling of being oppressed by something weighing down the bodily powers or depressing the mind") aspects (Barnhart 1947:850). Clearly, oppression is a broad concept which subsumes exploitation but includes other social processes as well.


We may briefly define oppression as the denial of equal access to the social product, which includes both material goods and services as well as intellectual and spiritual products, and denial of full development, use, and control of one's productive, reproductive, intellectual, artistic, and spiritual powers. Such denial is enforced by other people who, by virtue of their oppressive acts, gain preferential access to the social product and control over the productive and reproductive powers of the oppressed.


In addition to being a social process, that is, some people are objectively oppressed by others, oppression is also a subjective feeling within individuals. The objective process and subjective feelings may, or may not, coincide. People may feel oppressed even though, objectively, they are not, for example, members of ruling classes after a revolution abolishes their former privileges, or someone without musical ability wanting to be recognized as a great singer. Or people may objectively be oppressed without necessarily feeling oppressed, for example the mythical "happy slave" or "happy housewife."


While class and gender oppression are intertwined, their analysis must take different forms. Class oppression is everywhere associated with exploitation, the forcible extraction of surplus from the direct producers by a class of non-producers. Exploitation is a real process which can be measured in thermodynamic terms. Thus, the average production worker in the U.S. is paid less than $20,000 per year, but produces over $60,000 worth of value-added to the finished product (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1984:746). The difference of $40,000, what we Marxists call surplus value, is appropriated by the capitalist. In short, two-thirds of the labor energy of the average worker in the United States is appropriated by the bourgeoisie. By contrast, a capitalist with $10,000,000 to invest can, at a modest 5% in tax free municipal bonds, receive $500,000 yearly with a minimum expenditure of effort. The exploitation of peasants or slaves in precapitalist systems is equally clear as this exploitation of wage-slaves in capitalism.


Class systems almost invariably include groups of oppressed people who are not exploited in the strict sense of the term. The unemployed in capitalism and the underclass of agrarian empires are clearly oppressed as we have defined the term, but are not sources of surplus for the ruling class, even though their existence facilitates the extraction of surplus from the direct producers.


Class oppression, then, takes the form of denial of equal access to the social product and associated forms of threats, violence, and thought control to support this denial. It is directly linked into a system of exploitation for the extraction of surplus from the direct producers.


The oppression of women is more complex.[13] It may, and usually does, include exploitation. But it also includes other forms of oppression, unique to gender oppression, such as the denial of the exercise of productive, reproductive, intellectual, artistic, and sexual powers. The forms of such oppression, as Engels correctly saw, varied with the class position of the woman, or rather of the man to whom she is attached, since the class position of a women is often determined by that of the men to whom she is attached.


Women are significant objects of class exploitation. Marx was no doubt correct when he saw that women were the first exploited group (Meillassoux 1981:78), as female slavery appears to antedate male slavery and remains more important than male slavery in early Mesopotamia (Adams 1966:96-97, 102), and probably ethnographically as well.[14] The exploitation of women workers has been important in every phase of capitalist development, and women continue to function as a disadvantaged minority group within the labor market. Such sexual discrimination within the capitalist labor market, together with racial and ethnic discrimination, is an essential feature of capitalism (Ruyle 1978). It is no accident, therefore, that women form the bulk of the poor in contemporary capitalism.


In addition, however, there are other forms of gender oppression. The women of the ruling classes are typically not exploited in the Marxist sense, since no economic surplus is extracted from them. But even with servants to attend them, upper class women are oppressed if they are denied the exercise of their intellectual and productive powers and control over their own reproduction. The roots of such oppression lie in what Veblen termed "conspicuous consumption" of ruling class men:


In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence. And not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress one's importance on others and to keep their sense of importance alive and alert, but it is of scarcely less use in building up and preserving one's self-complacency. . . . One portion of the servant class, chiefly those persons whose occupation is vicarious leisure, come to undertake a new, subsidiary range of duties - the vicarious consumption of goods. . . . Another, scarcely less obtrusive or less effective form of vicarious consumption, and a much more widely prevalent one, is the consumption of food, clothing, dwelling, and furniture by the lady and the rest of the domestic establishment. . . . So long as the woman's place is consistently that of a drudge, she is, in the average of cases, fairly content with her lot. She not only has something tangible and purposeful to do, but she has also no time or thought to spare for a rebellious assertion of such human propensity to self-direction as she has inherited. And after the stage of universal female drudgery is passed, and a vicarious leisure without strenuous application becomes the accredited employment of the women of the well-to-do classes, the prescriptive force of the canon of pecuniary decency, which requires the observance of ceremonial futility on their part, will long preserve high-minded women from any sentimental leaning to self-direction and a "sphere of usefulness" (Veblen 1953:42,60,232-33).


Ruling class women, however, are not necessarily reduced to mere consumers of the surplus gained by their predatory mates. Domhoff has analyzed the role of American ruling class women in preserving the class system by not only establishing the canon of invidious consumption, but also in maintaining the class lines through social functions (debutante balls, parties, marriage arrangements, etc.) and in social welfare work which increases the dependency of the poor on the well-wishes of the rich (1971).


In the lower, but still "respectable," classes, the dependence of women on men's claims to the social product enforces "the open or concealed domestic slavery of the wife":


In the great majority of cases today, at least in the possessing classes, the husband is obliged to earn a living and support his family, and that in itself gives him a position of supremacy without any need for special legal titles and privileges. Within the family, he is the bourgeois, and the wife represents the proletariat (Engels 1972:137).


Or, as Firestone perceptively notes:


There is also much truth in the clichés that "behind every man there is a woman," and that "women are the power behind [read: voltage in] the throne." (Male) culture was built on the love of women, and at their expense. Women provided the substance of those male masterpieces; and for millennia they have done the work, and suffered the costs, of one-way emotional relationships the benefits of which went to men and to the work of men. So if women are a parasitical class living off, and at the margins of, the male economy, the reverse too is true: (Male) culture was (and is) parasitical, feeding on the emotional strength of women without reciprocity. . . . Men were thinking, writing, and creating, because women were pouring their energy into those men (1971:127, 126).


Thus, although the domestic slavery of women may be analyzed in thermodynamic terms (but somewhat differently than wage slavery), and correctly seen as exploitation, this is not the sole dimension of women's oppression. No economic surplus is obtained by denying middle class women the exercise of their productive powers. What is obtained, rather, is support for the man in his exploitative activities, by providing a emotionally secure refuge. Perhaps we may borrow DeVos's (1967) concept of "expressive exploitation" for the use of women as consumers of leisure to enhance the invidious distinctions among men, and as providers of support for the predatory activities of men.


Finally, we may note the existence of sexual oppression, both in using women as sex objects and in denying women's rights to sexual gratification. The use of women as sexual objects is an ubiquitous form of oppression. Whether this occurs in the harems of Oriental despots or in more mundane forms of prostitution, the object of such sexual exploitation is not surplus value in the Marxist sense.


Neither class nor gender oppression are universal in human societies (although, as we shall note, there are differences of opinion on the universality of the gender oppression). They do not appear in primitive communism, and only become universal with the rise of civilization.


Primitive Communism


The theory of primitive communism proposed by Morgan and Engels has not been well received by bourgeois anthropology (see White 1959:55-56), no doubt due to a reluctance to admit that our ancestors were communists. But there is general agreement on the egalitarian and communal nature of foraging society, regardless of the term used (see, e.g. Coon 1971, Fried 1967, Flannery 1972, Harris 1971, Service 1962, 1975, White 1959).


Contemporary foraging peoples cannot, of course, be simply equated with the foragers of prehistory, since 1. they occupy marginal areas rather than the most productive areas occupied by prehistoric foragers, 2. they are usually in close contact with horticultural and state-level peoples, and 3. there has been acculturation due to contact with the West. Nevertheless, such peoples provide our best source of information about the kinds of life-styles that existed prior to the neolithic revolution. Archaeological evidence confirms the similarities in population size, settlement patterns, and subsistence technologies between prehistoric and contemporary foraging peoples. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, considerable overlap between the ranges of variation of contemporary and prehistoric foraging societies (Clark 1967:12, Woodburn 1980:113, but see also Makarius 1979).


The basic features of the foraging commune are well established. As Leacock and Lee note:


In our view there is a core of features common to band-living foraging societies around the world. Extraordinary correspondences have emerged in details of culture between, for example, the Cree and the San, or the Inuit and the Mbuti. These features, however, differ from a number of cases such as California and the Northwest Coast of North America where relations of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption have more in common with many horticultural peoples than with other foragers.


Similarities among foragers include: egalitarian patterns of sharing; strong anti-authoritarianism; an emphasis on the importance of cooperation in conjunction with great respect for individuality; marked flexibility in band membership and in living arrangements generally; extremely permissive child-rearing practices; and common techniques for handling problems of conflict and reinforcing group cohesion, such as often-merciless teasing and joking, endless talking, and the ritualization of potential antagonisms. Some of these features are shared with horticultural peoples who are at the egalitarian end of the spectrum, but what differentiates foragers from egalitarian farmers is the greater informality of their arrangements (1982:7-8).


The underlying thermodynamic structure of the foraging commune is simple and clear: it is a classless society with equality of access to the social product and equal obligation to participate directly in productive labor. No one can expect to live their lives on the labor of others, and no expects to be exploited throughout their lives. There are no special instruments of violence and thought control, but rather equality of access to violence and to the sacred and supernatural worlds.


Although the absence of class oppression among foragers is clear, the question of gender oppression is more complex. Leacock has presented abundant ethnographic documentation for her egalitarian model of gender roles in foraging societies, and suggested that evidence to the contrary is best explained as due either to acculturation or viricentrism among ethnographers, or both (1972, 1975, 1977, 1978). But others suggest that women are universally subordinate, in some degree, in all societies, including foraging societies (Rosaldo 1974, Ortner 1974, Gough 1975, Harris 1977, Firestone 1971, de Beauvoir 1952). Even those who take this latter view, however, acknowledge that women's oppression is less among foragers than in class society. Gough, for example, stresses that:


In general in hunting societies, however, women are less subordinated in certain crucial respects than they are in most, if not all, of the archaic states, or even in some capitalist nations. These respects include men's ability to deny women their sexuality or force it upon them; to command or exploit their produce; to control or rob them of their children; to confine them physically and prevent their movement; to use them as objects in male transaction; to cramp their creativeness; or to withhold from them large segments of the society's knowledge and cultural attainments (1975:69-70).


To the best of my knowledge, no one has suggested that patriarchal institutions comparable to those of historic civilizations existed in foraging societies, although village societies may provide some comparable examples (i.e. the Yanomamo). Rather, gender roles among foragers are characterized by free and equal access to strategic resources and the social product by "the complementarity and interdependence of male and female roles" (Caufield 1985:97; 1981).[15]


There is, of course, considerable variability in foraging societies. Friedl notes four patterns of the sexual division of labor among foragers (1975:18-19). In the first, represented by Hadza of Tanzania and the Paliyans of Southwest India, hunting is of little importance and both men and women gather on a largely individual basis, with little food sharing and little meat for distribution. In the second, represented by the Washo of the Great Basin of North America and the Mbuti pigmies of the Congo rain forests, both men and women participate in collective hunting, although men do the actual killing, and also both sexes participate in gathering activities, with food shared among the work team. In the third, represented by the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in south Africa and the Tiwi of north Australia, there is a clear division of labor in which men hunt large game animals which provide 30 to 40 per cent of the food supply, and women gather plant foods and small animals. In the fourth, represented by the Eskimo, the game provided by men is virtually the only source of food, and women are almost totally dependent on the men for all foodstuffs and raw materials. The "Caribou-Eater" Chipewan of northern Canada, among whom men's hunting activity provides over 90 per cent of the food supply, are another example (Sharp 1981).


The differential control over the distribution of meat has been suggested to be a crucial variable determining the relative statuses of men and women (Friedl 1975). Where men's hunting provides a substantial percentage of the food supply, men appear to enjoy greater dominance, and the position of women appears most oppressive among the Eskimo and Chipewan (Friedl 1975, Sharp 1981, but see also Sachs 1982, Fleur-Lobban 1979, Caufield 1981, Briffaut 1931)


In this connection, the Agta pigmies of the Philippines are of crucial importance, for Agta women hunt equally with men, using bows and arrows and other techniques to hunt wild pigs and deer (Estioko-Griffin and Griffin 1981). The Agta clearly demonstrate that neither physical size and strength nor child bearing and child rearing prevent women from hunting. The Griffins point out that Mbuti pigmy men kill elephant and buffalo, and suggest that the robust Neanderthal women could certainly have done the same (Estioko-Griffin and Griffin 1981:146). They further suggest that


the Agta data deny the universality of the woman-the-gatherer model, and go far to advance the concept of hunter-gatherers as incredibly flexible in all their organizational characteristics. Subsistence activities as well as social organization may be so malleable that whatever the environmental pressures for and historical trajectory of culture change, hunters may shift people into whatever food-getting pursuits will keep everybody fed (1981:143).


Pursuing this suggestion, we may note also the plasticity of social behavior among the apes, from the monogamous gibbons to the group living of chimps, and among baboons, from the harems of Hamadryas baboons to the troops of the savannah (Jolly 1972). Among lions, it is the females that "usually do the hunting in a pride," and hunting hyenas are "usually led by a female" (Schaller and Lowther 1969:331, 318). We may further note that there is no task, with the possible exception of metallurgy, from which women are completely excluded (Sacks 1979), certainly not hunting, not warfare (Harris 1978:119), and not, as the example of Harriet Tubman shows, plow agriculture (Nies 1978:39). Clearly, a high degree of diversity likely characterized all phases of human evolution. Although it seems reasonable to suppose that a sexual division of labor between man the hunter and woman the gatherer was a common pattern, it is equally reasonable to deny that it was universal or even the norm.


Some see the egalitarian character of foraging societies in negative terms, as simply due to the undeveloped state of production - since H&G's are so poor in material terms, and produce no surplus, they "naturally" have no economic inequality (see, e.g. Lenski 1966). Such a view, however, ignores the key structural differences between primitive communism and patriarchal class rule. The umbilical cord of mutual interdependence binding foragers to the commune enjoins each member to share and to refrain from aggressive and domineering behavior, since such behavior would jeopardize the very social relations upon which every individual depends. The liberty, equality, and solidarity of the primitive commune, then, are positive features rooted in the material conditions of the foraging mode of production.


There is a tendency to view the foraging commune as a kind of "golden age" of humanity, vide the "original affluent society" thesis of Sahlins (1972). There is some justification for this, since diet and labor conditions compare favorably with those of peasants in class society, class oppression was not yet developed, and gender oppression was, at worst, sporadic. But primitive communism should not be viewed as idyllic, for humanity was still subjected to the forces of nature. Hunger, disease, high rates of infant mortality, forced infanticide and abandonment of the aged were common. Nonetheless, primitive communism was a viable and technologically progressive social order for the greater period of humanity's existence. Foraging societies compare favorably with horticultural societies and with peasants in civilized societies in terms of their vital statistics, and it is not until the Industrial Revolution that dramatic changes occur (Dumont 1975).


In summary, then, the underlying thermodynamic structure of the foraging commune reflects the "free and equal association of the producers," with a universal obligation to participate in social labor and free and equal access to the social product. Associated with this, there is equality of access to violence (at least for men), to strategic resources, and to the sacred and supernatural. Although gender roles vary from near androgyny to male dominance, the norm appears to be closer to complementary and interdependence of men and women, with both sexes enjoying considerable autonomy in their productive and reproductive lives. Completely lacking are the features of patriarchal class rule: male control over women's productive and reproductive powers, forcible extraction of surplus through exploitative techniques, and specialized institutions of violence and thought control. In their stead, the foraging commune was characterized by, as Morgan and Engels correctly saw, liberty, equality, and solidarity.


Patriarchal Class Rule


In contrast to the rough equality of primitive communism, class societies are marked by gross differentials in access to the social product. The last five thousand years of human evolution have been dominated by men who, although they do not participate directly in production, nevertheless are abundantly provided with the good things in life. In all civilizations, those classes (slavemasters, nobles, landlords, capitalists) that contribute the least amount of labor energy to production receive the greatest rewards, while those classes (slaves, serfs, peasants, workers) that contribute the most receive the least. Further, all civilizations are patriarchal, in that men tend to enjoy preferential access to the rewards of society and control over the productive and reproductive powers of women, who bear the greater burdens of exploitation and oppression. Why is this?


Bourgeois social science would have us believe that "society" rewards some people, mostly men, because they contribute something more important than labor to society - brains, managerial skill, technical expertise, valor, or whatever - but this is clearly nonsense[16] As Rousseau remarked, this is


a question slaves who think they are being overheard by their masters may find it useful to discuss, but that has no meaning for reasonable and free men in search of the truth (as quoted by Dahrendorf 1969:20).


The real explanation is quite different.


The emergence of wealthy, leisured classes occurs simultaneously with the emergence of special instruments of violence and thought control that are staffed and/or controlled by those men who enjoy special privileges and wealth. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the wealth and privileges of ruling classes result from the activity of the members of the ruling class itself. This activity takes the form of expenditures of energy into a mode of exploitation which pumps surplus labor out of the direct producers and into the exploiting classes. It is thus not "society" that rewards the wealthy and powerful; they reward themselves. They accomplish this by manipulating a mode of exploitation which may be thought of as the "mode of production" of the ruling class.


A mode of exploitation has three sets of components (the analysis here is of precapitalist modes of exploitation; modern modes of exploitation require a somewhat different analysis - see Ruyle 1977). First of all, there are the exploitative techniques, the precise instrumentalities through which surplus is pumped out of the direct producers and into the ruling class. These may be direct, such as simple plunder, slavery, taxation, or corvee, or indirect, such as rent, managerial exploitation (or differential withdrawal from a redistributive network), or various forms of market exchange, including wage labor. Second, there is the State, which monopolizes legitimate violence and is thereby able to physically coerce the exploited classes. Third, there is the Church, which monopolizes access to the sacred and supernatural and is thereby able to control the minds of the exploited population. These elements, or functions, of the mode of exploitation are combined in different ways by different ruling classes. The State and the Church, for example, may be institutionalized separately, as in medieval Europe and Japan, or they may be combined into a single unitary institution, as in many bronze age civilizations.


The State and the Church, then, form twin agencies of oppression whose purpose is to support and legitimate ruling class exploitation and the wealth and privileges resulting from this exploitation. But in addition to their repressive role, these agencies also carry out a variety of socially beneficial functions.


Marx once wrote of the Asiatic state:


There have been in Asia, generally, from immemorial times, but three departments of Government: that of Finance, or the plunder of the interior, that of War, or the plunder of the exterior; and finally, the department of Public Works (1969:90).


Marx's statement here calls our attention to the dual role of the State, as an agency of oppression and of government. Generally speaking, the State carried on the following functions in developed class societies: waging war, suppressing class conflict, protecting private property, punishing theft, constructing and maintaining irrigation works, running state monopolies of key economic resources, regulation of markets, standardization of weights and measures, coinage of money, maintaining roads, and controlling education (see White 1959:314-23).


The Church is often viewed as a religious institution, but it is also an important agency of social control. This is well understood by the theoreticians of the Catholic Church. Pope Leo XIII, for example, declared that


God has divided the government of the human race between two authorities, ecclesiastical and civil, establishing one over things divine, the other over thing human (as quoted in White 1959:303).


The importance of the Church in social control is made even more explicit in the following statement of Pope Benedict XV:


Only too well does experience show that when religion is banished, human authority totters to its fall . . . when the rulers of the people distain the authority of God, the people in turn despise the authority of men. There remains, it is true, the usual expedient of suppressing rebellion by force, but to what effect? Force subdues the bodies of men, not their souls (as quoted by White 1959:325).


The implication is clear. Only the Church can subdue the souls of human beings and make them accept the oppressiveness of class rule. Leslie White has provided abundant documentation of the role of the Church in subduing the souls of human beings and supporting the ruling class by 1) supporting the State in its functions of waging war, suppressing class struggle, and protecting private property, and 2) "keeping the subordinate class at home obedient and docile" (White 1959:303-328). The content of the religious ideology promulgated by the Church helps fulfill this latter function by promising the subordinate class in the afterlife the rewards they are denied in this world, and by threatening the punishment of Hell for misbehavior in this world.


The Church also plays an important role in legitimating the system by teaching that the social order is an extension of the natural and sacred orders. This legitimation has a dual aspect. First, there is the manipulative, thought control aspect in which the content of religious ideology is consciously shaped in order to support the existing system. Second, and also very important, is the legitimation of the system to the rulers themselves. Max Weber discussed the latter aspect as follows:


When a man who is happy compares his position with that of one who is not happy, he is not content with the fact of his happiness, but desires something more, namely the right to this happiness, the consciousness that he has earned his good fortune, in contrast to the unfortunate one who must equally have earned his misfortune. . . . What the privileged classes require of religion, if anything at all, is this psychological reassurance of legitimacy (1963:106-107).


It is important to distinguish between religion and the Church. Religion is any body of ideas about the sacred and supernatural. As such, it precedes class society and plays important functions even in primitive communism. In class society, religion becomes an arena of class struggle and religion becomes divided into the religion of the oppressed and the religion of the oppressor. It is the latter which is promulgated by the Church, a social organization, controlled by the ruling class, which uses religion for purposes of thought control. In modern systems, it may be noted, these thought control functions are largely taken over by other institutions such as the mass media and educational system, so that the role of the Church is somewhat reduced.[17]


This mode of exploitation, including an ensemble of exploitative techniques, the State, and the Church, is the instrumentality through which a predator-prey relationship is established within the human species in which the stakes are human labor energy rather than the energy locked up in animal flesh. The differentials of wealth, privilege, and prestige which characterized all historic civilizations are created by this predatory relationship between ruler and ruled.


Once this predatory relationship is established, the system of exploitation becomes larger and more complex, with a complex division of labor developing not only in the sphere of production (between agricultural workers and workers in the industrial arts, metallurgy, textiles, pottery, etc.) but also in the sphere of exploitation (warriors, priests, scribes, etc.). The result is an elaboration of occupations and statuses among the different kinds of producers, exploiters, parasitic groups, and so on. This predatory relationship between rulers and ruled, then, generates the division of the population into classes, which are best defined by their relationship to the underlying flow of labor energy through the population.


The surface structure of developed class societies may be quite complex, and the fundamental class opposition between ruler and ruled is likely to be overlaid and concealed by a more diversified arrangement of classes attached to the flow of social energy in a variety of ways. The ruling class is composed of a group of intermarrying patriarchal families who, in addition to controlling their own sources of wealth in the form of landed estates typically worked by peasant labor, also control the key positions in the State-Church bureaucracies. In addition to the ruling class itself, there are typically privileged retainer classes (officials, scribes, priests), various divisions within the producing class (between peasants and artisans and between rich and poor peasants, for example), and finally an underclass (composed of outcastes, outcasts, beggars, and thieves), which may not be directly exploited but which nonetheless plays an important role the overall system of exploitation.


Two additional points need to be made. The first is that exploitation necessarily generates resistance so that class rule is invariably accompanied by class struggle. The history of civilization, as Marx and Engels correctly pointed out, is the history of class struggle (1964). Class struggle, together with the progressive development of the forces of social production, have been the motive forces of cultural evolution during the period of historic civilizations.[18]


The second is that systems of class rule are invariably patriarchal.[19] The oppressive agencies of State and Church are typically staffed by men, and men are both the prime movers and primary beneficiaries of the system of exploitation. Women, typically, are defined by their relationship to men, and their place in the system is determined by their relationship to their fathers, husbands, and sons. Women are also typically reduced to an inferior position in class societies. But just as men struggle against class rule, so women struggle against patriarchy. It is men who write history, however, and this gender struggle has been poorly documented, and those sources which exist have been, until quite recently, generally ignored (see, e.g., Carroll 1976).


Barrett has suggested that the term patriarchy be restricted, since in its present usage it is "transhistorical" (1980). A term that can be applied to so many different societies, it may be argued, has lost all utility for social analysis. Similar arguments, of course, could be made in favor of abandoning the term "class rule." I believe such arguments are fundamentally erroneous, for all systems of patriarchal class rule share underlying structural features which set them off from both the primitive communism that preceded them, and from the emerging socialist world that is replacing them. The nature of these structural features, and how they generate the superficial differences between historical systems of patriarchal class rule, are valid topics for scientific analysis.


Neither patriarchy nor class rule are "transhistorical," but are rather historically limited, in that they develop after the neolithic revolution. They thus occupy less than one percent of the period of humanity's existence.


This is a vital point, for it underlines the fact that male dominance and women's oppression are culturally, not biologically, determined. They are products of human activity and can therefore be changed by human activity.


This does not deny that male chauvinism may have existed in some foraging societies. But, as we noted earlier, these are isolated, localized instances. It was not until what Engels called "the world historical defeat of the female sex" that male chauvinism became general in human societies.


Even after the rise of patriarchy, however, women were able to maintain some equality with men in some groups within larger systems of patriarchal class rule. But again, these are localized instances which do not characterize the systems as wholes. The attempt to define precisely the conditions under which male chauvinism flourishes among hunters and gatherers and sometimes wanes within civilized societies is a useful and important task, but it should not detract from recognition of the general tendencies of these two forms of society, tendencies which are quite clear when we compare the two forms of society in their totality.


The motive force of patriarchal class rule is the greed and avarice of the male rulers. This is not simply the desire for a decent life, but a passion to live better than the rest of society. Women, of course, are by no means immune from such ambition (although, as a group, they are probably less susceptible to it than men), but women, on the one hand, have fewer opportunities to satisfy such ambitions, and, on the other, they typically satisfy such ambitions through men. For these reasons, it is the greed and avarice of men that is dominant in the origin and maintenance of class rule.


This underlying motive force, of course, is manifest in different ways depending on historically conditioned material circumstances. Just as patriarchal class rule is based on a variety of different modes of production (from the irrigated wheat and barley cultivation of ancient Sumeria and Egypt, through the chinampas of the Aztecs, the potato farming of the Incas, the rice paddies of east and south Asia, to the industrial agriculture of modern Euro-American capitalism), so different modes of exploitation are developed by different ruling classes: the bureaucratic mode of the Chinese gentry, the feudal mode of the Japanese samurai, the slave mode of ancient Athens, and the modern bourgeois mode of exploitation.


Similarly, the forms of oppression of women vary from patriarchy to patriarchy. The oppression of middle class women in the capitalist patriarchies of Europe and the United States have, of course, been most intensively analyzed by feminists. These exhibit clear differences from capitalist patriarchy in Japan and from the patriarchal oppression of southern womanhood before (and after) the Civil War, the foot-binding of the daughters of the Chinese gentry, the suttee inflicted on Hindu women, and the purdah imposed on Arabic women.


Also, the forms of oppression vary along class lines within patriarchal systems. Engels analyzed the different forms of the oppression of women in the bourgeois and proletarian families of his time, and we may not also the differences between gentry and peasant families in Chinese patriarchy and between samurai and peasant families in feudal Japan. We may note here also the existence of matrifocal families among the most oppressed groups within capitalist patriarchy.


All of this is not to suggest that women are universally mere pawns in the game of male power. Clearly, they have sources of strength within the system (Collier 1974, Schlegal 1972, Webster 1975:152). Nor, for that matter, are women pure innocents, as Domhoff's study of the role of ruling class women in the United States in maintaining capitalism indicates (1971). Women play a key role in the training of young patriarchs, and, as the example of the Chinese mother-in-law indicates, use their own power to oppress other women. The games women must play, however, are typically different from those of men. In some cases, however, women may even become adept at playing the male power game, as numerous examples from history indicate.


None of this, however, negates the underlying structure of patriarchy which is manifest in the universal facts that men have greater access to power, prestige, and wealth in patriarchy and women suffer disproportionately from oppression in patriarchy.


Although patriarchal systems of class rule take a variety of forms, they also exhibit remarkable similarities. The central feature is everywhere a predatory ruling class that uses a definite mode of exploitation to extract surplus from the direct producers, thereby supporting their own wealth and privilege. The ruling class is composed of a group of intermarrying patriarchal families whose male members staff the key positions in the political and religious structures supporting class rule and whose female members are largely restricted to the domestic sphere. There is variation, however, in the degree of discrimination against female participation in the politico-religious system. In Japanese history, at least since the Heian period, the Emperor and the Shogun were invariably men, while in England women could, and as in the cases of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, assume the leading political role (which, however, did not improve the general position of women any more than did the election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister).


The ruling class almost invariably lives in the cities, for good reasons. In addition to providing protection from invaders and marauders that may plague the countryside, the cities also provide ruling class families with the best access to the State-Church organizations, usually based in the cities, and to the luxuries of urban life (Sjoberg 1960).


Marriage within ruling class families is rarely left up to the bride and groom, for marriage is a crucial way of forming and cementing alliances within the ruling class. The marriage networks of ruling class families extend across ethnic boundaries, as in medieval European civilization, and even across civilizations. Cleopatra of Egypt and Asoka of India, for example, were linked together by affinal ties in what Darlington calls an "intercontinental ruling caste" (1969:224-27).


The mode of exploitation and the organization of the ruling class also varies. Typically, the exploitation of the peasants is primary; the importance of slave-labor in ancient Greece is unusual, although slaves are ubiquitous in precaptialist civilizations. The State-Church organization is also variable, sometimes being headed by a single person, as in Japan, or sometimes being separate.


Beneath the ruling class are, typically in precapitalist systems, a retainer class which does much of the actual work of ruling by staffing the lower levels of the politico-religious systems, an urban artisan class, usually with a guild organization, a peasantry, usually with internal class divisions between rich and poor peasants, and an underclass, made up of outcastes and outcasts. The divisions between these classes may be rigid, as in Tokugawa Japan, or fluid, as in bureaucratic China, so that there are differing degrees of, social mobility both between and within different class systems.


In capitalist patriarchy, of course, the class structure is quite different.


The essence of civilization, then, lies in exploitation. It is exploitation that generates the distinction between ruler and ruled, and the struggle between them. The unique accomplishments of civilizations in writing, in arts and sciences, in architecture, and so forth, are based upon exploitation. Once this is understood, the question of the origin of the state and civilization becomes transformed into a question about how exploitation began.


The Transition From Primitive Communism To Patriarchal Class Rule.


Since bourgeois anthropology generally ignores or denies the central role of exploitation in civilization, it has been unable to provide any convincing explanation for the origin of civilization. Once the oppressive nature of civilization is understood, however, we may begin to ask the right questions, and examine with greater precision how the liberty, equality, and solidarity of primitive communism became transformed into the oppression, inequality, and male chauvinism of civilization.


The answers lie in the changed material conditions of social life after the Neolithic Revolution. With the development of a sedentary way of life based on village farming, certain men began to develop techniques for exploiting first women, and then other men. This led to what Engels called "the world historical defeat of the female sex" (1972:120). We may add that this was also a defeat for the greater part of the male sex as well.


This defeat was not accomplished all at once, nor everywhere in the same manner. Its motive, however, was everywhere the same: the predatory impulses of men. Curwen (1953:3-5) notes that, "Apart from theft or plunder, there are three ways in which you may obtain your supply of food": food collecting (hunting and gathering), food production (with domesticated plants and animals), and industry. Curwen should not have given such short shift to theft and plunder, however, for they are the basis of all civilization. At least since Aristotle, social theorists have seen property as the basis of civil society, and, as Proudhon reminds us, "What is property? Theft!" (Mandel 1968:88).


No less than modern bourgeois civilization is founded on wealth stolen from the workers, early civilizations from Ur to Teotihuacan were founded on wealth stolen from the peasants. Just as Marx revealed the precise instrumentality and analyzed in detail the consequences of this theft in modern society, so we must analyze the instrumentality and consequences of the early systems for extracting surplus from the peasant producers. For, as Marx stressed,


The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus labor is pumped out of the direct producers, determines the relation between rulers and ruled, as it grows immediately out of production itself and, in turn reacts upon it as a determining agent. . . . It is always the direct relation of the owners of the means of production to the direct producers which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden foundation of the entire social structure (1966:791, as quoted by Baran 1957:44).


So too will it shed light on the problem of the origin of civilization. For civilization began when some men began to devise ways for exploiting first women, and then other men.


We cannot be sure exactly how this was accomplished, but let me discuss some aspects of the process with reference to the fishing societies of the Indians of the Northwest Coast (see Ruyle 1973b).


Wealth may be gained through labor or through exploitation. A man may, for example, stand on a rock and spear salmon for 5 hours and obtain 50 salmon, or 10 per hour. By extending his hours of labor, he can increase his return, but only in proportion to his increase in labor expenditure. If, however, he declares himself the owner of his rock and guards "his" rock with a war club and permits five other men to spear fish from "his" rock only on condition that they give him one half of their catch, his return will then be one half of the ten fish speared by each of the five men, or 12 x 10 x 5, or 25 fish per hour. In five hours, then, he can obtain 125 fish, more than he could obtain in twelve hours of his own labor. Clearly, one can obtain wealth much more rapidly through exploitation than through labor.


Certain points need to be made. First, the efforts at guarding the rock, although they provide a high rate of return for the owner, are not productive labor since they do not contribute directly to production.


On the other hand, exploitation does lead to an intensification of production, since each of the direct producers must now work ten hours in order to obtain 50 fish each, and the total number of fish produced will be 500 - 250 going to the direct producers ad 250 to the "owner". In an egalitarian setting, with six people fishing five hours each, only 300 fish would have been produced.


Such exploitation is possible only under certain circumstances. First of all, in the example given, the "owner" must be able to control access to strategic resources. If there were other fishing rocks downstream, the producers would have fished there instead of working twice as hard on the "owner's" rock. Or if, instead, there were five hunters hunting kangaroo in the Australian desert, it would be much more difficult to control their activities.


Second, it must be possible to store and accumulate wealth. What can anybody do with 250 fish? It must be possible to store them or transform them into other forms of wealth. Clearly, exploitation is not practical among nomadic foragers. A sedentary way of life is a prerequisite to the development of any substantial exploitative system.


Third, a large population is necessary, since exploitation is a disruptive force. The five men who must work ten hours to get their fifty fish are aware of what is going on, and will be hostile toward their exploiter. The "owner" of the rock, therefore, must have his own network of friends, kinsmen, and supporters to protect him against the resentment and anger of the exploited. Class exploitation, therefore, cannot develop fully without a large population, numbering well into the thousands, so that significantly large numbers of people who live by exploitation can set themselves off from the remainder of the population, intermarry, and form a ruling class.


Finally, the mode of exploitation must be capable of being intensified. If catching 500 salmon so depletes the fish population that it can't reproduce, there will be no salmon, no production, and no exploitation next year. It is not accidental, therefore, that developed systems of exploitation and class rule occur with modes of production that involve intensive agriculture.


Thus, it takes not only a certain development of the forces of social production but also certain kinds of productive systems and certain sorts of demographic and ecological conditions for the emergence of a mode of exploitation large and powerful enough to support a ruling class.


As population growth leads to large, dense, and sedentary populations, a new ecological niche opens, a niche which involves living not off one's own productive labor, but instead off other people's labor. In order to occupy this predatory niche, a system of instrumental techniques has to be developed. This system is what I have termed the mode of exploitation. Men had the advantage in developing these techniques of exploitation since exploitation, as a system of social predation, tends to be more similar to the predatory activity of males in hunting than to the productive and reproductive specialties of women in foraging and horticultural societies.


People move into this new niche because the benefits of doing so are considerable, in terms of improved standard of living, health and wealth, and prestige. But although the emerging ruling class benefits, the conditions of the rest of the human population deteriorate, in terms of diet, health, and labor conditions. As Cohen and Armelagos note, after discussing several paleopathological studies indicating that the emergence of social stratification and political centralization was to the benefit of the elite but detriment of the bulk of the population,


These data provide one approach for testing theories that view early centralized political systems alternately as supportive homeostatic mechanisms (Service 1975) or as systems essentially exploitative of subject populations (Fried 1967) (1984:599).


Basically, then, the larger the population, the greater the opportunities for exploitation. In nomadic groups with less than 100 people, the possibilities are nil, and very real barriers to exploitation exist. In settled populations with ten thousand or more people, the exploiter-niche is invariably occupied by ruling classes. In the middle range of a few hundred to a few thousand people, incipient ruling classes are striving to create and consolidate their rule.


The relationship between increasing size of population and increasing complexity of society has, of course, been well documented (Dumond 1965; Carneiro 1967, 1978; Spooner 1972; Polgar 1975). What is crucial to understand, however, is that this increasing complexity is based upon the emergence of a system of exploitation that extracts the surplus that supports the complex class relationships. This system of exploitation is fundamentally different from the system of production which supports the bulk of the population (Earle 1977; Gall and Saxe 1977).


It is also crucial to understand that the conditions which favored exploitation will not endure in the future. If the Neolithic Revolution created the conditions which permitted the opening of the exploiter-niche, and the Urban Revolution represented the consolidation of the system of exploitation, the Industrial Revolution has created the conditions where exploitation can no longer endure, and the present Socialist Revolution is a process of dismantling the systems of exploitation which have been so painstakingly constructed for the past five thousand years. To accomplish this task, it is essential to understand how these systems of exploitation were constructed in the first place.


During the phase of nomadic foraging, exploitation was impossible because: 1) mobility prevented the accumulation of wealth, 2) mobility also permitted people to move away from undesirable situations, 3) exploitation would have jeopardized the cooperative network of productive relations upon which all members of the population depended, and hence, 4) the costs of exploitation far exceeded any possible benefits. It was not simply, as Engels any many others have suggested, that "at this stage human labor power does not produce any considerable surplus over and above its maintenance costs" (1972:118). As recent ethnographies have shown, foragers are able to satisfy their basic subsistence needs with a few hours of labor per day. They do not produce a surplus because there is no reason to do so.


Everyone participated in and benefited from the productive system more or less equally. Women and men had somewhat different productive specialties due to their different roles in reproductive labor. Women become pregnant, have babies, and nurse babies. Consequently, they are less likely than men to be involved in hunting expeditions which might take them away from camp for days at a time, and more likely to be involved in gathering activities with their children nearer camp. This rough division of labor in production, built upon a division of reproductive labor, varied, of course, with ecological conditions and individual temperaments.


This division of labor continued after the neolithic revolution. Men continued to hunt, and women became the gardeners and home keepers. Horticulture permitted a settled way of life and a larger population. These altered material conditions permitted the accumulation of wealth, and thus created an incentive to exploit other people. Some men took advantage of the possibility of developing a way of life based on exploitation. The precise manner in which this occurred varied from place to place. One very common, if not universal, aspect of this process was warfare for plunder and slaves. With accumulated stores of wealth, warfare for plunder becomes possible. Further, horticulture creates a demand for labor which can be met with slaves.


Just as Carneiro is probably correct in seeing warfare as important in state origins, Harris is no doubt correct in viewing warfare as important in the formation of the male chauvinist complex (1978). He errs, however, in speaking of "band and tribal societies" without making a rigorous distinction between nomadic foragers and village horticulturalists. As Harris acknowledges, "warfare is infrequent when horticulture is absent or only causal, and warfare is frequent when horticulture is extensive" (Divale and Harris 1976:532). Similarly, Lenski and Lenski note "Modern ethnographers have found warfare to be much more common among horticulturists than among hunters and gatherers . . . This finding parallels the evidence from archaeology, where all the signs indicate that warfare increased substantially during the horticultural era" (1974:193-94). If warfare lies at the root of male chauvinism, therefore, male chauvinism must be more prevalent among village horticulturalists than among nomadic foragers.


Secondly, Harris errs in seeing the causes of warfare in mystical culturological terms, rather than in terms of more basic materialist motives, i.e. desire for plunder and slaves. In fact, although he acknowledges that state-level societies make for politico-economic reasons, Harris explicitly rejects such motives for war among band and tribal peoples. Similarly, Lenski and Lenski argue:


Now, as in the past, combat may serve as a psychic substitute for the challenge and rewards of hunting, which loses much of its honorific status with the shift to horticulture. Moreover, skill in warfare is probably essential in areas where population pressures and more stable settlement patterns combine to create a deadly game of musical chairs, whose losers often face societal extinction (1974:194).


Now, as Harris acknowledges, horticulturists (and hunters) often make war for women. Women, of course, are valuable not only as sexual objects, but also as sources of labor power. Veblen's remarks on women as the first form of property are relevant:


The ownership of women begins in the lower barbarian stages of culture, apparently with the seizure of female captives. The original reason for the seizure and appropriation of women seems to have been their usefulness as trophies. The practice of seizing women from the enemy as trophies, gave rise to a form of ownership-marriage, resulting in a household with a male head. This was followed by an extension of slavery to other captives and inferiors, besides women, and by an extension of ownership-marriage to other women than those seized from the enemy. The outcome of emulation under the circumstances of a predatory life, therefore, has been on the one hand a form of marriage resting on coercion, and on the other hand the custom of ownership. The two institutions are not distinguishable in the initial phase of their development; both arise from the desire of the successful men to put their prowess in evidence by exhibiting some durable result of their exploits. Both also minister to that propensity for mastery which pervades all predatory communities. From the ownership of women the concept of ownership extends itself to include the products of their industry, and so there arises the ownership of things as well as of persons (1953:34).


Thus greed and avarice, motives which find little scope for expression among hunting and gathering peoples, lead to the increase in warfare, in slavery, and in inequality, in short, to what Lenski and Lenski call the "ethical regression" of horticultural peoples:


As numerous scholars have noted, it is one of the great ironies of evolution that progress in the technological and structural spheres is often linked with ethical regress. Horticultural societies provide several striking examples. Some of the most shocking, by the standards of our own society, are the increases in headhunting, scalp taking, cannibalism, human sacrifice, and slavery, all more common in the technologically progressive horticultural societies than in the more backward hunting and gathering peoples (1974:205).


This ethical regress, however, is no mystery. It was caused by human greed and avarice. These are the motives, and these alone, which lead to the development of class rule.


It remains to point out that it was men, not women, that took advantage of this predatory opportunity. Men were in a sense preadapted for this by their hunting specialization which involved weapons and traveling. Further, the first slaves were very likely women, probably taken as "wives", since it is women that do the horticultural work and since women are easier than men to subjugate due to their lack of weapons.


Most important was the discovery of human domestication: slavery. As Engels remarked,


It was not long before the great 'truth' was discovered that man also can be a commodity, that human energy can be exchanged and put to use by making man into a slave (1972:234).


What Engels did not know is that the first slaves were not men but women. References to slave women appear in the earliest protoliterate tablets, centuries before references to male slaves, and slave women were more numerous than men throughout early Sumerian history (Adams 1966:96-7, 102). The economic role of women slaves in the early stages of the development of civilization was comparable to that of women workers in the textile mills of early capitalism. As Adams notes:


Their economic role was a much more significant one, however, in connection with great estates and temples, of which the Bau archive furnishes so richly documented an example. In the Bau community of some 1200 persons, there were from 250 to 300 slaves, of whom the overwhelming proportion were women. One tablet alone lists 205 slave girls and their children who probably were employed in a centralized weaving establishment lie one known archaeologically at the site of ancient Eshnunna; other women are known to have been engaged in milling, brewing, cooking, and similar interior operations permitting close supervision (1966:102).


The fact that the term for slave was derived from woman from the mountain regions suggests regular slave-raiding and a flourishing slave trade at the very origin of Sumerian civilization.


In addition to a predatory way of life based on plunder and slavery, other sorts of exploitation were likely to have been developed quite early. These include rent and managerial exploitation. Rent involves differential access to strategic resources and the means of production. Those who control access to these essential things are able to demand payment in the form of "rent" from those who need to use them. Such "rent" was an important component of the exploitative system on the aboriginal Northwest Coast (Ruyle 1973b).


In horticultural societies where land is communally owned by descent groups, access to clan land for non-clan members may require some payment to the clan elders. This again could develop into a significant form of exploitation, depending upon demographic and ecological conditions. Such differential access to land could lead to a tripartite class division, between clan members who enjoyed free access to land, non-clan members who were required to pay rent, and the clan elders who received and controlled the rent.


Managerial exploitation occurs when those who organize production and direct the productive activities of others receive a higher return than the direct producers. The "big man" pattern discussed by Harris (1978:103-108) fits this pattern. Although "big men" are usually discussed as simply hard-working organizers of production, under aboriginal conditions before the pacification imposed by Western imperialism, they were also war leaders. Harris quotes one old informant:


In the olden times, there were greater numi ("big men") than there are today. Then they were fierce and relentless war leaders. They laid waste to the countryside and their clubhouses were lined with the skulls of people they had slain (Harris 1978:106).


Clearly, the "hard-working, ambitious, public spirited individuals" who "ostentatiously redistributes - parcels out - piles of food and other gifts but keeps nothing for himself," which Harris regards as the "purest, most egalitarian phase" of the "big man" (1978:104), is a product of acculturation, not of incipient stratification. Incipient stratification systems are more likely to involve managerial exploitation, or what Claessen and Skalnik call "redistributive exploitation" (1978:614, 638-39).


The affinal exchanges among the avunculocal Trobianders may represent another early form of exploitation. Brothers were required to present a portion of their yam crop, grown on the matrilineal lands, to their sisters. Since the chiefs were entitled to practice polygyny, they might receive yams from as many as two dozen brothers-in-law. The yams could be used to support canoe building specialists, artisans, magicians, family servants, and warriors, as well as ostentatious display (Harris 1978:109-110).


Trade can be another important stimulus to exploitation, for several reasons. First, trade is typically with non-kin, so that the egalitarian requirement of sharing is not operative. Secondly, trade involves the exchange of goods between regions, so that the conditions of production and labor times may not be known to both parties. Third, control over trade networks can function in the same manner as control over any other strategic resource, to extract surplus from both producer and consumer. It will be recalled that commodity production and trade were decisive in Engels discussion of the origin of the state, and trade appears to have been significant in the formation of early civilizations in both Mesoamerica and Mesopotamia (Rathje 1971, 1972, Lamberg-Karlovsky and Sabloff 1979, cf. Terray 1979).


It seems likely that several of these techniques were developed simultaneously by emerging ruling classes. The Indian nobility of the Northwest Coast, an incipient ruling class, had developed a predatory way of life that involved plunder, slavery, rent, tribute, trade, and managerial control over production (Ruyle 1973b). They also developed the beginnings of a State and a Church. And this was a relatively small mode of exploitation, associated with a fishing mode of production supporting villages of no more than 500 or 1000 people. This was quite small in comparison with the earliest cities that emerged in Mesopotamia around 3000 B.C..


As class society develops, so does patriarchy. Men and women develop different, complementary maximizing strategies within the overall system of inequality.


Ambitious men develop the techniques of exploitation. As these become larger and more efficient, they are capable of extracting more surplus than any one individual can consume. The predatory, patriarchal male must have wives and retainers to help him, in a Veblenesque manner, consume his surplus. This, of course, gives him greater power over them. Less ambitious men, or men not so well endowed for exploitation or less well placed by birth, may either attach themselves to a ruling male as a retainer or live as an exploited direct producer.


Ambitious women may attempt to pursue male predatory activities, and in rare cases may be successful. More commonly, women support and encourage men in their predatory activities. In this situation, women develop techniques of manipulation in an effort to achieve indirectly, through men, what is denied to them directly through patriarchy. For the most part, however, women are reduced to supporting their men at whatever level they may be in the exploitative system.


Such were the origins of patriarchy and class rule. They were brought into being by the same forces that presently maintain them: the self-interest of the male rulers. Patriarchy and class rule began when some men discovered that they could pursue their interests at the expense of others. The preconditions for this discovery was the transition to a settled way of life based on horticulture, but this was not its cause. Its cause lies in the greed and avarice of men.


Concluding Remarks.


Patriarchy and class rule have persisted for one reason, and one reason only: women and men have not yet learned how to do away with kings and emperors, popes and priests, nobles, landlords, and capitalists and to organize society "on the basis of the free and equal association of the producers." It is this learning process that marks the end of our childhood and the beginning of our maturity as a species. Such learning, of course, is the negation of civilization, just as civilization is the negation of the "liberty, equality, and solidarity" of the primitive commune. For this reason, civilization's most awesome machinery of destruction has always, from the crucifixion of Jesus to Reagan's "Star Wars" and the impending war in Central America, been unleashed against those who attempt to put such learning into practice.


Bourgeois social science, of course, regards such ideas as sheer moralism and, worse, as "untestable," and consigns them to the realm of utopias.[20] There is, however, abundant evidence that society can be reorganized on a freer, more egalitarian basis. Such evidence comes not only from the foraging commune, but also from the complex class struggles of the modern epoch, such as examples of successful take-overs of factories by workers, the workers' self-management movement, and the cooperative movement (Farley 1973, Halliday 1975:72, 208-210, Clegg 1971, Gunn 1984, Jackall and Levin 1984). Most tellingly, however, it comes from the experience of the socialist nations. Since this experience has been systematically ignored or distorted by bourgeois anthropologists and other social scientists,[21] it may be well to conclude with a discussion of relevant studies by two sociologists, Cereseto (1983) and Szymanski (1979, 1984).


In her study of global inequality and basic human needs, Cereseto uses World Bank statistics (which may be assumed not to be biased in favor of capitalism) on income and the quality of life in both capitalist and socialist nations to test the two most important aspects of the Marxian paradigm: the law of capitalist accumulation, and the prediction of improvement following a socialist revolution. Her findings may be briefly summarized.


Cereseto finds that the increasing inequality that has characterized the entire career of civilization (Lenski 1966), has intensified since WWII, with increasing degradation, misery, and denial of basic human needs of a large and growing portion of humanity. While the population of the world was increasing by 60% from 1950 to 1975, the total production of wealth was increasing faster, from $1 trillion in the late 1940's to over $6 trillion in 1975 and more than $9 trillion in 1978! But although wealth was increasing faster than population, poverty was also increasing, so that in one decade of rapid economic growth (1963-1973), the number of seriously poor people in the world increased by 119 million, to 1.21 billion people, or 45% of the entire capitalist world (1983:18-19). Thus the poverty and misery of Third World peoples, Cereseto finds, are not caused by overpopulation or "backwardness," but rather are consequences of the fundamental law of motion of capitalism:


Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital (Marx 1965:645).


Cereseto divides capitalist nations into three categories, based on GNP per capita: rich, middle income, and poor. She finds, not surprisingly, that the physical quality of life in rich nations is better than in poor nations.


What is significant is that socialism improves the physical quality of life and better meets the basic human needs of its members than does capitalism. All socialist nations fall within the middle income category based on GNP per capita, even though many were desperately poor before their revolutions. Cereseto uses a variety of statistics on such things as inequality, infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy, and health care and finds that: 1. the socialist nations, all middle income, do better than the capitalist nations taken as a whole in meeting the basic human needs of their members; 2. the socialist nations do far better in meeting these human needs than do capitalist nations with the same resource base (i.e. middle income capitalist nations), and 3. socialist nations do about as well as rich capitalist nations in meeting basic human needs. Cereseto also finds that, while inequality is increasing both within and between capitalist nations, inequality is declining both within and between socialist nations.


In parallel studies, Szymanski has examined the questions of political freedom and human rights in socialist nations, specifically the Soviet Union (1979, 1984). In the capitalist world, there has been increasing institutional violence, political assassinations, and state-sponsored torture paralleling the growth in economic inequality since WWII (Chomsky and Herman 1979:8, citing Amnesty International 1975). By contrast, political repression has declined in the socialist world since Stalin's time. Szymanski's analysis of political processes in the Soviet Union suggest that there is much more political freedom, democracy, and effective participation in the Soviet Union than most bourgeois scholars acknowledge. It is not, thus, a question of "freedom" versus "totalitarianism", but rather of the structural locus of such freedom. Stated simply, perhaps over simply, Western workers can criticize their government, but have little effective power to change either governmental policy or their bosses, while Soviet workers exercise considerable power over their immediate supervisors and lower level governmental officials, but cannot criticize the central institutions of Soviet society, specifically the Communist Party.


Considerations of space preclude, of course, a full consideration of this question, but studies such as Cereseto's and Szymanski's suggest strongly that, although the Western democracies may compare relatively favorably with socialist nations, the capitalist world as a whole (which includes such nations as El Salvador and South Africa) does not. While poverty, inequality, and repression is increasing in the latter, they are decreasing in the former.


The experience of the socialist nations, then, suggests that humanity is in fact learning to dismantle the structures of inequality and repression that have been constructed during the five thousand years of civilization, and to replace them with more benign ways of ordering human relations. As Morgan saw over a century ago:


The time which as passed away since civilization began is but a fragment of the past duration of man's existence; and but a fragment of the ages yet to come. The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a career of which property is the end and aim; because such a career contains the elements of self-destruction. Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher place of society to which experience, intelligence, and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality, and fraternity of the ancient gentes (1964:467).


We do not know, of course, the nature of the social order of the future will be, but we may conclude with Engels's remarks on the relations between men and women:


What we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new? That will be answered when a new generation has grown up: a generation of men who never in their lives have known what it is to buy a woman's surrender with money or any other social instrument of power; a generation of women who have never known what it is to give themselves to a man from any other considerations than real love or to refuse to give themselves to their lover from fear of economic consequences. When these people are in the world, they will care precious little what anyone today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding opinion about the practice of each individual - and that will be the end of it (1972:145).




[1] As Berreman has observed:


I believe that stratification . . . is pernicious: It is humanly harmful in that it is painful, damaging, and unjust, and it is consistently experienced as such by those who are deprived and oppressed. . . . It is responsible for hunger even when there is plenty, for high mortality, high fertility, and low life expectancy, for low levels of education, literacy, political participation, and other measures of the quality of life . . . Stratification is also dangerous in that the poverty, oppression, hunger, fear, and frustration inherent in it result in resentment among the deprived and anxiety among the privileged, with the result that overt, perhaps catastrophic, conflict is inevitable. Much of the source of crime in the street, terrorism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and international war is inequality so organized and the alarm, repression, and competition it engenders . . . Inequality between peoples and nationals is a major threat to societal and even human survival (1981a:3-4).


Berreman is, of course, making a value judgment here (one that I endorse), and there are those who would say that such value judgments have no place in science. Such a view cannot, however, be maintained. As Keat remarks:


Many advocates of 'value-freedom' have believed that these normative elements must be expunged from the concepts of social science, in order that its criteria of validity may be properly scientific. But this, I think, is a mistake. It is possible to maintain that these criteria are independent of normative commitments, without insisting upon the use of a value-free vocabulary; and there is no reason, therefore, why the political or ethical standpoints of social scientists should not be expressed though the concepts they employ, as well as through more explicitly normative judgments contained in their work. What matters is that, whether or not the concepts used in making descriptive or explanatory claims express such attitudes, it is possible to assess these claims by reference to scientific criteria of validity that are logically independent of any specific moral or political commitments (1981:39).


Thus, the statement, for example, that between 10 and 30 million children die of starvation and other hunger-related causes each year is empirically verifiable (George 1984, Castro 1983). That these deaths are ultimately caused by the imperialist structure of the world economy may be scientifically established (Lappe and Collins 1978, George 1984), quite irrespective of any value judgments concerning this situation. That starvation and inequality represent significant scientific problems is of course a value judgment, but such judgments are inevitable, as even Weber acknowledged (Frank 1976:12, Keat 1981:52). The claim of value-freedom might best be seen in Mannheimian terms, as a mask to cover conservative value judgment implicit in much of social science (Gouldner 1970, Harris 1968, Stauder 1971). Engels's remarks on this topic remain valid:


In our eventful time, just as in the 16th century, pure theorists on social affairs are found only on the side of reaction and for this reason they are not even theorists in the full sense of the word, but simply apologists for reaction (1966:2).


[2] The situation is not unlike that described for economics by Joan Robinson:


The orthodox economists have been much preoccupied with elegant elaborations of minor problems, which distract the attention of their pupils from the uncongenial realities of the modern world, and the development of abstract argument has run far ahead of any possibility of empirical verification. Marx's intellectual tools are far cruder, but his sense of reality is far stronger, and his argument towers above their intricate constructions in rough and gloomy grandeur.


[3] Some of my colleagues may object to the term "bourgeois" as applied to themselves and the greater part of existing anthropology. But neither anthropology nor the other social sciences are exempt from Marx's dictum that


The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas; i.e. the class, which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of intellectual production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it (1939:39, Selsam and Martel 1963:199).


The fact that social scientists themselves may be unaware of their relationship to the ruling class by no means negates this relationship, which, as Marx stressed, is ultimately ideological:


Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be separated from them as widely as heaven from earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not go beyond the limits which the latter do not go beyond in life, that they are consequently driven theoretically to the same tasks and solutions to which material interest and social position practically drive the latter. This is in general the relationship of the political and literary representatives of a class to the class they represent (from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in Tucker 1972:461-462).


The class affiliation of social scientists, then, does not depend upon an explicit recognition of this relationship on their part. Nonetheless, many social scientists are aware of their class sympathies. Max Weber, for example, was one: "I am a member of the bourgeoisie, I was reared in its values and ideals, and I identify myself with it" (quoted by Frank 1976:9-10).



[4] Marx and Engels, of course, drew heavily from earlier revolutionary thinkers, such as Auguste Blanqui:


Blanqui conceived of the bourgeois state as 'a gendarmerie of the rich against the poor'; its power rested upon the twin pillars of the military and the 'black army' (priests). While the former could suppress revolt by virtue of its superior mode of organization, the latter sustained reaction and passivity by the systematic inculcation of superstition and unreason (New Left Review Editorial Board 1971:27-28).


Blanqui also spoke of "the triumvirate of Loyola, Caesar, and Shylock" (Struik 1971:31). This alliance between the State and the Church in defense of ruling class prerogatives (which White gave expression to in his concept of the State-Church - 1959:303-28) has been expressed by several early writers, including Thomas Jefferson and Lewis Henry Morgan (both quoted by White 1964:xxxvii):


Jefferson: "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."


Morgan "It is singular as well as true that in all modern popular insurrections the populace strike simultaneously at the despot and the priest, at the palace and the church, because they are alike identified with oppression and misrule. The bishop and the priest are always found on the side of the privileged class, fully believing that if the common people get bread and salt they ought to be thankful and satisfied."


Finally, we may quote the 1733 will of one J. Messelier, of Paris:


I should like to see, and this will be the last and most ardent of my desires, I should like to see the last king strangled with the guts of the last priest (quoted in Wenke 1980:339).


[5] For critical evaluations of Engels's work, see Aaby 1977, Gough 1977, Harris 1968, Leacock 1972, Lane 1976, Sachs 1975, Schein and Lopate 1972. Curiously absent from most of the recent work on both state origins and the origins of women's oppression is any mention of Veblen (1953). Yet Veblen's theory of the leisure class and the subjection of women both confirms and amplifies that of Engels.


[6] Dunn has suggested that Engels also set forth a functional view of state origins, referring to:


a thesis of early Marxism (clearly expressed by Engels in Anti-Duhring) - conveniently forgotten in the meantime - namely, that the state began as an adaptive mechanism, serving the society as a whole, and only later was turned into an organ of class domination (1971:829; see also Classen and Skalnik 1978:7, Krader 1975:275, Engels 1939:197-201).


The two views, however, are not as contradictory as they may appear. If the ruling class fulfills certain socially beneficial functions through its state organization, this is only because without doing so it could not completely realize its aims. Just as the ruling class monopolizes the means of production in order to exploit the direct producers, so it monopolizes governmental functions for the same purpose. As Khazanov notes


two trends can be distinguished in the process of class formation: the first connected with the control and coordination of political and economic activities by the ruling stratum, which among other effects resulted in the latter gaining access to surplus and the second depended on the acquisition of a surplus by the direct exploitation of the producers (in particular slaves) . . . It is precisely in the early state that different forms of dependence and exploitation exist side by side, without the distinct and irreversible prevalence of any one of these. Such types of relation and institution as slavery, bondage, clientele, tributary, compulsory labor, different kinds of taxation, etc., can all be observed among them. Most, if not all, forms of dependence and exploitation in the early states went back to the preceding pre-state phase, however (1978:82-83, 86).


An emerging ruling class, in other words, is opportunistic in that it utilizes whatever means it can of exploiting surplus from the direct producers. Just as foraging societies utilize a variety of environmental resources to sustain their existence, so ruling classes exploit the direct producers in a variety of ways. In particular cases, one or another of these may predominate, but never to the exclusion of all others.


[7] For an evaluation of my views here, see Moseley and Wallerstein (1978:273-74). It may be stressed here, in answer to those critics who will claim my model is an simply exercise in morality and therefore not science, that my model, like the rest of historical materialism, is both testable and falsifiable. As Cornforth notes:


The fundamental laws which Marx formulated as governing social development similarly "forbid certain things to happen". They say that there must always be a certain kind of correspondence between forces of production and relations of production. This allows all manner of things to be done within the bounds of such correspondence, but denies the possibility of going outside those bounds. From the point of view of social action - or what Dr. Popper calls "social engineering" - it says what is possible and what is not possible. For example, to use all the resources of modern technology for human welfare is possible, but not without reconstituting property relations in correspondence with the social character of production - it is not possible to combine such use of resources with capitalist ownership and capitalist profit. What Marxism "forbids to happen" can be imagined as happening - indeed, in many democratic countries the principle political parties make a parade of such imaginings at every general election; but it never happens. If uninterrupted economic development were to be combined with capitalist enterprise and capitalist profit, then Marx's theory would be falsified - just as if a perpetual motion machine were built the laws of thermodynamics would be falsified (1968:20-21).


Similarly, to falsify the relationships hypothesized in this paper, it is merely necessary to find a society in which the leisure class that lives without participating in productive labor does not have at its command a definite set of exploitative techniques for extracting economic surplus from the direct producers and an organized system of violence and thought control to protect its wealth and privileges. Such societies exist only in the fantasies of the bourgeoisie and its apologists (see Dorfman and Mattelart 1975, Dorfman 1983), not in the reality that it is our obligation as scientists to understand.


[8] As Marx noted:


In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the material it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest. The English Established Church, e.g., will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 139 of its income. Now-a-days atheism itself is culpa levis, as compared with criticism of existing property relations (Marx 1965:10).


Much the same may be said of criticism of existing gender relations.


[9] Fleur-Lobban's definition of matriarchy appears reasonable: "That form of social organization in which descent is reckoned through the female line, the mother is head of the household, and the children belong to the maternal clan" (1979:341). It should be stressed that neither this definition nor the definition of any other major theorist of matriarchy (with the exception of Bachofen), requires that women have political power or that women use matriarchal power to oppress men (Webster 143-145). Briffault, for example, is quite explicit on this point (1931:179-181).


[10]In general, we understand by 'power' the chance of a man, or of a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action.” (Weber 1966:21, cf. Caplow 1971:26-27, Parsons 1966:240). We note that Weber uses the male noun for the holder of power but not for those whom he has power over (Parsons uses the more general "human" - 1966:240). It may also be noted that bourgeois social science is much more concerned with power than its necessary corollary, powerlessness.


[11] As Briffault notes:


The elder Cato refers in pretty clear terms to that legal establishment of male supremacy. "Our fathers," he says in his defense of the Lex Oppia, "have willed (uoluerunt) that women should be in the power of their fathers, of their brothers, of their husbands. Remember all the laws by which our fathers have bent them to the power of men. As soon as they are our equals, they become our superiors" (1931:305).


[12] Marx quotes one T.J. Dunning on capital's thirst for profits:


Capital is said by a Quarterly Reviewer to fly turbulence and strife, and to be timid, which is very true; but this is very incompletely stating the question. Capital eschews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent. will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent. certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent. positive audacity; 100 per cent. will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave-trade have amply proved all that is here stated (1965:760).


[13] As Burnham and Louie observe:


Yet the concrete forms of woman's oppression have differed greatly from one mode of production to another, and the variations in the oppression of women have been quite substantial among different societies which share the same basic mode of production and between different classes within the same society.


The inequality and oppression faced by women runs the gamut from the most gross and brutalizing experiences to the more subtle and insidious. Finding the connecting threads that bind these diverse phenomena into a comprehensive system of oppression and linking them to the patterns, dynamics and laws of motion of social development more generally has proven an elusive task (1985:6).


[14] In such cases, of course, the line between female "slaves" and "wives" obtained by abduction may be difficult to draw. In the case of the Yanomamo, for example, Chagnon writes:


Although few raids are initiated solely with the intention of capturing women, this is always a desired side benefit. A few wars, however, are started with the intention of capturing women. . . .Generally, however, the desire to abduct women does not lead to the initiation of hostilities between groups that have had no history of mutual raiding in the past. . . . Once raiding has begun between two villages, however, the raiders all hope to acquire women if the circumstances are such that they can flee without being discovered. . . . A captured woman is raped by all the men in the raiding party and, later, by the men in the village who wish to do so but did not participate in the raid. She is then given to one of the men as a wife. If the captured woman is related to her captors, she is not raped (1977:123, see also p. 41).


The importance of such captured women, of course, lies their labor power as much as their sexuality. Chagnon's statistics indicate that in the large, and therefore powerful, village of Patanowa-teri, 10% or more of wives are obtained by abduction, with somewhat smaller number obtained through alliances (most marriages follow prescriptive rules), for the "members of a militarily vulnerable village will breach the marriage prescriptions in order to establish political alliances with neighboring groups by ceding women to them" (1977:73). Chagnon further notes that giving away women is "the price a vulnerable group must pay for protection" (1977:120). To use women in this way, of course, involves significant denial of women's autonomy.


Although the treatment of women in Yanamamo society is in general bad (see Chagnon 1977:82-83), it must be worse for women obtained by capture or through alliances, for a woman "usually depends for protection on her brothers, who will defend her against a cruel husband" (1977:83).


[15] The male chauvinism that does exist among foragers is not comparable to that in patriarchal systems of class rule. As Fleur-Lobban remarks:


While hunter-gatherer societies are not entirely free of antagonism between men and women, the absence of a real base in the economic system for male superiority or female inferiority reduces such conflict to a minor irritation rather than a major societal contradiction (1979:347).


Similarly, Briffault notes


Patriarchal domination is the result of economic conditions which can only operate in comparatively advanced stages of culture. It is not, normally, the result of brute force. But in conditions of exceptional isolation from cultural influences, and where, as a consequence, a society in the lowest stages of material culture has remained at that level, masculine domination may in course of time be established violently and by sheer brutality, and also by the appropriation by the men of those magic function which, in the lower stage of culture, are chiefly exercised by the women (1931:207-08).


[16] Sociologists divide the theories of social stratification into "functional" and "conflict" theorists, but neither stresses than inequality can be eliminated. For this reason, I prefer to bifurcate social science into bourgeois theories, which may or may not criticize the status quo but which propose no real solutions, and radical theories, which not only criticize the status quo but stress the necessity of changing the world. Marxian socialism is, of course, the most powerful and comprehensive of the latter, but also important are feminist theories and Third World theories, such as liberation theology.


For a review of theories of social stratification from a traditional perspective, see Lenski 1966. For additional sources, see Bendix and Lipset 1966, Berreman 1981, Beteille 1969, Heller 1969.


[17] Religion, of course, continues to be a powerful force in maintaining class rule even in capitalism. Bellah, for example, refers to the collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals that exists outside the church and pervades and helps legitimate the national order as civil religion, and notes that God is invoked at almost every state or political occasion, including every presidential inaugural address, except Washington's second (1970:168-186). We may also note that every military unit has chaplains, priests, and rabbis attached to it, as do all our prisons. The importance of religion in maintaining class rule is evidenced by the statement of a protestant millionaire who, in donating a million dollars for the establishment of a Roman Catholic seminary in St. Paul, noted (as quoted by Josephson 1962:321):


Look at the millions of foreigners pouring into this country to whom the Roman Catholic Church represents the only authority that they either fear or respect. What will be their social view, their political action, their moral status if that single controlling force should be removed?


[18] Service has made the surprising claim that "there apparently was no class conflict resulting in forceful repression" in the early states (1975:285), choosing to ignore the evidence cited by White (1959:315-16). Fried has effectively refuted Service in this regard (1978:39-46).


[19] Feminist scholars have increasingly pointed to the idea that "the state is male in the feminist sense" (MacKinnon 1983:644), and to the relationship between the state and women's oppression (Sachs 1976, Rapp 1978, Rohrlich 1980, Gailey 1985).


Briffault, although noting that historic civilizations "all present more or less firmly established patriarchal organisations," also notes that


The social features of pre-patriarchal society have sometimes survived under conditions of advanced civilisation. This happened notably in Egypt. Down to the time when a dynasty of Greek rulers sought to introduce foreign usages, the conservative society of the great African kingdom, which has contributed so largely to the material and intellectual culture of the Western world, never lost the lineaments of a matriarchal social order (1931:273-74).


The Sengalese Egyptologist, Diop, has also argued, with supporting data, for a global division of peoples into Southerners (Egyptian and other African civilizations), who are matriarchal and peaceful, and Aryans (including Semites, Mongolians, and American Indians), who have patriarchal systems based on war and the suppression of women (1974).


In his chapter on "The Matriarchal Phase in Historical Civilizations," Briffault cites considerable evidence for the power of women in the family life of Egypt, and also discusses the early matriarchal phase in the development of Aegean and Roman civilizations. He also notes the intimate interrelationship between the class struggle and gender struggle:


The contest between the plebeians and patricians which occupies so considerable a place in early Roman history is not merely part of the eternal conflict between Disraeli's 'two nations,' the poor and the rich, but also a conflict between the two forms of organisation of human society, the primitive matriarchal order and the later patriarchal order, brought about by the development of property (1931:305).


[20] As Miranda notes


But in both Marx and the Bible the possibility of this definitive liberation is absolutely the basis of all the thinking. The most revolutionary historical thesis, in which, in contrast with all Western ideologies, the Bible and Marx coincide, is this: Sin and evil, which were later structured into an enslaving civilizing system, are not inherent to mankind and history; they began one day though a human work and can, therefore, be eliminated. The entire West has relegated this conviction to the archive of utopias (Miranda 1974:254-255).


[21] Socialism is clearly a cultural phenomenon, and nearly one third of our species lives in nations that are consciously attempting to build socialism. But I know of no introductory textbook in Anthropology that has any serious consideration of socialism, and only a few that even mention the topic. For a discipline that claims to understand "the full range of cultural settings" (Keesing 1981:4), this is curious, and can only be explained in Marxian terms (see Footnote 8.).



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