Three Stages in the First Human Revolution

The First Human Revolution : Three Stages in the Resolution of the Crisis of Endogamy-Linked Provisioning in the Transition to the Gentile Order

General References

Frederick Engels. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Volume 26, Marx-Engels Collected Works, pp.129-276

Chris Knight. Blood Relations. Menstruation and the Origins of Culture. Yale University Press, 1991. 580 pages.

Contents

(i) Engels’ Conception of the Development from Endogamy to the Exogamous Gentile Order in The Origin of the Family

(ii) Knight’s Conception of ‘The Revolution’ Giving Rise to Culture in Blood Relations

(iii) The Three Major Stages in the First Human Revolution

  (a) From Patriarchal Endogamy to the Consanguine Family

  (b) From the Consanguine Family to the Punaluan Family

  (c) Emergence of the Exogamous Gentile Order out of the Punaluan Family

(i) Engels’ Conception of the Development from Endogamy to the Exogamous Gentile Order in The Origin of the Family.

Engels (after Morgan in Ancient Society) notes that in the study of the evolution of the pre-monogamian family, we often find that the ‘system of consanguinity’ stands in contradiction to the actually existent family relations. This echoes back to the prior existence of an earlier, superseded form of the family. Thus with the Iroquois of the nineteenth century to the earlier Punaluan form and with the Hawaiians of the same period to the Consanguine form. Thus…

While the family continues to live, the system of consanguinity becomes ossified, and while this latter continues to exist in the customary form, the family outgrows it. (Engels, Origin of the Family, p.141. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 26)

The actual relations of the structure of the Hawaiian family of the first half of the nineteenth century corresponded with the system of consanguinity of the Iroquois in Morgan’s study….

According to the American system of consanguinity, to which the Hawaiian family corresponds, brother and sister cannot be the father and the mother of one and the same child; but the Hawaiian system of consanguinity presupposes a family in which this, on the contrary, was the rule. We are confronted with a series of forms of the family which directly contradict the forms hitherto generally accepted as being the only ones prevailing. (Engels, ibid, p.142)

Engels then writes that Morgan infers, in the prehistory of the family…

a primitive stage at which promiscuous intercourse prevailed within a tribe, so that every woman belonged equally to every man and every man to every woman (Engels, ibid, p.142)

Bachofen, in his researches, discovers ‘traces’ of a later stage of ‘group marriage’ and not this aboriginally endogamous form in which ‘every woman belonged equally to every man and every man to every woman’. Engels remarks that ‘group marriage’ is ‘the oldest, most primitive form of the family’ in which ‘whole groups of men and whole groups of women belong to one another’ (ibid, p.145) However..

the forms of group marriage known to us are accompanied by such peculiarly complicated conditions that they necessarily point to earlier, simpler forms of sexual behaviour and thus, in the last analysis, to a period of promiscuous intercourse coinciding with the period of transition from animality to humanity (Engels, p.146)

On the next two pages (pp.146-7), Engels goes on to explain what he means by ‘promiscuous sexual intercourse’ which for us today would be equivalent to incestuous sex but for people many thousands of years ago was not seen as abnormal until prohibitions were imposed and the very notion of incest then emerges and becomes established in relations between people. It would not be inaccurate to describe these relations as ‘endogamous’ when we consider the life of the troupe or distinct communal group prior to the formation of the exogamous clan system. Parents could sleep with their sons and daughters and it would have been customary for siblings to sleep with each other.

With the emergence of sex prohibitions, the circle of those who could participate in ‘group marriages’ narrowed. With prohibition on parent-offspring sex, it was generally an intragenerational practice and later, with sibling prohibitions (maternal and collateral), it became an exogamous practice between males and females of different clans (gentes).

Engels (after Morgan) cites the ‘consanguine family’ as the first stage of the family to emerge out of the previously existent, endogamous ‘original condition of promiscuous intercourse’. This initial stage of the family presupposes the emergence of the prohibition on parent-offspring sex, that is, intergenerational sex so that the major feature of the consanguine family is the establishment of intragenerational sex to the exclusion of intergenerational forms. The men and women of each generation are all mutual husbands and wives so that sibling sex, at this stage, is not outlawed. Maternal brothers and sisters and collateral siblings (for example, offspring related through different mothers – who are themselves sisters – but with a common grandmother or great-grandmother) are all marriage partners. Fathers cannot sleep with their daughters or mothers and mothers cannot sleep with their sons or fathers. The conclusion that this consanguine form of the family…

must have existed, however, is forced upon us by the Hawaiian system of consanguinity, still prevalent throughout Polynesia, which expresses degrees of consanguinity such as can arise only under such a form of the family; and we are forced to the same conclusion by the entire further development of the family, which postulates this form as a necessary preliminary stage. (bold emphasis Engels, ibid, p.148)

We have here, accordingly, the move from a more to a less endogamous state of affairs in which sibling sex remains permitted but sex between parents and offspring is prohibited. We can describe this state as ‘semi-endogamous’ in that a restriction has been placed on the previously more ‘universal’ state of sexual affairs. Hence, ‘semi-endogamous’ here merely denotes a form of the family as a stage in the transition to exogamous relations in that a previously established set of endogamous relations has become prohibited.

The next advance in the evolution of the family, according to Engels, is the prohibition on sex between siblings. Initially this is imposed between maternal siblings (brothers and sisters with the same mother) and only later between ‘collateral siblings’, that is, between what we would call ‘cousins’ and, increasingly, not only of the first degree. Engels remarks that where ‘inbreeding was restricted’ this facilitated the ‘fuller and more rapid development’ of the tribe. The exogamous gentile system with its constitution arises directly out of these succeeding stages of development containing their specifically associated sex prohibitions.

En passant, we must note the deleterious effects of ‘inbreeding’ on the genetic and physiological constitution of people. This tends to facilitate genetically-linked disease such as so-called ‘inborn errors of metabolism’. The physically healthiest children tend to be those whose parents are ‘furthest away’ from each other in the ‘human gene pool’. Children of ‘mixed race’, etc. Those who are the result of the ‘closest unions’ tend to be the least healthy physically. As an historical example, the records and accounts that have come down to us of the ancient Egyptian and Ptolemaic dynasties gives us the best historical illustrations of this latter point. And this applies to other royal dynasties, ancient and relatively modern, such as the Hapsburgs, where it was thought that ‘keeping the blood pure’ served to ‘maintain the line’. In fact, it only served to encourage disease and genetically-linked disorder, that is, to push ‘the line’ towards ‘extinction’. The advocated methods of the now discredited eugenicist ‘improvers’ of ‘racial stock’, which inspired the Nazis, would, if carried to their logical conclusions, have merely produced the opposite effects intended. It would have concentrated and disseminated genetic disease and disorders, spreading it through populations and increasing the possible incidence of these diseases and disorders down the generations. On the contrary, the human beings of the future generations will be the children of miscegenation and biologically healthier for it.

We cannot assume that this correlation between ‘closeness of blood in breeding’ and ‘child illness’ became recognised from thousands of years of experience in our prehistoric ancestors. They may have attributed divine reasons for such forms of sickness. However, we cannot discount the possibility that our prehistoric ancestors became aware, as a result of generations of experience, that the intermarriage of ‘close blood’ often gave rise to sickly offspring and this was repeated down the generations. Even today, in some cultures, ‘close marriages’, such as between first or second cousins, repeatedly and disproportionately breed children with inherited disorders of metabolism or other genetically-linked diseases and disorders.

If we accept that many previous generations, before the establishment of a developed system of exogamy, produced offspring which were the progeny of ‘incestuous’ couplings, then can we not also consider the possibility that this was also recognised, in later generations, as a practice producing, on a regular basis, ‘sickly children’ who ‘failed to thrive’? Moreover, that those children who were the offspring of more distant relatives (or of those of no recognisable ‘blood affiliation’) tended to be healthier and fitter and so tended to survive? And would our prehistoric ancestors later have recognised this and have acted on this experience and knowledge in their sexual and marital relations with each other?

The prohibition on maternal sibling sex gives rise to the formation of a higher form of the family. The consanguine family gives way to the punaluan family. Sex between collateral siblings remains ‘lawful’ initially but the development of this form takes place on the basis of the establishment of the two previous major prohibitions. In this way, the punaluan family emerges from the consanguine family. The development and dissolution of the punaluan family forms the point of departure for the later development of the gentile system. The essential characteristic of the punaluan family was the…

mutual community of husbands and wives within a definite family circle, from which, however, the brothers of the wives—first the natural brothers, and later the collateral brothers also—were excluded, the same applying conversely to the sisters of the husbands. (Engels, The Origin of the Family, p.149)

Within the consanguine family all the children of a given generation are regarded as brothers and sisters without the need for a differentiation into male and female cousins. Likewise, those of the older generation are the ‘mothers and fathers’ of the full complement of children of the next generation without the need for the categories of ‘uncles and aunts’. The emergence of the punaluan family introduces new relations with the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. As before, the biological children of a given mother are related as maternal siblings. However collateral siblings (children of different mothers who formerly related as ‘brothers and sisters’ in the consanguine family) now become divided into two categories of ‘cousin’. The category of ‘collateral siblings’ (maternal cousins) remains where such children share the same grandmother through a set of maternal sisters. However, a second category of ‘cousin’ is created in which the children of maternal brothers (brothers with the same mother) on the one hand, and those of their maternal sisters, on the other, cannot be ‘brothers and sisters’ but rather become related as male and female cousins. This, of course, simultaneously creates the new classes of nephews and nieces with uncles and aunties. Hence we now have maternal siblings (offspring who share the same mother), ‘collateral siblings’ (the children who share a common grandmother through a group of sisters who are the daughters of this grandmother) and, thirdly, the children of the brothers and their wives of a different lineage on the one hand, and those of the brothers’ sisters (and their husbands of a different lineage) who share a mother with these brothers, on the other, who can no longer have sex, now relate as male and female ‘first cousins’.

Within the punaluan form, only the maternity of the children is definite because of group marriage and hence descent and kinship is matrilineal. The punaluan family in its final period of development becomes the precursor for the emergence of the gens ‘in its original form’. Engels writes that…

In by far the majority of cases the institution of the gens seems to have originated directly from the punaluan family. To be sure, the Australian class system also offers a starting-point for it: the Australians have gentes; but they have not yet the punaluan family; they have a cruder form of group marriage. (Engels, ibid, p.151)

Thus…

if we take from the punaluan family one of the two typical groups — namely, that consisting of a number of natural and collateral sisters (i.e., those descendant from natural sisters of the first, second or more remote degree), together with their children and their natural or collateral brothers on the mother’s side (who according to our premiss are not their husbands), we obtain exactly that circle of persons who later appear as members of a gens in the original form of this institution. They all have a common ancestress, whose female descendants, generation by generation, are sisters by virtue of descent from her. These sisters’ husbands, however, can no longer be their brothers, i.e., cannot be descended from this ancestress, and, therefore, do not belong to the consanguineous group, later the gens; but their children do belong to this group, since descent on the mother’s side alone is decisive, because it alone is certain. Once the proscription of sexual intercourse between all brothers and sisters, including even the most remote collateral relations on the mother’s side, becomes established, the above group is transformed into a gens — i.e., constitutes itself as a defined circle of blood relatives in the female line, who are not allowed to marry one another; from now on it increasingly consolidates itself through other common institutions of a social and religious character, and differentiates itself from the other gentes of the same tribe. We shall deal with this in detail later. If, however, we find that the gens not only necessarily, but even obviously, evolved out of the punaluan family, then there is ground for assuming almost for certain that this form of the family used to exist among all peoples for whom gentile institutions can be established — i.e., virtually all barbarian and civilised peoples. (Engels, ibid, p.152)

The gens, accordingly, in its original form, evolves out of the punaluan family.

It consists of…

all persons who, by virtue of punaluan marriage and in accordance with the conceptions necessarily predominating therein, constitute the recognised descendants of a definite individual ancestress, the founder of the gens. Since paternity is uncertain in this form of the family, female lineage alone is valid. Since the brothers may not marry their sisters, but only women of different descent, the children born of such alien women fall, according to mother right, outside the gens. Thus, only the offspring of the daughters of each generation remain in the body of consanguinei, while the offspring of the sons go over into the gentes of their mothers. (Engels, ibid, p191)

Mothers call all the children of the gens their children and yet they know their own biological children from the others in the gens. The children of sisters are collateral brothers and sisters and members of the same matrilineal gens. However the children of maternal brothers and those of their sisters become related as ‘cousins’ in different clans. For the woman, her brothers’ children are in a different matrilineal clan from hers (and therefore are her nephews and nieces) whilst her sisters’ children are ‘her children’ in the same clan as her ‘biological’ children which is also the clan of her maternal brothers. This means that all ‘her children’ are the cousins of her brothers’ children. Likewise, for the man, his sisters’ children are in a different clan (they are in his clan ) from those of his ‘biological’ children (who are in the clan of his wives) whilst his brothers’ children are likewise in his wives’ clan where communities still consist of only two clans (gentes). A man’s brothers are ‘group married’ to women of the same clan and generation as his wives with whom he may share with his brothers. This is why in the punaluan form and the later gentile order, based on matrilineal descent, the man ‘feels closer’ to his sisters’ children than to his own because of clan attachment. They are in the same clan as himself but his own biological children are in a different clan, that is, in their mother’s clan as a result of kinship through matrilineal descent.

The prohibition of marriage between ‘cousins’ in the later stages of the punaluan family leads on to its dissolution into the exogamous gentile system which developed on the basis of this widening circle of prohibitions. The range of individuals who could ‘group marry’ became progressively narrower, as a result of prohibitions, and this facilitated the tendency towards the more stable ‘pairing marriage’ arrangement and the breakdown of group marriage as an age-old practice. ‘Pairing’ had taken place sporadically throughout times prior to the formation of the gentile system. However, with the emergence and development of this exogamous system, it became, increasingly, the dominant form of marriage which supplanted group marriage in intergentile relations. This represented a major break with any remaining punaluan practices which is finalised with the prohibition on marriage between all blood relatives so gentes become strictly exogamous whilst remaining matrilineal. Engels remarks that..

the evolution of the family in prehistoric times consisted in the continual narrowingof the circle—originally embracing the whole tribe—within which marital communitybetween the two sexes prevailed. By the successive exclusion, first of closer, then of ever more remote relatives, and finally even of those merely related by marriage, every kind of group marriage was ultimately rendered practically impossible; and in the end there remained only the couple, for the moment still loosely united, the molecule, with the dissolution of which marriage itself ceases completely. (Engels, ibid, p.157)

Accordingly, in the course of development, group marriage is progressively eliminated and replaced by the pairing arrangement of the couple which is not, initially, strictly monogamous but increasingly the male demands fidelity from the woman. However, in regard to the household as a whole, the pairing family continues to exist within the conditions of the households of the gentile order. Only later is it able to outgrow these ancient communistic households, establish itself and subsist as an independent household in the form of the patriarchal and monogamian families. Thus Engels remarks that the ‘pairing family’…

too weak and unstable to make an independent household necessary, or even desirable, did not by any means dissolve the communistic household inherited from earlier times. But the communistic household implies the supremacy of women in the house, just as the exclusive recognition of a natural mother, because of the impossibility of determining the natural father with certainty, signifies high esteem for the women, i.e. for the mothers. (Engels, Origin of the Family, pp.157-8)

The ‘communistic household’ of the gentile system was a matrilineal householdnot simply in terms of its kinship but also in terms of social control. Women were the rulers in the household which was that of their gens, not that of their husbands’ who belonged elsewhere in their own gentes. Men married into these households from other gentes and could be ejected from them if they did not ‘do their share’ of provisioning for the household or their behaviour was unacceptable to the women of the household. Men then had to return to their own clans or try to ingratiate themselves matrimonially with others. In Wright’s study of the Iroquois…

The women were the great power among the clans (gentes), as everywhere else. They did not hesitate, when occasion required, … to knock off the horns, as it was technically called, from the head of the chief and send him back to the ranks of the warriors. (Engels, p.158, The Origin of the Family, quoting Asher Wright from Morgan’s Ancient Society)

The matrilineal communistic household was the foundation of the gentile system. Beyond the pairing marital system within the communistic household lies the independent household of the patriarchal and monogamian families. Engels, after Bachofen, writes that the transition to the monogamian form was actually initiated by women (pp.161-2)…Only after the transition to pairing marriage had been effected by the women could themen introduce strict monogamy—for the women only, of course. (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 26, p.162)

We have seen how right Bachofen was when he regarded the advance from group marriage to individual marriage chiefly as the work of women; only the advance from pairing marriage to monogamy can be placed to the men’s account, and, historically, this consisted essentially in a worsening of the position of women and in the facilitation of infidelity on the part of the men. (Engels, p.188)

The emergence of pastoralism – the domestication and breeding of animals – and later field agriculture, undermined the old hunting way of life and was the main socio-historical driving force for the establishment of the transitional patriarchal form of the family headed by the man. From being the hunters of animals, the men now became their keepers, at first on behalf of the whole gens, and later, their owners. It was this ownership of the herds and the growing wealth associated with it which enabled men to wrest power in the household from the hands of the women…

Thus, as wealth increased, it, on the one hand, gave the man a more important status in the family than the woman, and, on the other hand, created a stimulus to utilise this strengthened position in order to overthrow the traditional order of inheritance in favour of the children. But this was impossible as long as descent according to mother right prevailed. This had, therefore, to be overthrown, and it was overthrown. It was not so difficult to do this as appears to us now. For this revolution—one of the most far-reaching ever experienced by mankind—did not have to affect one single living member of a gens. All the members could remain what they had been previously. The simple decision sufficed that in future the descendants of the male members should remain in the gens, but that those of the females were to be excluded from the gens by being transferred to that of their father. The reckoning of descent through the female line and the right of inheritance through the mother were thus overthrown and male lineage and right of inheritance from the father instituted. (Engels, pp.164-5)

Engels called this revolution, the ‘overthrow of mother right’, the ‘world-historic defeat of the female sex’. He describes the transitional form of the family from ‘pairing marriage’ to ‘monogamy’ (after Kovalevsky) as the ‘patriarchal family’ (p.165ff). In this form, in order to try to guarantee the paternity of the children, the patriarch exercises strict control over women; they are ‘placed in the man’s absolute power’. Women must now marry into the men’s family and gens, a reversal of the previous, age-old matrilineal exogamous system which now becomes patrilineal exogamy. The ‘patriarchal family’…

constituted the transition stage between the mother-right family which evolved out of group marriage and the individual family of the modern world. This appears to be proved at least as far as the civilised peoples of the Old World, the Aryans and Semites, are concerned (Engels, p.167)

(ii) Knight’s Conception of ‘The Revolution’ Giving Rise to Culture in Blood Relations

We focus here, in this second section, on a general conspectus of the relevant parts of chapter nine of Knight’s book Blood Relations (pp.281-326) This, of course, is not to discount the very important preceding and succeeding sections of the book but merely to draw the attention of the reader, by way of a summary, however inadequate it may be, to that part of the text which is necessary and applicable for the purposes of this brief article.

Prior to the events of the ‘revolution’ which gave rise to human culture no more than 70,000 years ago, our ancestors had ‘established movable but semi-permanent, well-provisioned base camps……that could be situated almost anywhere and no longer depended for their existence on localised foraging relations or the produce of females and their offspring’ (Knight, p.281, Blood Relations). As ‘big game’ hunting emerged in the Ice Age (‘take-off’ point for this type of hunting was no more than 50,000 years ago), human females increasingly used sex as a means of ‘exchange’ for meat to feed their children and sustain themselves as pregnant, nursing and camp-based women. The ‘sex-for-meat’ relation became established between males and females and, specifically, between hunting males and women offering sex in exchange. Male hunting to provide food in exchange for sex became a central relation within the group. Women used ‘ovulatory synchrony’ and the tactic of the ‘sex strike’ to ensure that this relation was strictly followed whilst the hunters were out of camp and other males such as elders and brothers, etc, may still, for whatever reasons, have been around and not on the hunt. Knight remarks that women ‘collectively refused sex whenever meat supplies were exhausted or men attempted to approach without meat’ (p.283). Menstruation served as a visual ‘no’ signal to any approaching males who remained in camp during the period of the hunt.

The ‘troupe’, prior to the ‘first human revolution’, remains dominated by a single male or group of males (‘alpha males’) who control sexual access to females (a harem system). Here, the subversive role of the hunters with their ‘kills’ in the hunt comes into play as ‘they are beginning to use their meat gifts to subvert the dominance of any males…..’ (Knight, p.284). The dominant males tend not to be systematic hunters because they need to remain camp-based in order to control and monopolise the sexual access to women.

This scenario denotes an established structure where women requiring meat for themselves and their offspring are under the control of males who cannot provision them directly and yet those who can directly provide meat as a result of hunting tend to be limited in their sexual access to them by the dominant males running the camp who do not hunt. The dominant males are ‘poor hunters’ (not systematically hunting as an intrinsic aspect of their mode of life) and, therefore, must also be poor providers for their controlled females who cannot ‘access other males’ meat’ without the permission of these ‘alpha males’ controlling the harem set-up.

A crisis emerges and unfolds : ‘females are…. attached to males of the wrong kind…..males with access to meat have no sex, while sexually privileged males are cut off – along with the females they control – from supplies of meat’ (p.284). Obviously a social ‘structural crisis’ of a sort at the dawn of human culture; a crisis of and in the very structure of the relationship between sexual access/availability and the provisioning of the means of survival. The resolution of the crisis lies in the creation of an alliance between the subordinate hunters and controlled women, to come together and overthrow the rule of the ‘alphas’ (the haremistas). The women use and develop the synchronisation of their menstrual cycles and ‘sex striking’ in solidarity with the armed hunter males to disempower the old dominating patriarchs. ‘The revolution begins here’ (p.284). The haremistas are overthrown and the formerly dominated parties (both males and females) come into their own and establish new, more egalitarian, relations based on the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm.

Knight writes that males then ‘harmonised’ their hunting expeditions with the period of fertility of the camped females (roughly between ovulation and menstruation) so that they were not away on the hunt when females were most fertile between ovulation and menstruation. It was ‘in their genetic interests to be coming home with meat when the females were most ready for them’ (p.285). This meant that the hunt took place within and around the period of menstruation. Physiologically, menstruation takes place when the thickened, richly blood-supplied wall of the endometrium (womb) breaks down on a monthly basis and is discharged from the uterus by non-pregnant women. It lasts from three to five days every month, commencing at puberty and ending at the menopause. Women in camp synchronise their cycles not only as part of the sex strike tactic; they do so in order to be sexually ready, collectively, for the men as they come home from the hunt with their kills. After arriving home, a period of feasting and ‘festivities’ begins. This serves further to undermine the previous form of patriarchal rule.

The formerly dominant alpha males are effectively marginalised (or forced into a new hunting way of wife in consonance with the ‘revolutionary’ hunters) in the course of the ‘revolution’. They could have been driven out or even killed. If we accept that they were forced into compliance with the ‘new order’, they now have to ‘provide’ as well rather than living a leisured existence where other men provide the food and subservient, dependent women attend to their sexual needs. The new relationship of ‘meat-for sex’ is more productive than the older primate legacies of male dominance and serves to facilitate the development of the group as a whole. The group can establish more semi-permanent or permanent camps rather than having to be on the move all the time. The general mobility of females was reduced with the formation of semi-permanent home bases as hunting males went out and brought back the kills. Knight remarks that an advantage of the sex strike would have been to ‘reassure sexually anxious hunters that prolonged absences would not be taken advantage of……..by rival stay-at-home males’ (p.287). The possibilities for attempted or actual transgressions are evident here. But Knight does not appear to address this in detail. Something, and the significance of which, we will discuss later in the article.

As a consequence of these changes, culture emerges as a ‘genuinely collective agreement to secure adherence’ (Knight, p.296) to the newly-emergent rules. Specifically, the ‘rule’ (the social paradigm, the basic operative principle and framework) of ‘meat-for-sex’ is central because it serves – with a guarantee or a kind of ‘insurance’ and a lesser degree of caprice and instability compared to the previous patriarchal harem relations – both to feed and nourish the young, the next generation, and to ensure that generations can be propagated one after another thereby creating and developing the traditions of culture itself. The ‘revolution’ created new relations in which ‘hunters won for themselves collective sexual security – without struggles for dominance, without ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, without fear of complete sexual appropriation’ (p.301) and women and children became emancipated from the oppressive relations and material dependence of harem-existence. Sexual relations became more egalitarian whilst, at the same time, with the regular hunt, all, especially the children, were better nourished and could enjoy, collectively, the life of the human group as a whole. Both labour and sex started out on a path of emancipation from their ancestral primate modes of existence. Sex was ‘democratised’; society now started to determine and control the allotment and distribution of sex according to a new paradigm rather than sex determining and controlling the hierarchical structure of a male-dominated, haremated troupe passed down for generations from the ancestral primate past.

Knight states that his ‘model…. accounts for the culturally enshrined incest taboo …..explaining the ‘totemic’ equation of incest avoidance rules with rules governing the distribution of meat’ (p.301). Females repel any sexual advances from non-hunting males, including their own, non-hunting male relatives such as ‘sons’, ‘brothers’ and ‘fathers’. The ‘sex strike’ – as experienced directly by women’s male blood relatives – becomes the basis for the origination of incest taboos. Women will not ‘break the strike’ for anybody because the appropriation of meat for the feeding of themselves and their young depends on it. This undermines traditionally established endogamous relations in the patriarchal troupe where the very concept of incest did not exist because sexual relations ‘between blood’ were practiced. Knight’s model simply presupposes that women ‘remained consistently faithful to the logic of a meat-gaining strategy which was already established in their own material and economic interests’ (p.301). The essential purpose of the ‘sex strike’ was to sexually marginalise all non-hunting males and sexually embrace those who hunted and provided meat.

Furthermore, the monthly female sex strikes were ‘conducted by women in alliance with male and female offspring and directed ‘against’ ‘in-marrying husbands/fathers’. This produced an ‘exclusively matrilineal kinship solidarity’ implying, from its beginnings, ‘matriliny as central to culture’s initial situation’ (p.306). He notes the ‘general finding that matrilineal moiety systems must be given both logical and historical primacy…’ (pp.306-7) and further states that ‘matrilineal exogamy could theoretically allow a man to have sex with his daughter because she is in the same clan as her mother and should logically be just as available’ (p.307).

Knight explains the father-daughter sex prohibition on the basis of his model. Mothers would want their daughters to marry hunting men of their daughters’ generation because they would bring in extra meat to the ‘extended household’. Meat already brought in by the women’s hunting husbands would therefore be supplemented by this additional supply. In order to comply with the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, fathers taking their daughters sexually would mean that their kills would have to be shared amongst both wives and daughters and that the men of the younger generation would be sexually marginalised. Hence, the father-daughter prohibition emerged out of the need to consolidate this rule and also socially develop the household. On the basis of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, the continuation of sex between father and daughter would have actually undermined this social development by curtailing the supply of meat to the household. Knight writes that this would have been ‘counter-revolutionary’ because ‘older males’ additional sexual privileges would have been at the expense of younger males being denied sexual access to women of their own age’. This would have also undermined ‘women’s strategy to maximise the harnessing of male labour power’ and so ‘such monopolisation of many females by small numbers of older males could not conceivably be permitted’ (p.308)

Obviously, this, according to Knight’s model, would have been an attempt to revert to the old ‘harem system’ with dominant and submissive males and dependent females which had already been overthrown previously. In this way, Knight’s model explains why the ‘theoretical permissibility’ of a father’s sexual access to his daughter ‘in the same clan as her mother’ is ‘trumped’ by the need to consolidate and extend the newly-established relations born of the first human revolution. To extend and augment the supply of food and the material means of life to the community. And, furthermore, to guard against any ‘counter-revolutionary’ tendencies to re-establish the old, endogamous system of patriarchal relations based on male dominance of other males and keeping the women of the group in a state of oppression and subservient dependence.

However, on reflection, once the taboo on parent-offspring sex had become socio-culturally assimilated – especially under conditions of group marriage where sex with the women of the next generation would have been recognised as very possibly sex with ‘one’s own blood’ – this would have been a deterrent to having sex with the women of the younger generation in the family or, later, the gens of the men’s wives. It would have been understood that such younger women could be these men’s daughters and this would have served to act as a deterrent and to reinforce an established prohibition. And this regardless of a man’s daughters being in another family or clan. Moreover, it would have reinforced the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm as a ‘within generation’ condition and practice. The presentation of ‘hunting kills’ to the females of the younger generation would have transgressed this aspect of the paradigm. Sex, accordingly, with the younger generation would have been culturally assimilated as ‘out of rule’ because it contravened this intrinsically associated aspect of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and would have been viewed as a shameful act where a man was possibly ‘eating his own flesh’.

The paternity of the children in prehistory was always uncertain because of group marriage. Ostensibly, it only becomes ‘less uncertain’ with the establishment of the patriarchal and monogamian forms of the family. However, in truth, paternity has always retained a certain degree of doubtfulness down the ages and can now, only today at the start of the 21st century, be scientifically verified or refuted as a result of genetic testing. If women have ‘multiple partners’, regardless of marital status, then paternity may remain doubtful until resolved otherwise by DNA testing. Today, a simple genetic test can give an anxious, ‘hard-working family man’ the ‘peace of mind’ as to whether he has been cuckolded or not.

The nature of group marriage renders the paternity of the children uncertain. The individual biological father of the children in prehistory could not be definitely identified. Moreover, people did not feel the need to do so within a ‘group marriage’ and matrilineal situation. Within the exogamy of the matrilineal gentile (clan) system, preceding the pairing marriage arrangement, who could and could not sleep with whom in the other gentes was a circumscribed matter according to prohibition and custom. Under conditions of group marriage and under the imposed prohibition on parent-offspring sex, sleeping with women of a younger generation could actually have meant sleeping with one’s own daughter. To use a current euphemism, attempting to sleep with the women of the younger generation may have been a ‘frowned upon’. Once the prohibition on parent-offspring sex was established, it must have quickly become an intergenerational barrier to sexual relations between one generation and the next, regardless of established or newly emerged relations. Once such a taboo was imposed and accepted ‘as rule’, it must have become custom, in the least, but perhaps not strictly prohibited, not to sleep with the daughters of the women to whom a man had common sexual access with other men in group marriage. The ambiguity of the situation then reflected in the social mentality and psychology of prehistoric communities must have been a deterrent to such a practice.

A man could sleep with all the women of his generation in the consanguine family, as Engels asserts, but later this excluded maternal sisters in the punaluan family and an even widening circle of blood relatives in the gentile system. Eventually, the gentile system tended towards marriage in which no blood relation could be proven. The maternity of sons, from the earliest times of human culture, meant that sex between sons and their mothers was, indeed must have been, the very first to be outlawed. Under the conditions of group marriage, where younger women were the daughters of the women to whom men had common sexual access in a group marriage, sex between men and these women of the next, younger generation would have tended to be prohibited because these women were very possibly their own daughters. Group marriage, therefore, would have served to reinforce (this ambiguity of paternity would have helped) this first prohibition on sex between parents and offspring and, accordingly, would have acted as a deterrent on sexual activity with these younger females because of the possibility of these women being the daughters of these men of the older generation. This is why the taboo on intergenerational sex would have held under conditions of group marriage.

(iii) The Three Major Stages in the First Human Revolution

  (a) From Patriarchal Endogamy to the Consanguine Family

  (b) From the Consanguine Family to the Punaluan Family

  (c) The Emergence of the Exogamous Gentile Order out of the Punaluan Family

We have endeavoured, very briefly, in the previous two sections, to cover both Engels’ and Knight’s conceptions of the origins of culture. The following subdivided section is an attempt to bring their conceptions into closer relationship with each other. Any real or implied conflicts between the two conceptions can be identified in the course of elaborating the content of this third section and, perhaps, be resolved and reconciled. We are not actively seeking to counterpose the two conceptions but to see how they ‘work together’, in a certain sense to ‘play with’ these ideas and to see how, or if, they can be brought together into a ‘synthesis’ in terms of the sequencing of stages of development and overall conception.

(a) From Patriarchal Endogamy to the Consanguine Family

Patriarchal endogamy – in which every sexually active male potentially belongs to every sexually active female and vice versa regardless of status, age or generation – gives us a picture of a generalised promiscuity within which the notion of incest is absent. Dominant males of the older generation not only control sexual access to the females of the group but also dominate the younger generation of males. This younger generation of males, as they grew to manhood, would be fitter and tend to be or become the leading hunters of the group. The older generation of males dominates the mode of life of the troupe and controls, besides sexual access, the distribution of food on the basis of allegiance and alliance. These allegiances could take the form of sexual favouritism and ‘favoured’ male offspring who may be in line for succession to the ‘alpha’ positions. In other words, as far as food availability is concerned, the dominant, older males would have prioritised favoured females and those males who would defend the established patriarchal endogamy because they know that they would some day be dominant in such a system, that is, would be in line for ‘succession’. Females in such a system of relations are dependent and subservient and a significant number of males would be ‘sidelined’ with a lesser status to those males dominating the troupe. Those ‘sons’ favoured by the harem patriarchs were their allies because they were expected to succeed them. These younger ‘aspiring’ males allied themselves (in opposition to the body of hunters as a whole) with the harem patriarchs as a ploy to accession to dominance and the control of the harem and provisioning when the older generation died and they, as a caste, succeeded them. So how did the ‘patriarchs’ maintain this level of control over the troupe? Can we envisage a situation where hunters were given limited sexual access to women on condition that they surrendered the proceeds of the hunt to the dominant males?

We have a scenario where the hunting males under this regime of patriarchal endogamy have no priority as far as sexual access is concerned. This priority is in the hands of the dominant camp-based older generation males. Hence there is a polarisation not simply in terms of sexual access for males but also in the relation where dominant males need to appropriate food from its source, that is, from those males who have successfully gone out beyond the camp to hunt. On the one hand, the dominant males have sexual access to females (and control this access) but are not the provisioners of food for the women and their children. On the other hand, the subservient hunting males have the learned capacity and food to feed the troupe, the women and their children but are without direct access to sex which is controlled by the ‘alpha males’ [1]. At this stage, there are no established sex prohibitions. We are in the midst of the patriarchal endogamous troupe.

The ‘alphas’ control the distribution of the proceeds of the kills according to criteria just mentioned. Control, it seems, could only have been exercised by dominant males through their role as ‘middlemen’ or ‘gatekeepers’ between the world of the hunt and the world of sex. Brute armed force alone would not have been sufficient. Alpha males who appropriated the proceeds of the hunt then apportioned the meat according to their own sexual and ‘political’ interests. Those who hunt surrender their catch to the dominant males of the older generation but for what in exchange? Simply for the ‘right’ to eat? But surely they would eat when away from the camp before surrendering any kills? Or perhaps for a limited and restricted access to females for sex when returning to the camp? In terms of sex, these hunters must have taken a subservient place. And this ‘sexual sidelining’ would have taken place despite the fact that they (the hunters of a younger generation) were central in provisioning the whole troupe as a result of their hunting activities. A state of iniquity between the hunters of the younger generation and the non-hunting alphas of the older one must have persisted for a period of time. The hunters were armed for the hunt, of course. However, can we visualise the dominant males being unarmed when we consider their role in the troupe? Surely not. This scenario – an established set of age-old social structures and relations – must have been associated with ongoing tensions and conflicts between the different generations of males, between the hunters and alphas, which would have become exacerbated and sharpened under certain conditions. For example, in periods where food resources were scarce or the female-male gender balance in the troupe was out of kilter. If the alpha males were appropriating all the available food and controlling sexual access to females in periods of ‘dearth’, this would have polarised the members of the troupe, sharpened conflict and could easily have lead to internecine warfare. Hunter males could have allied themselves with dependent, some possibly starving and neglected females and their children in order to overthrow the age-old set of patriarchal relations based on endogamy-linked provisioning. Here, as in future scenarios, we can see that it is the ‘class’ of ‘producers’ or ‘providers’ (hunting males and working/breeding females) who are the ‘revolutionary element’ in social change and the ‘idlers’, who own and/or control the social landscape, who are its ‘reactionary’ side. A coalition of dependent females and sidelined males, probably largely of the same generation, overthrows a caste of older ruling parasitic males, again largely of the same generation.

The provisioning priorities of the older patriarchs would have generated opposition from the broad party of women, with or without children, pregnant, nursing or not. The hunters whose activity was the source of this provisioning of food were ‘sidelined’ or ‘at the back of the queue’ as far as sexual access was concerned. And the women and their children were not prioritised in the distribution of the proceeds of kills. In times of dearth, they would have hungered and even starved with their children whilst the patriarchs attended to their priorities such as sexual favourites or ‘political’ allies. This was an explosive situation which could only be resolved through revolutionary measures. The first stage of the first human revolution opened up. This could be viewed as one credible scenario but the operative principles of the ‘revolution’ could have unfolded in similar situations where the provisioners (the hunters) were without regular, direct access to sex and a significant portion of the women and children of the troupe were without direct access to the proceeds of the hunt, to meat, whilst the alpha males used the differential distribution of food and sex to control the life of the troupe according to their own material and sexual interests.

As soon as subjugated males and dependent females co-operate in order to secure their mutual interests (meat and sex) against this endogamous system of dominance, they come into conflict with the alpha males of the older dominating generation and confront it as the collective representation of a new order which threatens the old. This is the point of revolution and the beginnings of the resolution of the ‘structural crisis’ of endogamy-linked provisioning within the troupe. The revolution by-passes the ruling middlemen patriarchs and establishes new, direct relations unmediated by the control of these patriarchs. The harem system is undermined and disintegrates into a more egalitarian set of sexual relations. Sex is ‘democratised’. This is the point of departure for the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule as a direct relation between males and females without the mediation of harem-controlling dominant males.

Prior to this first stage of the revolution, the ‘meat-for-sex’ principle was not operative in such a direct form because sexual access was not a function of meat provisioning but based on the dominance of certain males within the troupe. Those who provided the meat as a result of their hunting activities were not first in the queue for sex but rather those who were physically bigger, more muscular, more aggressive, etc, and they could use these ‘natural qualities’ in order to dominate and control sexual access to women. Such a control of sexual access was used to guarantee the appropriation of the proceeds of the hunt. Not only did they have a certain patriarchal control over sexual access to the females but they could, by this pre-eminent ‘alpha’ position, have also controlled access to the proceeds of the hunt in terms of the distribution of food to selective or to all the members of the troupe but with quantitatively and qualitatively differential apportioning according to status and the character of their relationship to the recipients. ‘Political supporters’ and ‘sexual favourites’ were probably at the front of the queue when it came to sharing out the proceeds of the hunt. ‘Political discontents’ and ‘sexual undesirables’, especially without offspring, at the back. These latter were part of the latent ‘militants’ and ‘revolutionaries’ in the troupe.

The deployment of the ‘meat-for-sex’ tactic (which becomes ‘rule’ after its successful deployment as a ‘lever of change’) enabled, on the one hand, the provisioning of food for women and the children to be established as a direct and general feature of the life of the group without the controlling intermediation of a dominant male caste. And, on the other hand, it served to secure sexual access for the provisioning hunters in opposition to the sexual monopoly of the old patriarchal system. It broke up the monopoly and ‘authoritarianism’ of the ‘haremistas’ – rooted in millenia of previous evolution – and ‘democratised’ and ‘socialised’ both food distribution and sex amongst the collective. This was a revolutionary step forward in group organisation.

This probably encouraged those who had been overthrown to either hunt for their generation and augment the food supply of the group or, if they resisted the changes, to be subject to expulsion or even execution. From then onwards, hunters are given sexual access on condition of presenting their ‘kills’ to the women of their generation. This meant that this new coalition of hunters and women became the ruling power in the group and those who had previously ruled now had to fall in line or were marginalised.

We see, therefore, that the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm (which is simultaneously a ‘sex-for meat’ paradigm) was used as a collaborative tool to wrest control of the provisioning and distribution of food and sexual access from the ‘patriarchs’ of the old order. The other side to guaranteeing the success of this paradigm was what Knight refers to as the ‘sex strike’. Women refused sex to any male during the time other men were out on the hunt. Only those, that is the hunters, who presented them with the kills or catches were allowed sexual access. Here we have the time of ‘sex striking’ corresponding with the period of the hunt and the synchronisation of the time of women’s menstruation with this period when the hunters are absent from the camp. This implies that the women of the group could synchronise their ovulatory cycles. All women visually ‘broadcasted’ their sexual unavailability during the hunt by the blood flows of their menstruation. They became available and fertile subsequent to the hunt as the period of collective menstruation ended, when the men returned to camp and the period of ovulation commences.

If the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was to be established, maintained and reinforced, sex between women and any males remaining in the camp had to be prohibited. Herein lies the origin of the first sex taboo, that is between parents and offspring. Any of the older, less capable generation of males (which had just been disempowered in the course of the revolution) and any younger males not yet ready for hunting activities remaining in the camp during the period of the hunt were thus excluded from having sex with the women remaining in the camp. And since, at this stage in prehistory, we are referring here generally to the fathers and sons of the women, the taboo impacted any possibility of sexual advances from these quarters. The first sex prohibition (between parents and offspring) was, accordingly, an early ideological reflection of the operation of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule backed up by the ‘sex strike’.

Knight writes that ‘women of different generations’ organising the sex strike would have involved ‘male kin of all ages…as allies in the strike’ (p.302). We are not, as yet, at the stage of the punaluan family or the gentile system where demarcations of kinship are clearer. We are still with the revolutionary events taking place at the start of the period of development of the consanguine family. Blood related, non-hunting males of the generation above (parents) and below (offspring) the women had just been dispossessed of sexual access in the course of enforcing the ‘meat-for-sex’ strategy and imposing the first sex prohibition. They could not access the women sexually and yet they were, according to Knight’s conception here, helping to perpetuate their own sexual dispossession. In other words, the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and the sex strike must have been directed, initially, against their ‘own blood’ (‘kin’) who had exercised age-old sexual access prior to the first stage of the revolution which imposed the first sex prohibition. If we admit Knight’s assertion here, at this early stage of development, that the women were supported by ‘male kin of all ages….as allies in the strike’ in enforcing the sex strike then against whom was the strike directed? All these ‘male kin’ under the conditions of the formation of the consanguine family were either out on the hunt (maternal and collateral brothers) or were at home in the camp (fathers and offspring). Accordingly, under these conditions, the sex strike could only have been directed against ‘male kin’ who had been prohibited sexual access to the camp based women. It seems that Knight must be referring to a later period when ‘male kin’ and the women’s husbands were in different families or gentes which must refer to the punaluan family or the later gentile system. We can envisage a situation where some of the armed brothers (the rest of the brothers being out on the hunt) of the women remained in the camp in order to support the sex strike and enforce the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule against any predations from older and younger male kin. But this is different from ‘male kin of all ages’ enforcing the strike.

Those older ‘male kin’ who are not out on the hunt – the older generation which has been barred sexual access to its daughters in the time of the formation of the consanguine family – are not going to help the sex striking women to enforce and defend their sexual refusal primarily directed at them as their prohibited older ‘male kin’. Why would they wish to help to enforce a regime which had just established an earth-shaking historical line in the sand in relation to their own sexual access? Perhaps some armed males (we can postulate here some brothers of the hunters) remained behind in camp (did not hunt) in order to enforce the new regime? But then this raises the question as to whether they had sexual access to the women whilst their ‘brothers’ were out on the hunt? After all, sex between siblings was not outlawed at this stage but sexual access for the ‘brother camp guards’ would have conflicted with the operation of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule. This, of course, could have ‘planted the seeds’ for the later prohibition on sibling sex. Or did they (the guarding brothers) partake in sex only after their hunting brothers returned with the kills? The existence of brothers remaining in camp must have posited a conflict here – or the seeds of one at least – between ‘camp guard brothers’ conforming, or agreeing to conform, with the new ‘meat-for-sex’ rule on the one hand and the state of affairs where prohibition on sex between siblings had not yet been imposed and established.

Moreover, in his model, Knight includes the conception that hunting ‘males would be reluctant to go out on the hunt unless they were secure in the knowledge that a ban on sex applies to all of them without favour or discrimination – and the females remain in control’ of the home base, etc. (Blood Relations, p.302). Regardless of any ‘insecurities’, they would have needed to go out hunting anyway if they and their kin were to eat and survive. Other conjectures could be proposed. For example, we could conceive a transition point here, in this semi-endogamous state of affairs, in which parent-offspring sex had already been prohibited but brothers, allied to the hunters – who remained at home to protect the women from members of other roving troupes and sexually-encroaching fathers and sons – still had sexual access to the women either whilst their brothers were out hunting or only after they returned. Later, with the more rigid enforcement of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, this could have led to the taboo on sibling sex because it became resented amongst the hunters, under altering conditions, that they were doing all the hard work to get the kills back to camp whilst their ‘security guard’ brothers at home were enjoying themselves for doing more or less nothing. Just ‘keeping watch’ over the females waiting for the return of the hunters. This must have reminded the hunters of the previous state of affairs in which the old patriarchs ruled the roost whereas now it was their camp-based brothers who were the beneficiaries of their hunting efforts. In other words, the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was only being applied selectively at first (to deter intruders entering the camp and to keep fathers and sons away from daughters and mothers) and it was only later that it became universally applied by including any camp-remaining brothers in the rule. This would explain the separation in time between the two major prohibitions on sex between blood relatives, that is, sibling prohibitions coming later. This is just another of the debatable points to be found in the details of Knight’s overall conception.

Furthermore, he remarks (p.302, Blood Relations) that it ‘is simply not possible to organise a sex strike in alliance with individuals who are in fact one’s sexual partners’. Unless, of course, such sex strikes were, in their initial forms, more selective in their targetting and not as universal as Knight implies. The first forms of the sex strike could, conceivably, have been exclusively directed at breaking the sexual access of parents to children and vice versa (of the blood relatives of one generation to the next) with a more universal, generalised form of the sex strike emerging later as the basis of the later additions of sibling and cousin sex prohibitions. This scenario would have admitted the possibility of a ‘more relaxed’ approach of ‘camp guard brothers’ to such a sex strike tactic, in the course of the evolution of the consanguine family, whilst their brothers were away on the hunt. But, of course, not necessarily reciprocated or supported by both camped women and their provisioning male hunters. This more ‘staged’ development of the sex strike tactic, becoming increasingly more generalised, in line and consonant with the imposition and consolidation of a widening circle of sex prohibitions, would appear to fit more closely with Engels’ conception of the origination and evolution of the family passing through different stages towards the forms of the family found in the gentile order.

Knight proposes an explanation (Blood Relations, p.307) for the father-daughter sex prohibition in which a ‘coalition of related mothers would need their daughters to ‘marry well’…’ so that their choice would bring in ‘additional meat to the extended household’. Giving fathers sexual access to their daughters would have undermined this augmentation of food supply, harked back to previous times and would have ‘amounted to the beginnings of a real counter-revolution’ (p.308). ‘A real counter-revolution’ within this ‘consanguine family’ scenario and context would have been signified by the attempts of older males to re-assert their old dominance and re-establish the ‘harem system’ in the face of relations which were already starting to bury this older system. In other words, when the father’s sexual access to his daughters was ‘overthrown’, this first stage in the ‘human revolution’ was also the very first step in the move towards fully exogamous relations. If some males later tried to re-assert and re-establish those forms of dominance and endogamous access associated with the earlier harem system subsequent to its overthrow then that would, indeed, have been ‘counter-revolutionary’ or ‘retrogressive’.

At this stage in prehistory, we are still within the realm of ‘group marriage’. Accordingly, the concept of ‘marrying well’ would seem to be somewhat misplaced historically. The presentation of kills would have been more a generational affair from male hunters to their collective wives rather than from one hunter to one wife as we would have found later with the ‘pairing family’. Would they have presented kills to women of the older (mothers) or younger (daughters) generation? We only reach the point where kills are selectively presented to individual wives by their husband hunters with the emergence of the ‘pairing family’ within the gentile order. Prior to this, group marriage is the prevailing form of marriage and this would have determined the forms of presentation of the proceeds of the hunt to the women of the collective. To avoid jealousies and conflicts, hunter husbands would have ensured that the proceeds of the hunt were shared equally amongst their ‘group wives’ without leaving out any wife who was part of the group marriage arrangement. Contravening this principle would have raised the question of sexual accessibility.

Without the surrender of the proceeds of the hunt becoming ‘selectively generational’, the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule could not have emerged. Accordingly, the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring could not have been socially imposed. If we assume that some, at least, of the formerly older generation of dominant parental males, the traditional ‘patriarchs’ in the older endogamous system, remained in camp with the non-hunting male offspring of the women, then we can include these categories within the orbit of the first incest taboo. Parent-offspring sex is prohibited (women collectively cannot have sex with males who are their fathers or sons and men with those who are their mothers or daughters) as a consequence of the hunting being done by males of the same generation as the children-tending women, some of whom may be their hunting maternal brothers sharing the same mother. This is, indeed, ‘revolutionary’ because it implies the commencement of the disintegration of the old system of endogamous harem relations in the troupe. The collective is not being provisioned according to the previously and age-old established customs of patriarchal endogamy but rather according to a new revolutionary paradigm, namely the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule which becomes intragenerational in order to break the powers and relations of this old order.

This implies that the ‘revolutionary generation’ of males started hunting specifically for the women of the same generation in order for the prohibition on parent-offspring sex to emerge and become established. The ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, under the conditions then prevailing, became operative when maternal and collateral siblings collaborated and resolved the aforementioned ‘structural crisis’ of endogamy-linked provisioning based on the dominance of a caste of ‘alpha males’ within the troupe. In the midst of this first stage of the first human revolution, the first form of sex prohibition (between parents and offspring) emerged. If we assume that the older male generations were ‘of the old order’ based on endogamous, alpha-male dominance, then this would have ‘marginalised’ the older generation. It would have subjected them to the control, or even ‘mercy’, of the ‘revolutionaries’, forcing them out to hunt or gather, as the new order became established. Otherwise, the ‘male representatives of the old patriarchal order’ could have been simply driven out of the camps and left to perish or have been ‘dispatched’. We need to consider the possibility that the terms of the new order were imposed on them and that resistance was answered with execution.

The origination and establishment of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule within the collective forms the material basis for the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring. This leads directly to the formation of the consanguine family which signifies the opening of the first stage of the human revolution in prehistory. The new social relationship of ‘meat-for-sex’ giving rise to, and simultaneously being reinforced by, this first sexual prohibition meant that hunter males could not present kills to their daughters or mothers. However, for the time being, they could still present kills to their collateral and maternal sisters. This meant that sex between maternal and collateral siblings remained ‘lawful’. This corresponds to Engels’ conception of the scenario which prevailed within the consanguine family. This situation, assuming the hunters brought back kills to the women of their own generation, simultaneously undermined a generalised endogamy dominated by alpha males because each generation of males capable of hunting now had to go out and hunt for the women (wives) of their own generation to whom they had sexual access. If they did not do this, they would have lost out in the distribution of food or even starved and, moreover, been marginalised in terms of sexual access once the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule became ‘cultural rule’. In this way, the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm serves to displace the old patriarchal relations by disempowering the previously controlling ‘old guard’ of ‘alpha males’.

At this stage, we cannot presuppose that all hunting males were not maternal brothers of the women to whom carcases were surrendered on returning to the camp. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings (women and their hunting blood brothers sharing a common mother) cannot, at this stage, be asserted. Brothers could also surrender their kills to their maternal sisters within the ‘group marriage’ conditions of the consanguine family and, therefore, according to ‘rule’, sex between maternal siblings was not outlawed. On the basis of this appropriation, women could still have sex with their maternal brothers within the newly formed consanguine family. However, on the basis of the operation of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, we have to assume that fathers did not surrender kills to their daughters or likewise sons to their mothers in order to constitute an ongoing basis for understanding the origination and continuation of the first form of sex prohibition which, according to Engels, was between parent and offspring. Engels, therefore, states that maternal and collateral sibling prohibitions must have come later.

The notion that both parental-offspring and maternal sibling sex prohibitions were established together without a significant period of social development directly contradicts Engels’ position in The Origin of the Family. He states that sibling prohibitions came later because they were more difficult to impose. One reason he gives is that siblings were of the same generation. Parents and offspring were ‘naturally divided’ as ‘counterposed generations’. Such a natural division has come down to us down the ages in the form of the innovations in the modes of behaviour of the younger generation confronting those of the older generation, etc.

In other words, in the new order, fathers could not hunt in order to surrender kills to their daughters and likewise sons to their mothers since this would have harked back to the old, overthrown endogamous order and its crisis. A social stratification of generations became established based on who hunted for whom and the consequent maintenance of the sexual prohibition between parents and offspring. But, for the time being, surrender of kills to maternal and collateral sisters was still permissible. This meant that maternal and collateral sibling sex was not prohibited. In the previous, generalised state of endogamy, kills were surrendered to the alpha males dominating and controlling the life of the troupe. This served as the basis for sexual relations in which the very notion of incestuous sex was non-existent. Only with the breach in these relations – as a result the forced switch to the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm unmediated by patriarchal control – does the notion of incest originate. Incest prohibitions emerge to further the material interests of the human collective as a whole as their impositions reflect historically progressive material and social changes and revolutions.

It is out of this struggle that the first form of the family, the consanguine family, emerges which continues to develop as the arena within which the revolution continues to unfold. In this way, we can explain the origin and formation of Engels’ consanguine family on the basis of Knight’s conceptions. The first sex prohibition becomes explicable on the basis of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and ‘sex strike’ tactic which were the two major elements driving the first human revolution. The earliest social indication of this revolution taking place in prehistory is the emergence of the consanguine family in which the previous state of generalised endogamy is fractured and pushed over into the next stage of ‘semi-endogamous’ relations. Sex between parents and offspring becomes prohibited. This is the major marker of the first stage of the human revolution in prehistory.

The purpose of the sex strike tactic was to act as a lever to break the power of patriarchal endogamy. In combination with the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, this tactic served to establish the first sex prohibition and ‘democratise’ provisioning and sex in the group. The old patriarchs were overthrown by a coalition of sexually sidelined hunters and dependent women. The institution and enforcement of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule backed up by ‘sex striking’ served to break the power of the old patriarchy. Out of this initial stage of this ‘human revolution’, a semi-endogamous state of affairs was created in the form of what Engels refers to as the ‘consanguine family’ in The Origin of the Family.

A break had been made with the age-old endogamous system with the initiation of women’s sexual refusal within the life of the old endogamous troupe. This takes place on the basis of women controlling and guaranteeing an adequate and nourishing food supply for themselves and the next, growing generation on the one hand, and the refusal of males to surrender kills to the ‘alpha haremistas’, on the other. Kills are surrendered directly to the women in exchange for sexual access. This alteration in social relations within the troupe becomes the driving force for this ‘revolution’ in relations in the endogamous grouping. The first step is the establishment of the ‘meat-for sex’ paradigm which has the consequence of instituting the first form of sexual prohibition, that is, on parent-offspring sex.

Males could still have sex with their maternal and collateral sisters but sex between parents and offspring was outlawed. This meant that hunters could present their kills to their sisters but could not do so to their mothers or daughters. The operative paradigm now barred the sexual access of fathers to their daughters (the sisters of the hunters) within the consanguine family which now functioned in a semi-endogamous state of affairs where maternal and collateral brothers and sisters (the children of the same mother and groups of sisters respectively) could be sexual partners but parents and offspring could not. Can we perhaps envisage a scenario where food was made available, through the auspices of the women receiving the kills, to their parents on condition that sexual prohibitions were always followed? And that any attempts at transgressions were punished with the withdrawal of these ‘gifts’ of food? This would have been a manifestation of the inversion of power relations within the collective with the overthrow of patriarchal endogamy and the formation of the consanguine family.

Engels, in agreement with Morgan, considers the ‘consanguine family’ to be the first form of the family which emerges with the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring. Throughout this period, a semi-endogamous state of affairs prevails arising out of this prohibition. Sex between blood relatives within generations remains ‘lawful’ but a prohibition on sex between generations is established. From a system of complete endogamy without any sexual prohibitions, relations now move on to one of ‘semi-endogamy’. This first stage of the human revolution in prehistory therefore takes place with the transition from the patriarchal endogamy of the troupe to the semi-endogamous state of affairs of the consanguine family. The resolution of the crisis of endogamy-linked provisioning commences, but does not terminate, with the completion of this first stage. This first sex prohibition puts limits on who can have sex with whom but within the bounds of the newly-formed consanguine family. The introduced prohibition therefore fragments sexual access within the fully endogamous troupe which results in the formation of the semi-endogamous state of affairs in the ‘consanguine family’

From the previous account, the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm – unmediated by a dominant caste of males – arises out of the crisis of alpha male-dominated, endogamy-linked provisioning when the younger generation of hunting males were sexually sidelined and subservient and the sexually available females were dependent on the older, dominating males. Before the emergence of this new paradigm, the provisioning of food took place on the basis of the age-old dominance of ‘alpha males’ within the troupe. This state of affairs must have stretched back many thousands of years and was rooted in our ancestral animal primate past. This ruling group controlled sexual access to all females within a harem arrangement. However, they must also have controlled the provisioning and distribution of food within the collective. Knight’s model raises, fundamentally, the question of the relationship between sexual access and the provisioning of the means of survival in prehistory. It seems that this relationship, in its endogamous forms, entered its period of ‘structural crisis’. Thereafter, it was the resolution of the conflicts within this crisis, with the emergence and establishment of the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm, which opened up the first stage of the human revolution which ultimately leads to the establishment of the system of exogamous clans based on matrilineal kinship. Knight states that this revolution, outlined in chapter nine of Blood Relations, seems to have commenced ‘in a region embracing parts of Africa and the Near East between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago’ (p.313).

The origins, evolution and transformations in the family and the later gentile system are, of course, echoed in the mythologies and legends of peoples across different cultures in which one generation of people or gods overthrows the older generation and this pattern repeats itself with an almost predictable regularity. For example, in the mythology of the Greeks, the sons (the Chthonians) of the older gods of Earth overthrow their fathers and, eventually, the Chthonians are themselves defeated and disempowered by their offspring, the new generation of Olympian gods. Uranus, the husband and son of Gaea, is overthrown by his son, Cronus, one of the Titans. Cronus, in turn, is dethroned by his son, Zeus, who defeats the Titans, becoming the king of the new Olympian gods. Zeus takes his sister, Hera, as his wife. These relations between the gods appear to mirror relations which preceded the existence of the later exogamy of the gentile system itself. Conceivably, Hera could have been a ‘collateral sister’ of Zeus (as opposed to a maternal sister) in which case their marriage could be a mythological echo of the beginnings of the gentile system itself via the punaluan form of the family rather than one of the formation of the consanguine family out of the patriarchal endogamous troupe. As with the destruction of the old world of the Chthonian gods by the new of the Olympian gods, the younger generation overthrows the system of the older one to create a new world. The myths and legends of the peoples of the Earth are the ancient storybooks of peoples which record, in however distorted or embellished their forms, and give insight into, their prehistories and the prehistory of humanity as a whole.

(b) From the Consanguine Family to the Punaluan Family

Let us recapitulate the scenario with the semi-endogamous consanguine family. It has arisen out of the revolutionary measures of the sex strike and the meat-for-sex rule. This has broken the rule of endogamy-linked provisioning mediated by the dominance of ‘alpha males’, very likely of the older generation, who previously controlled the distribution of food and the sexual access to females in the harem system of the troupe. Now a majority coalition of hunting males and camp-based women has disempowered the old patriarchs who have been expelled, killed or, if any remain, must now themselves hunt or even gather to augment the food supply of the collective. They must ‘fall in line’ with the new order. To maintain the structure and stability of the newly-dominant relations, sex is only provided on condition of the surrender of the proceeds of the hunt to the women of the hunters. These women, of the same generation as ‘their hunters’, use the ‘sex-for-meat’ rule to enforce this relation which guarantees them a steady supply of food for themselves and their children, the next growing generation. We can envisage a certain period of continuing development for this relatively stable state of affairs. The life of the communal group settles after the first stage of the revolution in which intergenerational sex between parents and offspring has been prohibited.

With the imposition of the ‘sex-for meat’ rule, the first sex prohibition originates, namely between parents and offspring. But sex between siblings (maternal and collateral brothers and sisters) remains. All the men and women of a given generation are permitted to have sex with each other regardless of whether they share the same mother or not. So ‘sibling’ in this context is divisible into ‘maternal siblings’ where brothers and sisters share the same mother and ‘collateral siblings’ where they do not share the same mother but may or may not share the same father. The relation of ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ at this stage has, exclusively, a maternal significance because only maternity is certain. Maternal brothers and sisters share the same mother but they may be ‘full siblings’ or only be ‘half brothers’ or ‘half sisters’ in regard to paternity. But this is not recognised or even socially significant at this stage of development. Clearly, at this stage, the paternity of children is uncertain in a ‘group marriage’ situation. Only the maternity is certain and valid in terms of lineage and kinship. We know that the later emergence of the punaluan family has precluded sex between maternal siblings. Hence between this punaluan stage and the previous semi-endogamous one of the consanguine family as described there must have been major changes which led to the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings.

The growth in the size and number of consanguine families – resulting from the application of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule – meant that the number of males increased. Some males (maternal and collateral brothers of the camp women) could have remained in camp probably performing various duties such as toolmaking, etc. But, more importantly, to guard and protect the security of the camp against alien intruders and ensuring that the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was maintained. However here, under these conditions, the possibility of flouting the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule now arises. And who will guard the guards? (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Juvenal). We must note that we are still considering a situation where sex between siblings (maternal and collateral) has not been banned and the legacies of patriarchal endogamy probably still ‘weigh heavy’ on the life of the community. ‘Marrying out’ is yet to emerge and establish itself. Whilst the hunters are away from the camp, this gives camp-based brothers (including, and probably as a result of the aforementioned legacies, any maternal brothers of the women with whom they share specially ‘close’ relations) the opportunities to seek sexual access to the women. This would clearly be a direct transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm (a ‘counter-revolutionary’ act) because such males would be seeking to obtain sex ‘for free’ without presenting meat to the women. Contravention of this paradigm threatened the possibility of a reversion to the old order which had been overthrown. Rather than supporting women asexually whilst the hunters are away, their fellow male siblings would be taking advantage of their absence by seeking sex from their sisters. It is at this point of development that the need (social necessity) for the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings (the brothers and sisters of the same mother, with a definite maternity) arises and becomes imposed across the whole group. This serves to defeat any ‘counter-revolutionary’ tendencies from this direction – from the sons of their forefathers – and reassert and reinforce the ‘revolutionary’ ‘meat-for-sex’ or ‘sex-for-meat’ rule within the group. This would have given impetus for the further growth of the community with an increased supply of meat as a result of more hunting. The imposition of the second great sex prohibition, however, signifies the death knell of the consanguine family. It has now outgrown its traditional bounds and barriers as a system of semi-endogamy-linked provisioning.

After the overthrow of patriarchal endogamy and the prohibition of sex between parents and offspring, it would seem that the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm became firmly established within the group and was not subject to attempted transgression by camp-based males. Once the prohibition on parent-offspring sex had been established, hunting males then presented the proceeds of the hunt to females of the same generation with whom they were sexual partners. At this stage in the consanguine family, in each generation of sexually active individuals, every male was the sex partner of every woman and vice versa. There was no prohibition on sex between maternal or collateral siblings.

Those brothers remaining in camp during the hunt not only guarded the camp against intrusion from the males of other groups but were also mandated to act as observers and maintainers of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule whilst their brothers were out of camp on the hunt. Any males unable or unwilling to hunt, especially some of those of the older generation like fathers and grandfathers, were possibly seen as a threat to transgressing the rule. The presence of an armed contingent of brothers remaining in the camp during the hunt served as a deterrent to any attempts by older male kin to sexually access their sisters, that is, to break established prohibition.

Such protective measures would have been in accord with the age-old ‘closeness’ and kinship between maternal brothers and sisters. However, a conflict arises at this stage. The ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, a relatively new innovation, comes into conflict with the far more ancient practice of sex between maternal siblings. The ‘camp guard brothers’ are mandated to secure both camp and the new revolutionary rules and order yet tradition continues to whisper down the ages and through the camp that your maternal sisters are also your sexual partners. The taboo on sex in this respect has not yet emerged. The opportunity therefore arises for the sexually active ‘security guard’ brothers (of the hunters) remaining in the camp to take advantage of their absence and take their maternal sisters sexually whilst this period of absence on the hunt continues. The temptation would have been too great, at least, to attempt to have sex with their sisters whilst the other contingent of brothers was out on the hunt. And if a ‘rota’ system prevailed, and the hunters now became the camp guards and vice versa, a similar temptation would have asserted itself when the new ‘rota’ went out to hunt. Whilst some brothers were out on the hunt, the others were having sex (or trying to) with their sisters, totally flouting (or trying to do so probably against the resistance of their sisters) the new ‘meat-for-sex’ rule rather than safeguarding it.

This would have been a credible scenario because maternal brothers and sisters were still permitted to have sex. However, it would now have been done in opposition to the new paradigm, established after the overthrow of the old patriarchal endogamy, and probably in the face of resistance from the camp women. And this behaviour by ‘security guard’ in-camp brothers would have been more likely if the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule had still not been fully assimilated culturally, that is, had not attained the status of a socially inalienable ‘sine qua non’. Under such conditions, the hunters could have been ‘cuckolded’ whilst they were away from the camp engaged in the hunt. We can even consider a ‘forced sex’ or ‘rape’ scenario. So each ‘rota’ of hunters was being ‘cuckolded’ by the other in camp whilst each hunting party was out on the hunt. And yet whilst they were on the hunt they thought that the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was being enforced and prevailing in camp. Such a state of affairs could not have lasted for long, especially if women were being coerced or even raped. Sooner or later matters would have come to a head. Either the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule had to be revoked with a return to a previous state of affairs or a new phase of the revolution had to open up which both reinforced and further developed the established paradigm.

Conflict and turmoil would have broken out in the camp once it was realised that the rule was being openly contravened. This, of course, would have been initiated by the resisting sisters who would have recognised the ‘counter-revolutionary’ significance of this for them and their children because it threatened a regular supply of food for them and their children. Women, once again, in alliance with a contingent of males, were the major revolutionary element which drove through this second phase of the ‘first human revolution’. The women continued to require a guaranteed supply of meat for themselves, sometimes pregnant or nursing mothers, and their growing children who were the next generation which would perpetuate the life of their people. The reassertion and extension of the established criterion of ‘meat-for-sex’ secured this provisioning. The contravention of this rule and any ‘counter-revolutionary’ attempt to overturn it directly threatened these relations. It threatened to return women and their children to the previous state of dependence and oppression. Hence it was in the ‘class interests’ for women to be central within the ‘revolutionary party’, to push the revolution onwards into its next phase and institute the next stage of sex prohibition.

One side of the males may well have wanted a return to an order without the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, whilst the other side, the ‘permanent revolutionaries’, would have wanted a more rigid reinforcement of this rule and pushed the group into new social territory. The latter was victorious. The positing of this conflict created the conditions necessary for the imposition of the next great sex prohibition. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings was driven through and transformed the life of the group. This second phase of the ‘first human revolution’ further served to augment the interests of women and their children whereas the abolition of the rule and a ‘return’ would have been a retrograde step for them.

The subversion of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule by males remaining in the camp whilst their brothers went out on the hunt was a ‘counter-revolutionary’ act in that it resembled an attempt to return to the old, ‘pre-rule’ system of patriarchal endogamy. The very system which the creation and application of this rule had overthrown. Those males remaining in the camp were seeking opportunities for sexual access without having to hunt and present carcases whilst those away on the hunt – as the source of provisioning for the consanguine group – were expecting compliance with the established ‘meat-for-sex’ rule. Such attempts to overturn the rule itself had to be defeated. Once it was recognised that camp-based males were trying to subvert the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule – rather than enforcing it – it then became obligatory, with prohibition, for all capable males from puberty onwards to engage in the hunt, either directly participating in it or learning in the course of the hunt. This increase in numbers on the hunt would itself have served to supplement the food supply to the camp and, accordingly, been in the interests of the women and children. All those males who were physically capable of hunting and sexually capable of engaging camp-based females had to engage in the hunt. This would have served to minimise the possibility of the breaking of the taboos on incest. It served to maintain incest avoidance by actually removing sexually capable males from the women’s presence in the camp by compelling them to engage in the hunt.

The possibility or reality of sex ‘outside of rule’ provided the impetus for the imposition of the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. Hence, the coalition of hunters and women now carried through the second phase of a ground-breaking revolution in which the old patriarchal endogamy had been broken up. The imposition and further cultural assimilation of the two major sex prohibitions were the historic ‘markers’ revealing that this mighty revolution was taking place and pushing the mode of life of the endogamous troupe towards that of new exogamous relations.

Transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule threatened an indispensable relationship of the new and developing order. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings now served to reassert and consolidate this fundamental relationship. But this prohibition and reassertion not only consolidated the established paradigm. It also pushed the consanguine family over into a different, higher form of the family by creating new relationships between people. Out of the turmoil, the higher punaluan form of the family was born.

Attempts (successful or not) to contravene the ‘sex-for-meat’ rule by camp-based, non-hunting, maternal brothers (supposedly in camp to safeguard this rule) led directly to the second phase of the ‘first human revolution’ in the course of which maternal sibling sex was outlawed. This drove the semi-endogamous consanguine family out of existence and created the punaluan family. Once imposed, this prohibition meant that maternal brothers could no longer present the proceeds of the hunt to their maternal sisters. Accordingly, kills could now only be presented to collateral sisters, shifting social and sexual relations beyond the realm of the consanguine family into the new punaluan form of the family.

We have to pause here and consider the situation at which the evolution of the family has arrived. We have an extended, large prehistoric household in which at least 50 people, even up to 100, are living together as a community. They work together, talk, gossip, prepare food, eat, communicate, have sex, give birth, live, love, play and die all under the same roof of an extended household, the large communal longhouses or roundhouses of prehistory. The whole household is based on matrilineal kinship within a group marriage context. Only descent down the female line is identifiable and therefore socially and culturally significant. And all this is now unfolding in the presence of sex prohibitions, first between the older and younger generations and now with an addition within generations between maternal siblings. Natural brothers and sisters, sharing the same mother, are not allowed to have sex. Where would members of the household now look for the satisfaction of their sexual needs within the immediate social context of the household? Whilst marital possibilities within the household are not exhausted, they would keep sex within it. After the second sex prohibition on maternal siblings, the males and females of the household would look immediately to their maternal cousins, that is, to the children of their aunties within the household. This would be the immediate outcome of the ban on sex between maternal siblings. The male children of the sister groups would intermarry with the female children of the same groups but, of course, not within the maternal group where siblings have the same mother. But this was a practice (of ‘marrying between’ sister groups) that pre-existed. It existed alongside maternal sibling sex for hundreds if not thousands of years. But now the latter has been outlawed, it would be ‘natural’ and become customary for this form of marriage to become the dominant form of group marriage within the household. The new form of group intermarriage between maternal cousins (who are the offspring of a group of sisters with the same mother who is the common grandmother of these offspring) now forms the basis for the early phase of evolution of the newly-established punaluan family.

The punaluan family was the outcome of the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings and the consequent intermarriage of collateral brothers and sisters or what we would term ‘first, second, third cousins’, etc, on the only line recognisable which was the maternal line within a household. It therefore arises directly out of and was founded on this second great prohibition of sex between maternal siblings, that is between brothers and sisters with the same mother, at the end of the period of development of the consanguine family. Before the imposition of this prohibition, there were no ‘cousins’ as such in the consanguine family so that the crystallisation of this new relationship follows on from the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. In the consanguine family, all those of a specific generation were simply ‘brothers and sisters’. The children of my sister are ‘my children’, whether I am a man (and their biological father or not which was never certain anyway) or woman. All the offspring of all the women of a given generation were ‘brothers and sisters’ and were sexually accessible to each other in group marriage. People were blood related either as ‘sons and daughters’, ‘brothers and sisters’, ‘fathers and mothers’ or ‘grandfathers and grandmothers’. ‘Brothers and sisters’ were simultaneously ‘husbands and wives’ in the group marriage of the consanguine family. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings introduced the new categories of ‘cousins’, ‘nieces and nephews’ and ‘aunties and uncles’ with the creation of the punaluan family. With the shift to maternal cousin group marriage with the ban on maternal sibling marriage, in an arrangement of matrilineal descent and kinship, as a woman, my sisters’ children are now my nieces and nephews and my natural brothers are the uncles of these same children. All these children – excluding marriage between natural siblings – with a common grandmother are now group marriageable. This form of group marriage is the earliest form of group marriage in the development of the punaluan family emerging at the point of departure of evolution of this form of the family.

The prohibition on sex between ‘uncles/aunties’ and ‘nieces/nephews’ is merely formal in that it reinforces the previous general prohibition on sex between parents and offspring found in the consanguine family. The categories of uncles and aunties with nieces and nephews arises directly out of the maternal sibling sex prohibition and the ban on sex between these categories would have been seen as a continuation of the previous state of affairs in the consanguine family in which intergenerational sex is prohibited in a group marriage situation. It is only the specific form of the relation which alters. Historical precedence would have dictated the prohibition on sex between a sister’s children and her own brothers (the uncles of her children in the punaluan family) and her own sisters (the aunts of her children). This new, but extension of an older, previously established, ban would have merely differentiated intergenerational prohibition in the form of mothers, fathers, uncles, aunties not allowed sexual access to sons, daughters, nieces and nephews within the new punaluan form whereas in the consanguine family set up it was merely a case of ‘parents’ not having access to their ‘offspring’. In this way, prohibitions on sex between ‘uncles/aunties’ with their ‘nieces/nephews’ had an already pre-established precedence so that when the new categories emerged with the punaluan family, it was a case of continuing, in a different relational form, what had already been imposed before as a prohibition when the new family categories of uncles/aunties and nieces/nephews did not actually exist.

‘Aunties’ and ‘uncles’ were of the older generation in the consanguine family – and simply identified as ‘mother’ and ‘father’ within it by the group offspring – and so prohibition on sex between uncles/aunties and nieces/nephews, with the formation of the punaluan family, would simply have been seen as an extension of the previous ban on intergenerational sex reflecting the generalised parent-offspring prohibition which served to create, and became established with the formation and development of, the consanguine family.

It was the emergence of the punaluan form which created the new set of categories of uncles and aunties with nephews and nieces. The generational difference between uncles/aunties and nephews/nieces would have reinforced the earlier prohibition and, moreover, created a parental relationship between the two sets of categories. This is why, within the punaluan form and with the later emergence of the gentile order, this relationship was considered ‘closer’ and more important for the interests of the gens than that of the relationship between a father and his children where each of the latter were in different gentes. From the perspective of the norms and morals of both the punaluan form and the later gentile order, sex between maternal uncle (mother’s immediate blood brother) and niece (her daughter) would have been looked upon with horror and with equal if not more disfavour than that between any men (in a group marriage to the mother) and her daughters. In the later evolution of the punaluan family and the gentile system, the mother’s brother was seen as ‘more of a father’ to her children than the biological father from another family household or gens, and this regardless of the prohibition on the brother’s sexual access to his natural sister. And this was not merely a function of ‘clan or gens affiliation or attachment’. It could also have been a historical-ideological echo of the times when maternal siblings could be the mothers and fathers of the same group of children during the period of development of the consanguine family.

To recapitulate, where does this leave the punaluan family at the start of its final phase of evolution? The period of development of the punaluan family opens up with the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings which simultaneously terminates the period of development of the consanguine family. The need to reassert the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule in the face of transgression drives forward this prohibition backed up by the sex strike tactic. Co-temporal with the ban on sex between maternal siblings is the reinforcement of intergenerational prohibitions by banning sex between the offspring of sisters and the maternal siblings of these sisters, that is, between uncles and nieces and aunts and nephews. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings means that group marriage between maternal cousins (collateral siblings of the first, second, etc, degree) becomes the rule in the earliest period of development of the punaluan family household. Prohibitions on intergenerational group marriage are now culturally assimilated and this is reinforced with prohibitions on sex between a woman’s biological sons and daughters and her own natural brothers and sisters.

Now, of course, hunters present their kills to their collateral sisters and no longer to their natural sisters which would be a transgression of the new prohibition. Group marriage is between maternal cousins so that the hunters ‘throw down’ the proceeds of the hunt to women of their own generation who are not their mothers, aunts or natural female siblings. The second stage of the first human revolution is essentially complete but this is not the final stage. More conflict and turmoil lies ahead for the punaluan form…

(c) Emergence of the Exogamous Gentile Order out of the Punaluan Family

Recapitulation. The driving force of a coalition of male hunters and women deploying the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and sex striking serves to drive patriarchal endogamy out of existence by pushing through two major stages in the first human revolution. Patriarchal endogamy was first subjected to the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring which gave rise to the consanguine family. The subsequent period of development of this initial form of the family ends with the ban on sex between maternal siblings. This pushes the consanguine family over into the new punaluan form in which both parent-offspring (extending to a ban on sex between uncles/aunts with nieces/nephews) and maternal sibling sex prohibitions are instituted. The sons and daughters of the same mother are not permitted to ‘marry’ as they were in the former semi-endogamous consanguine family. Group marriage between collateral siblings (maternal cousins, the offspring of groups of sisters) becomes the characteristic mode of marriage of the punaluan family in its early phase of evolution.

Populations have grown and households multiplied according to lineage. Each household can trace its origins to a single female ‘founder’ who is the ancestress of the lineage of the household. But a set of households (at least two and usually more) constitute a consanguineous group – an extended community – connected by ‘blood’ in that all the households in the group will share a common ancestress from whom different lineages have diverged to form the different family households. Provisioning male cousins within each household now present the proceeds of the hunt to their female cousins down the maternal line in exchange for sex. The ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm backed up by the sex strike tactic continues to operate but within an altering social context and landscape. Provisioning is still essentially by means of hunting and gathering with possibly small-scale garden horticulture around the communistic punaluan household in its earliest stage of development.

As the size of households increase this means a subdivision of households into new households which, taken collectively, may still constitute the multiple households of a single consanguineous punaluan community as we have already indicated. With further population increases, new punaluan communities of blood related households emerge out of these separated households. Theoretically, we could start with one household and trace a development with the formation of a community of blood-related households followed later, after further differentiation, by the birth of two distinct punaluan communities. This then passes into a ‘society’ of communities where the composite households identify themselves through both their household and ‘community’ affiliation and, of course, in relation to external societies, through their membership of the social whole. Thus, we can see that there is a progressive multiplication in the number of family households and associations which constitute a given community or people in a given geographical area. Clearly, the tendency here is towards division and re-divisions and refoundations of family households and blood related associations on the basis of common matrilineage from sub-ancestors. The whole community would, of course, identify its own origins from a common ancestress who would, in time, often take on a legendary or mythical, even divine or semi-divine, status. Such are the origins of ‘ancestor worship’ amongst both prehistoric people and even those of antiquity. The Romans of the Republican era (510 – 27 BCE) still had altars and shrines within their homes set up to ancestors to which they would make libations and offerings.

When a single family household divided up into two new households, this must have occurred along a natural fracture line of descent which distinctly demarcated one half of the ‘family tree’ from the other. For example, a natural fragmentation taking place if the collective of women who founded one of the new households was descended from one great-grandmother and that which founded the other (left behind after division) was descended from her sister, their own specific great-grandmother. All those on one side of the family tree joining one new family and those on the other side of the family tree joining the other. Whilst great-grandmothers were daughters of the same mother, their female progeny down four generations or so had created a natural fracture line in the family tree. This process was replicated as more family households were formed as a result of later divisions. But the resulting households were all connected as a consanguineous group, a community of blood related households so to speak, with a common ancestress of all the different matrilineages represented in the different households. The comparison of this branching yet connected and related form of household and group evolution with that of the evolution and speciation of plants and animals in taxonomy is obvious.

As with the original family, descent and kinship remains matrilineal in these subdivided households. Both the consanguine and punaluan forms of the family are ‘communities’ in themselves. The ‘household’ or ‘family’ in prehistory has no resemblance to that of the ‘family’ today in the epoch of capital with its standard nuclear form of man, woman and usually no more than a few children living together as a unit. The family households of prehistory were large groupings, giant affairs, sometimes up to one hundred people and even more in number and all living under the same roof in large, extended households. Each family, and later gens (clan), had an ancestress from whom they traced their descent as a group. Such ancestors were often worshipped as semi-divine or even divine. In terms of the quality and enjoyment of human interaction, today’s nuclear family is paltry in comparison to that of the large communal families of human prehistory. Such is the ‘progress’ of the family despite the fact that its evolution creates the social basis for a higher form of human social life in communism.

So, to summarise, at what stage have we now arrived? We have multiple family households forming consanguineous associations in which ‘marrying in’ still remains the dominant form of group marriage. We have not, as yet at this early stage of development of the punaluan family, moved from ‘in marrying’ within households towards the start of the evolution of a fully exogamous system. This is soon to alter as we shall see. We are still with cousin group marriages down the maternal line within large, separate family households. But the next, third stage of the crisis of endogamy-linked provisioning is germinating and will soon erupt within the household of the punaluan family leading to its transformation and later dissolution. It’s a familiar story which we have encountered before and based, again, around a repetition of a crisis (a return to a crisis of previous times but in a higher form) of the relationship between sexual access and the provisioning of the means of life. A crisis involving the conflict between the implementation and transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule.

Again we have a situation similar to that which existed towards the end of the period of development of the consanguine family; a ‘return’ but at a higher stage of development. And a similar problem to be resolved in regard to sexual access in exchange for the proceeds of the hunt, for meat. Some male cousins remain in the community to guard against unwanted intruders and potential ‘cuckolders’ and to ensure that the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule is maintained. Whilst others go out on the hunt. Once again, this ‘rule’ is confronted with the same possibilities of transgression as existed before the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. Now, there is the possibility of maternal cousins ‘cuckolding’ their fellow ‘cousins’ on the hunt. Once again, we have a replication of the conflict we had between maternal brothers but in a new form between maternal cousins. Sex between these collateral siblings (with a common grandmother) is not prohibited and yet ‘stay-at-home’ males are expected to respect and enforce the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule. Eventually, and inevitably, as in previous crises, matters must come to a head and a struggle breaks out in the camp. The third stage of the first human revolution opens up and ends with the prohibition on sex between all collateral siblings in descent down the maternal line, that is, between cousins of the first, second, etc, degree within the same immediate matrilineage. This is the third great sex prohibition in prehistory and it drives the punaluan form into its final stage of development in which ‘marrying out’ of the household becomes necessary. Sex along the maternal line is driven out of the household. The possibilities of ‘group marriage within’ have become exhausted. This necessitates ‘out marrying’ and the start of the journey of exogamous marriage systems beyond any remnants of endogamy-linked provisioning.

So what is the positive outcome of this prohibition in terms of marriage? The males of households must now marry out into other households. This new prohibition between collateral maternal siblings within the same household now takes males away sexually from the females of their immediate lineage in their own households. The lineage of their immediate household is their closest in terms of blood relation. They must now ‘marry out’ into other households which may, perhaps, be related by ‘more distant blood’ along an aboriginally common matrilineage. The intermarrying households, which share a common ancestress, have emerged out of the subdivisions of the original lineage, splitting off down the generations, resulting in distinctive lineages occupying each separate household. It is these households which now intermarry as a consequence of the latest prohibition on marriage between cousins (collateral siblings) on the maternal line. Males remain members of their own matrilineal households but now they must marry into other households where the blood relation with their wives is ‘more distant’. This is the classical phase of development of the punaluan family which Engels describes in The Origin of the Family and which he describes existing amongst the Polynesians of the early nineteenth century. It remains a form of group marriage but not within the household but rather between households. Each consanguine association of punaluan families numbering two or more separate households based on their own distinctive lineage.

Within the initial stages of development of the punaluan form, maternal siblings could marry the sons and daughters of their mother’s sisters, of their aunts (thereby sharing the same grandmother) and the children of these unions married on the same basis. In this way, as a result of these group marriages, the number of households increases as does the number of members. However, with the later prohibition of this practice of group marriage between maternal cousins, the only form of marriage remaining available within the punaluan form was between the offspring of women of different households. Brothers, natural and collateral, married the sisters of another household in the final form of group marriage.

As soon as households intermarry, new relations are created. Firstly, mothers and fathers belong to different households. This simultaneously creates a new set of cousins in addition to the maternal cousins of a given household. But these cousins belong to a different household because the brothers of the women of one household produce children to the women of another household. These cousins are not maternal cousins living within the same household but are related ‘cross-households’ as the children of the brothers of their aunts who live in their father’s own household which is not their household. They are related as the children of their uncles (their mothers’ brothers) to the women of other households. But these children live as part of their mother’s and uncle’s household and not within the households of their maternal uncle’s wives.

Cousins now live in different households, maternal cousins in my mother’s household and ‘paternal’ cousins in the household into which my mother’s brothers have married. A woman’s sisters and brothers remain the aunts and uncles of her children within her matrilineal household. Her children are fathered by men outside of her household, that is, from a different household. However, all the sisters and brothers within the same household are the aunts and uncles of those brothers’ children in another household as a result of group intermarriage. A man remains the uncle (and a woman the aunt) of his/her sisters’ children within their own matrilineal household but now new ‘cross-household’ relations emerge as a result of ‘marrying out’. Maternal and collateral siblings (maternal cousins) related within the immediate matrilineage remain within the same household. But now their uncles’ children are part of a different household into which their uncles have married. These two different groups of offspring can now form the next generation of intermarriage groups between the different households. Intermarriage between households therefore creates a new set of family relations outside the immediate matrilineage and relations of the specific household of a punaluan family.

With the prohibition on maternal cousin marriages within households, the punaluan family alters its character in its final phase of development. Sisters or groups of sisters intermarry with brothers or groups of brothers from other households. The early phase of evolution of the punaluan family is characterised by cousin marriage along the matrilineal line within households. When this is prohibited, the new arrangement arises where men and women must ‘marry out’. Marriage takes place outside of the household.

If we consider the complete intermarriage of two separate households, with the prohibition on maternal cousin marriage within both households, the male cousins of one household (A) marry the females of the same generation in the other household (B) and male cousins of this other household (B) marry the females of the first household (A). This means that in the following generation of marriages, the mothers’ brothers’ (from household B) children in one household (A) now intermarry with the mothers’ brothers’ (from household A) children in the other household (B). These ‘outside’ marriages are also, therefore, the marriage of the mothers’ sisters’ children in household A with the mothers’ sisters’ children in household B. People no longer marry their natural (maternal) siblings or collateral siblings (cousins) within households but rather start to marry out into different households. ‘Marrying out’ creates new categories of cousins in different households. The males of this group can then ‘marry into’ the other household because these cousins, as a product of the brothers’ marriages, are not related on the direct and immediate maternal line and therefore their marriage is not prohibited.

Marriage on the maternal line within the punaluan household has become prohibited. All the while, the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm continues to be operative with the deployment of the sex strike tactic. The matrilineal consanguineous association of households are provisioned separately by the hunting husbands of their wives living in different households from their own maternal households which, likewise, are provisioned by husbands from different households. Households are no longer provisioned by the men who actually belong, consanguinely, to that household. They now provision the households of their wives. The proceeds of the hunt are now presented to their wives in their matrilineal households whereas previously hunters had been handing their kills to their own matrilineal households where they cohabited with their maternal cousin wives. Group marriage continues but is now exogamous in that marriage must now take place outside the household. The hunters therefore present their kills collectively to their wives (in exchange for sex which takes place in the women’s household) who prepare and cook the food for their household. These hunters eat in their own household with their maternal relatives which has been provisioned by hunters from other households.

So marriage now takes place between different households within a consanguineous association of punaluan households. There are, of course, other distinct associations based on the same principle of consanguinity. These associations may consist of two or more households. Division and subdivisions into multiple households and increasing numbers of consanguineous associations takes place as a result of population growth, geographical relocation of people and resettlement. The number of members within a given household would have its limit (according to the local conditions then prevailing) beyond which it must divide and become two separate family households.

Once ‘marriage within’ households became impossible with succeeding prohibitions down the maternal line, ‘marrying out’ asserts its necessity and must take place outside the immediately traceable matrilineage. Successive prohibitions drive sex out of the circle of blood relatives within the sphere of the immediate matrilineage. The final embers of endogamy-linked provisioning die away and a new social system of exogamous relations comes into existence. We now have multiple households which marry into each other within consanguineous associations in a growing community of exogamous group marriages as a result of the prohibition on marriage between maternal cousins within households.

Intermarriage still takes place between punaluan households which are related through common matrilineal descent and constitute a consanguineous association of households. But, as Engels remarks, with further ‘more remote collateral’ prohibitions across households, for example, those later between groups of cousins from different households, the circle of blood relatives within the wider consanguineous association of households narrows so that, increasingly, the need to marry outside of the association into other consanguine associations asserts itself. Marriage no longer take place between households within a punaluan association and must now take place outside the collective of households (the association) into another collective of households (a separate association). The collective now constitutes itself as a gens and relates to other such groups as an order of gentes (clans). Thus we have arrived at the point of the formation of the gens out of the association of consanguinely-related households.

Engels remarks that ‘once the proscription of sexual intercourse between all brothers and sisters, including even the most remote collateral relations on the mother’s side, becomes established, the above group is transformed into a gens – i.e. constitutes itself as a defined circle of blood relatives in the female line, who are not allowed to marry one another’ (p.152, Engels, The Origin of the Family). By ‘the above group’, Engels is referring to the punaluan group ‘consisting of a number of natural and collateral sisters (i.e., those descendant from natural sisters of the first, second or more remote degree), together with their children and their natural or collateral brothers on the mother’s side (who according to our premiss are not their husbands)’. With this group ‘we obtain exactly that circle of persons who later appear as members of a gens in the original form of this institution. They all have a common ancestress, whose female descendants, generation by generation, are sisters by virtue of descent from her. These sisters’ husbands, however, can no longer be their brothers, i.e., cannot be descended from this ancestress, and, therefore, do not belong to the consanguineous group, later the gens; but their children do belong to this group, since descent on the mother’s side alone is decisive, because it alone is certain.’ (ibid, p152). If we conceive the collection of punaluan households in an association as consanguine through a common matrilineage to a common ancestress, then these have now become transformed into a gens. And this has occurred as a cumulative outcome of the progress of sex prohibitions down the maternal line which leads directly towards the gentile order. As soon as family households within a blood-related association collectively cease to intermarry as a result of successive prohibitions, increasingly more remote, this necessarily drives this association into exogamy with other such associations. And the emergence of such a state of affairs is the beginning of the evolution of the gentile order itself which is exogamous from its inception and remains matrilineal for most of its period of development.

Here we can see that the association of punaluan family households is the gentile order existing in embryo. It is simply a matter of what is implicit in the relations of this association being made explicit in the course of development for this association to become transformed into the start of the evolution of the gentile order and its associated constitution. This is why Engels states that the gentile order evolves directly out of the punaluan family. The ban on sex between maternal cousins within the punaluan household gave impetus to future, ‘more remote’ prohibitions across households to finally drive out any more possibilities of transgressing the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm. The system of punaluan families now passes into the early phase of evolution of the gentile order.

As soon as the association of punaluan family households enters into its final exogamous ‘group marriage’ phase it is already, implicitly, a system of exogamous gentes battering on and trying to break down the walls of the old punaluan form to set free these lineages to develop into the new gentile system. The newly-emerged and living content is in rebellion against the older established form of the family and giving it its marching orders to be gone so a new form suitable for the unfolding and evolution of the new content can become established. The relations developed ‘within the womb’ of the consanguineous association of punaluan families have come into direct conflict with the form of that family association. This form must be dissolved and the gentile form created so the newly-emerged content (living relations) can freely unfold and follow their new path of development.

Sex and marriage within the newly-established matrilineal gentes is outlawed and the males of a given gens must ‘marry out’ into the other gentes. The ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm is not only maintained but extended and developed on a wider exogamous basis based on the new matrilineal gentile system. Accordingly, the males of gens A bring their ‘kills’ and ‘catches’ to their wives in gens B and the males of B to their wives in A. Rather than the proceeds of the hunt being presented within the same household of the punaluan family or even to other households in a wider punaluan association, these proceeds are now presented to their wives in separate clans. Their wives in the gentes separate and distinct from their own are the recipients of the hunters’ kills. The emergence of this gentile order brings the first human revolution to a close and the ground is prepared for the development of the more stable and more enduring gentile system based on descent and kinship along the female line. As we find in Morgan’s studies of the American Iroquois, the gentes then proliferate and form ‘phratries’ and later ‘tribes’ and ‘nations’.

The third great prohibition within the household between maternal cousins serves to put the system of punaluan families on a path towards dissolution and its replacement by the gentile order. The different yet connected lineages of the separate punaluan households in consanguineous association with each other constitute the basis for the formation of the gens. Marriage in the gens is strictly exogamous with descent and kinship being identified and traced along the maternal line. Again, as with the punaluan form, the gens traces its descent from a female ancestor who often takes on a mythological status, especially with subsequent development which pushes the gens increasingly further away from its prehistoric point of origination. With the later overthrow of matrilineal kinship in the history of the gens, the ancestor of the gens is transformed into a male figure in accordance with its newly-acquired patrilineal status.

The exogamous gentile order is based on matrilineal kinship where the men and women belonging to the same gens are not permitted to marry. In its classical form, therefore, the gens is not only matrilineal but also prohibits sex or marriage between any of its members. Within the final stage of evolution of the punaluan association of households, intermarriage between men’s children and those of their sisters was, initially, allowed because they were members of different households. They were not related as maternal cousins in the same household but as cousins in two different households. This arose out of the sisters’ brothers having to ‘marry out’ to women of a different household. Men remained members of the same household as their sisters. But the men’s biological children were now members of a different household (that of their wives) and his nieces and nephews were part of his own matrilineal household. The ‘bond’ between men as uncles with their nephews/nieces was stronger than that between them as fathers with their own sons/daughters because of this strong household or, later, gentile affiliation and attachment. As soon as intermarriage between punaluan households is prohibited, this transforms the association of punaluan households into a gens (clan) in which exogamy is taken to a new level. Now intermarriage must take place outside of the former association of households (which is now a gens) between different associations of households which have themselves become a collection of gentes.

As the gentile system expanded, ‘blood’ gradually became ‘more diluted’. New gentes were formed out of the growth and subdivisions of the old so that a ‘phratry’ and later tribe of gentes followed by a wider nation of tribes with related gentes emerged and developed as with find in Morgan’s researches into the Iroquois and with the ancient Greeks where even the armies of the city states were organised along gentile lines of demarcation. The three major sex prohibitions – parent-offspring, maternal sibling and collateral siblings (cousins) – constitute the social basis for the birth and growth of the matrilineal, exogamous gentile system which remains a relatively stable system of social relations for thousands of years of development. It is within the evolution of the matrilineal phase of the gentile system that the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm reaches its highest point of development prior to its dissolution with the rise of pastoralism and field agriculture and the associated emergence of the patriarchal form of the family.

Increases in the productivity of labour produce a growth in populations. This must mean the size and number of family households increase with consequential subdivisions into more lineages based on kinship traced down the female line. The gentile system develops and marriage becomes increasingly more ‘blood distant’ in its nature. A wider and more variegated gentile order of intermarrying clans evolves. It is within the gentile order that the dominant mode of marriage switches from ‘group’ to’ pairing marriage’ [2]. The evolution of the gentile system reveals a growing complexity of social relations, a wider social and increasingly more exogamous basis for the provisioning of the means of subsistence and developments in religious forms of thinking as this system expands and differentiates. Each gens shares religious conceptions with other gentes whilst developing those conceptions which distinguish it from others as we find in totemic identities

The first human revolution did not take place within a few generations but was a drawn out affair in which the major steps forward (as manifested in the different forms of sexual prohibition) were not co-temporal or simultaneously established but were discrete events separated by definite periods of time which gave historical space for the evolution of the family and its internal relationships. Between the first two sexual prohibitions, semi-endogamous relations existed in that sibling (including between maternal siblings) sex was permitted but intergenerational sex between parents and offspring was banned. With further prohibitions this meant, later, that the first gentes emerged as exogamous organisations with previously established and culturally assimilated prohibitions on certain forms of sexual activity, specifically parent-offspring, natural (maternal) and collateral sibling (‘cousin’) sexual relations. When the gentile order first emerged, the intergentile marriage taking place was already significantly ‘distant’ in terms of blood relation because of the growth in population and the previous impositions and enforcement of these sex prohibitions.

Exogamous marriage only takes place because the social basis for ‘marriage within’ is no longer viable or has disappeared within the household or association of family households. The availability of sexual partners in group marriages has been reduced to such a degree as a result of prohibitions and their entrenchment as custom that exogamy is now rendered absolutely necessary for the continued propagation of the community. This was an operative factor in the emergence of the gentile order out of the punaluan family association.

The first human revolution unfolded in stages with successive sexual prohibitions emerging in correspondence with these different stages of this revolution. This revolution was a lengthy, drawn-out process probably taking place over hundreds if not thousands of years between its commencement when patriarchal endogamy was first challenged by a coalition of dependent, oppressed females and sexually sidelined males and the final phase with the establishment of the exogamous, matrilineal gentile order. The first major sex prohibition (parent-offspring) opens the age of the consanguine family out of the ages of many millenia of patriarchal endogamy. The second sex prohibition (between maternal siblings) both closes this period of development of the consanguine family whilst, at the same time, opening that of the punaluan family with its cousin group marriages. The punaluan period is punctuated in its development with the prohibition on sex between maternal cousins within the punaluan household. Later prohibitions across the association of punaluan households marks the transition to the beginnings of the gentile order based on matrilineal exogamy. This order then goes on to establish a system of exogamous ‘pairing marriages’ (couple marriages, ‘pair bonds’) between gentes on the basis of a widening circle of increasingly more distant blood relatives to the point where ‘blood’ within marriage is considered to have been excluded as a result of successive prohibitions and the growth in populations.

Successive sex prohibitions along the maternal line are a manifestation of the revolutionary changes taking place in human relations. This was sparked and driven forward by a coalition of ‘sexually sidelined’ men and ‘materially dependent’ women in order to realise their physical and sexual needs. To do this they had to overthrow of an older patriarchal, crisis-ridden, male-dominated endogamous mode of existence and provisioning. The progressive establishment of prohibitions on sexual relations between blood relatives means that, increasingly, hunters must surrender their ‘kills’ to women who are progressively ‘more distant in blood’ to themselves. This gives impetus to the break up of pre-gentile organisation and the emergence, consolidation and development of a maturing, exogamous gentile system.

The imposition of these sex prohibitions did not all take place together within a historically short period time but were established in different periods under different conditions and under the influence of altered social relations. For example, outlawing sex between maternal siblings could not have taken place at the same time that sex between parents and offspring was banned. A process of development takes place from the first form to the second – as they are separated in historical time – and there are reasons for this separation rooted in specific differences in the conditions of their origination. The establishment of the major sex prohibitions in prehistory were all influenced by the operation or transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule as elaborated by Knight in Blood Relations. However, we need to explain the specific conditions of their origination on the basis of this rule. For example, why did the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings take place later, according to Engels, than that on sex between parents and offspring?

Prohibitions emerge and are imposed out of, and as a reaction to, transgression. That is, to the sexual transgression of rule which links provisioning of the collective to sexual access. In other words, sexual prohibitions arise out of the transgression of the material interests of this collective where the meeting and satisfaction of those material interests (and in prehistory this is primarily food) are inextricably bound up with, and conditional on, abiding by specified and already established sexual relations. Provisioning is made conditional on abiding by these sexual ‘agreements’ between people. If such ‘agreements’ are broken, then this fragments the collective into a ‘civil war’ situation with opposed camps and brings in a new revolutionary period of change and prohibitions on the forms of behaviour which transgressed the agreed paradigm and ‘sparked rebellion’. One camp is defeated and the whole collective, including the remnants of those defeated, must now abide by the newly-imposed conditions and prohibitions. The collective then ‘moves on’ into its next phase of development with a wider circle of sexual prohibitions.

The different stages in the first human revolution represent different stages of crisis within the family and their resolution. In the crisis of the punaluan family, rather than having a ‘brothers’ war’ in the prehistory of the family, leading to sex prohibition between maternal siblings, as we had in the dissolution of the consanguine family, we had a ‘cousins’ war’ which leads on to the exogamous transformation of the punaluan household and associations, their later breakdown and the rise of the gentile order. This ‘cousins’ war’ leads to the prohibition of marriage between maternal cousins, group intermarriage between households and the emergence of the gentile order. This order further establishes and consolidates ‘more remote’ prohibitions on sex and marriage between increasingly more distant blood relatives. The struggle of women to emancipate themselves from the age-old dominance and oppression of patriarchal endogamy in the first human revolution takes the form of a series of ‘class struggles’ within the family, firstly between generations (between parents and offspring) and then secondly within generations between brothers and later, the final and third stage, between cousins. These were the three major stages in the resolution of the crisis of endogamy-linked provisioning in the transition to the matrilineal, exogamous gentile system.

Notes

[1] Different forms of sexual activity. Under the conditions, and as a consequence, of the harem system, many males and females are both separated from regular sexual access to each other under patriarchal endogamy. Accordingly, we can possibly trace the origins of homosexuality prior to the human revolution in the course of which the relations of patriarchal endogamy were overthrown. Homosexuality could have arisen initially as a sexual substitute for heterosexual exclusion and restriction. Men and women seek alternative modes of behaviour in order to satisfy and express their sexual needs. Bisexuality is the almost inevitable outcome of the emergence of homosexuality. Once people are engaging in both forms of sexuality, this will tend to posit bisexuality as a variant combination of the prior forms. We could, therefore, possibly envisage homosexuality and bisexuality as arising out of sexual exclusion or rather the restrictions imposed on both males and females in their sexual access to each other in the period prior to the first human revolution.

However, there is an alternative scenario. The period of the hunt, whilst, according to Knight’s model, being a period of heterosexual abstinence, also afforded a space in time (a lacuna in the continuity of the routine of the ‘regime’) for both men and women to evolve new, substitute forms of sexuality which, perhaps, would not have been identified as transgressing the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm because, it seems, such a rule was a ‘meat-for-heterosex’ arrangement. Hence, alternatively, we can envisage a scenario where homosexuality originates in the course of the period of the hunt (and the ‘sex strike’) where males and females are separated from each other according to the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule which, in such a case, would be a ‘meat-for-heterosex’ rule. This implies that sexual activity within the same gender may not have been viewed as a transgression otherwise it would have been (and perhaps was?) prohibited very early in human prehistory. Of course if we find, or there is, evidence for prohibition of homosexuality in prehistory then this could very possibly be linked to the need to reinforce the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and the tactic of ‘sex striking’. If homosexuality was openly practiced in prehistory without prohibition then this implies that it was not seen as a transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm.

In later religious and moral systems – such as within the Abrahamic Monotheisms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – we find not only the prohibition of homosexuality but also of masturbation. Both prohibitions, of course, are openly flouted by real people in opposition to religious ideals. How old such prohibitions are, and whether they predate these doctrines and stretch back into prehistory, must be investigated further. However, homosexuality may predate this period of the hunt governed by the ‘sex-for-meat’ and ‘own kill’ rules with ‘sex striking’. It may, as we have conjectured, even date from the previous times of patriarchal endogamy when sexually sidelined males tended to be excluded from regular sexual access, especially if they did not bring in food to the endogamous troupe under the control of ‘alpha males’. Accordingly, they may have sought sexual ‘outlet and expression’ in these other forms of sexual behaviour. This, of course, may have also applied to the origins of lesbianism where women were trapped in a harem system with, effectively, a ‘rationing’ of available sex. Or, during the period of the hunt in Knight’s model, the sisters practiced lesbianism as a sexual substitute.

[2] Engels, p.156 ff, The Origin of the Family, Volume 26, Marx-Engels Collected Works, pp.129-276

Shaun May

November 2019

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Children in the Family and in the Commune [2]

Children in the Family and in the Commune [2]

The life of the child in the family and its wider life in society as a whole make up the two sides of the conflict between its private and wider social conditions of life.  In bourgeois society, the initial and informative period of psychological development of the child is centred in the family, that is, within the narrow social arena where its physical and other needs are supposedly met. In this granulated medium, children form their earliest and most significant psychological attachments and dependencies. The establishment, interplay and development of these attachments and dependencies constitute the psychological content and drama of the inner relationships of the contemporary nuclear family.

The relationship of the family structure with the capital order is a diabolical one. It both encourages its formation and continuation and yet, with each passing day, undermines its historical existence. It works both to strengthen and attenuate it, feeding its existence with idealised media representations whilst sharpening its inner contradictions. But the overall historical trajectory is towards disintegration and supersedence.

The dissonance between the ‘public’ life of the individual within society as a whole and the ‘private’ life within the exclusive coterie of the nuclear family is one which can only subsist under general conditions of social alienation. This separation between the ‘private’ world of the individual and the individual’s ‘public’ role in society is a function of the rise and evolution of private property and not something inherently human. It separates out from the primordial, prehistoric commune, positing itself like a crystallised sublimate out of a vapour, as an estranged embodiment of property and control.

This social ‘cleavage’ in the life of each person is reflected in the differences, contrasts and conflicts between the public and private psychology of the individual. The public persona of the individual on the one hand, embracing occupational and professional relationships, and the inner egoism of the private world of thought and feeling of the same individual on the other hand, is just one form taken by this conflict. The painful antagonism between the private and public sides of human individuality reaches its highest point of development in the human relationships of bourgeois society where the social relations engendered by the domination of the capital relation actually necessitate the development, cultivation and perpetuation of this antagonism. It serves to fragment the personality of the individual in his or her psychosocial relationships.

This ‘fragmentation’ is the underlying reason why people feel like ‘halfmen’ or ‘halfwomen’. They do not feel ‘whole’. They feel internally disabled. They seek this ‘wholeness’ in others so that they may be ‘complete’ in their union but only find transmogrified images of themselves in the others. Nobody really finds fulfilment. The global world of the capital order is a billions-gathering of the socially-crippled seeking salvation within the terms of the world which has produced them. To go beyond themselves, they must destroy what has created them and in the process humanise themselves and create a real livable existence.

The dissolution of the family in the global social upheaval and what follows it will mean and ensure that the rearing and socialisation of children takes place on an entirely different, indeed opposite, social foundation to the present one. Children reared through the social relationships of the global commune develop on the foundation of the resolution and abolition of the conflict between the private and public sides of the life of the individual. Children become ‘the children’ of the whole commune – are reared by the whole community – as the psychosocial relationships which characterise the internal structure of the nuclear family disappear.

Biological parents cease to have the same social significance which they have for ‘their’ children reared within the nuclear family in class society. Every adult becomes the social guardian of each and every child.  Hence, the very notions of ‘parent’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’, ‘daughter’ – which express the social relationships of the family –  vanish. In the real social sense, all will be brothers and sisters. Child-adult relationships become transformed in the commune where biological parentage does not have or confer any special, exclusive social role or privilege upon these adults.  The child is reared by the whole commune and grows to maturity without any notions of ‘my family’. The nature of the epoch is always summated and most concretely expressed in the character of its children. They are the human litmus of the age. To know the age, look at its children.

The narrow, exclusive, alienating mode of rearing children in bourgeois society is superseded in the commune. The maturation of children in the commune outside the social relations of the nuclear family will facilitate a higher degree of personal independence and security than can ever exist in class society. This accords with the growing intensity of human freedom that necessarily results from the establishment and development of communist relations. The fears that are associated with the possible or actual non-attainment of needs – food, shelter, clothing, etc – in class societies disappears which, further, serves to dissolve the traditional ties of the nuclear family. The psychosocial relationships of the nuclear family – which grow out of the necessity to satisfy human needs under the conditions of exploitation of class societies – become historically unnecessary and gradually disappear in the onward evolution of communal life.

Shaun May

January 2019

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

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Complimentary Copies of My Book

Complimentary Copies of My Book

Dear Comrades

I have 14 ‘hard’ (printed) copies of the second edition of my book, Capital-in-Crisis, Trade Unionism and the Question of Revolutionary Agency to distribute to people.

If you would like a copy, please email me at  mnwps@hotmail com

Unfortunately, I cannot pay for the package & postage. Book will be sent by first class recorded delivery which is approximately, in the UK, £10.00 for the weight of the book. A cheque for this amount will have to be sent to me. If you are requesting a copy of the book from outside the UK, the cost of postage will obviously be higher. If you are outside the UK, for example, it may be cheaper to simply order the book at your local bookstore or ask your local public library to add a copy to its collection.

Free electronic copies of the first edition of my book are available on the internet with links on this site.

The book is on sale in the UK for approximately £25.00 excluding package & postage. You, as a WordPress reader, will be charged £10.00 for the book which includes package and postage. Once the cheque has cleared, the book will be sent by first class recorded delivery to the nominated address within the UK.

Please let me know by email that you have received the book. If you do intend to buy the second edition of the book, please do not send cash by post. Cash sent through the post has a tendency to ‘get lost in the post’.

With Best Fraternal Wishes

Shaun May

Hull

East Yorkshire

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Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [3] The Rise of Consciousness

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche 

[3] The Rise of Consciousness

 Sections 

[i] Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates Preceding the Emergence of the Hominidae 

[ii] Moments of Transition to the Hominidae 

[iii] Labour Process as Basis of Transformation

[iv] Emergent Conscious Awareness as the ‘Revolutionary Agent’ in the Origination of the Human Psyche

[v] Afterthoughts : Some Questions

References

Footnotes and Memoranda

 

[i] Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates Preceding the Emergence of the Hominidae

We have seen in the previous section how the learning capacities and activities of ancestral, hominoid, animal primates formed the behavioural and neurological basis and preconditions for the emergence of the Hominidae. Existent capacities formed the ground for the development of new skills and forms of behaviour in descendants, including into the hominid line which emerged out of the modes of life of these ancestral primates (fm1). In lower organisms the ability to successfully solve such problems is largely dependent on the appearance and subsequent selection of advantageous biological variations in a population. The capacity of primates to survive variations in life conditions is always augmented by the learning of new skills added to the existing ones but without overspecialisation.

Overspecialisation can often be a prelude to extinction, especially if the conditions of existence of the animal undergo catastrophic changes. The most advantageous forms of adaptation are not merely an adjustment to existing conditions but are also, at the same time, an expansion of the animal’s abilities (repertoire of skills) and of its potential to engage and survive a wider range of conditions. Such forms of adaptation therefore increase the animal’s ‘resources’ which are available in the struggle to survive. Overspecialisation can ‘funnel’ a species down a path towards extinction, especially if its niche is radically altered (fm2).

Humans have evolved from primates and succeeding hominids which both ‘adjusted’ and ‘expanded’ their capacities to encounter and survive a wider range of natural conditions. With such developments, what was not possible previously became possible. New forms of interaction and relationships could be established and developed with the animal’s surroundings which hitherto had not existed. ‘Adjustment’ also meant ‘expansion’ at the same time, that is, an augmentation of existing skills and the development of new ones for surviving a continuously varying and widening range of conditions (fm3).

Therefore, in the evolutionary development towards the hominid line, the ability of primates to survive and to propagate their kind becomes, increasingly, determined by their ability to acquire new skills and develop higher forms of behaviour. The need (necessity) to learn new skills and behaviour that imposed itself on these ancestral pre-hominids introduced a fundamentally new element into their struggle to survive as they began to make the transition to hominid existence. Most animals are characterised by the need to learn in order to survive. However, the more closely does primate evolution approach the hominid line, the more central and important does the capacity and process of learning become.

Implicitly, in the evolution towards and within the hominid line, it was those primates with the most advanced learning capacities which tended to survive and pass on their acquired skills to offspring. Those pre-hominids that learnt and assimilated skills that gave them a distinct advantage in the struggle for life under specific conditions became more capable of securing their means of existence such as food, fending off predators, etc. The advantaged hominoids survived to pass on their skills to their offspring and, in so doing, created a widening ‘behavioural’ gap between themselves and their less able relatives (fm4). Those groups which failed to develop the skills – which would have been necessary in order to survive according to the demands of their conditions of life – inevitably declined and tended towards extinction.

In the more advanced group or groups of primates, the development of abilities and skills – which could be utilised to solve the problems of survival in a more adequate and comprehensive way – must have given the ‘favoured’ group/s a distinct character which afforded it/them obvious advantages in the struggle for survival. Therefore, under the material conditions of their life, also involving competition with other animals and related primates, the development of such abilities must have given a definite group/s a critical advantage in the fight for survival and propagation.

The fact that such skills must have been learnt is highly significant. The ability to learn new skills (and build further on these abilities) in our pre-hominid ancestors contained, in undeveloped, embryonic form, ‘tradition’ (fm5) and the beginnings of a mode of life based on the learning, assimilation and elaboration of new skills. It was a mode of life not simply governed by, and at the behest of, biological inheritance but one in which the potential had been posited for the further onward development and enrichment of learning capacities.

The problems presented to our pre-hominid, primate ancestors by the nature of their conditions of life could only be solved through the learning and development of new skills and forms of behaviour specifically associated with changes taking place in the anatomy and physiology of these primates. In the course of the overcoming of these problems, the mode of life of these animal primates evolved into the mode of life of the very earliest hominids. The widespread use of tools in contemporary anthropoid apes indicates that the common ancestors of hominids and these apes may also have been tool users (fm6). However, both the direct line ancestors of hominids and those of modern anthropoids may have developed tool use independently as their common ancestor differentiated into two distinct lines.

[ii] Moments of Transition to the Hominidae

The sporadic, followed by the consistent, and direct use of natural objects available in the immediate surroundings as tools preceded the infrequent and later consistent and systematic production of tools. For example, to pull fallen fruit or dead animals from a river or lake, to fend off attacks from predatory animals, to drive them off a meat-laden carcase, etc. The simple fashioning of natural objects and their use for a given purpose is a characteristic of the most advanced anthropoid apes today. However, this purely non-conscious, infrequent use of tools in modern apes is not a systematic part of their mode of life. The earliest hominid ancestors of humanity (who shared, at the same time, many of the features of the ultimate form of ancestral, pre-hominid animal primate) probably made use of natural objects in this way and were, perhaps, very infrequent and sporadic makers of very simple tools. Hominids had not yet arrived at a systematic and consistent ‘culture’ of tool making which came later with more advanced hominid forms.

The sporadic use of natural objects as tools by ancestral primates followed later by the ability to make very rough, simple tools for the immediate use in attaining food, warding off predators, etc, was initially, without doubt, carried out inadvertently and under the direct pressure of immediate and impending circumstances. But such actions, in enabling a primate to use tools to perform tasks that facilitated survival, would have become associated with advantageous results and become assimilated and refined by a process of learning. If any activity actually helped a primate to survive, that is, was advantageous in the struggle for life, then its incidental character would have become altered and adapted to a more permanent status as the primate encountered similar situations in the course of its life history. The regular use of a wide range of tools – even simple implements like unworked stones and wooden branches – became the starting point for the irregular, sporadic production of tools and later the transition to regular tool-making in the mode of life of later hominids.

Learning in those primates, immediately preceding the hominid lineage, must have reached the point where tool use was a feature, if only sporadic, of their mode of life and their learning capacities must have been advanced relative to that of other primates living at the time. The earliest hominids emerged out of these advanced, hominoid primates and, over time, started to develop more advanced forms of behaviour, even early forms of co-operation and group organisation. Such ‘co-operation’ we find today in anthropoid apes. For example, the working together of a troop of Chimpanzees in hunting other monkeys or driving off predators.

Hominid characteristics start to appear, paradoxically, in creatures which are still, in all essentials, animal primates (fm7). This movement towards hominisation is the commencement of the distinction between the animal primate per se and the very earliest hominids. The systematic, intentional and consistent use and manufacture of tools specifically characterises the modes of life of later, more advanced hominids. However, in this earliest of periods of hominisation, we can, perhaps, envisage a limited growth and diversification in the use of tools and perhaps a less sporadic character in their incidental creation which further enhanced survival.

The capacity to fashion simple tools for use in definite operations would have given an advantage under changing conditions (e.g. in a period of dearth or when under assault by predators. Chimpanzees today in the forest canopy use fruit as projectiles to drive away predators) and so enabled the earliest hominids to survive where other groups perished. The acquisition of the abilities by ancestral primates to make simple tools – when the objective demands of the situation were pressing and required their immediate use – was embryonic in opening up the road to later tool use and production in hominids. The rise of consistent, regular tool-making and use in later hominids becomes synonymous with the subsequent birth and rise of human culture itself.

The life of these early ‘hominids’ (who were still umbilically connected in their mode of life to their pre-hominid, animal nature), despite its precarious character, must have been serviced by a wider repertoire of collective skills and learning capacities in comparison to their immediate and distant animal primate ancestors (fm8). The conflict between the need to expand existing capabilities in order to survive the impact of constantly changing conditions on the one hand, and the existing level of skills of the group which had developed in relation to previous conditions and needs on the other hand, had to be resolved continuously in order to move the early hominid group/s forward to avoid extinction. The lurking threat of extinction possibly served as a spur to the development of new skills and forms of behaviour and to push early hominids into modes of life beyond previous modes characterised by crises of one kind or another. The development of these new skills and behaviours served to resolve crises in favour of the evolving early hominid group/s. These ‘resolutions’, with relatively more advanced skills and behaviour, in their turn, served to produce a firmer and more stable foundation for countering later threats of extinction as and when they appeared as conditions altered.

[iii] Labour Process as Basis of Transformation

The transition from an arboreal, quadrumanous state of locomotion to ground dwelling led on to the specialisation of the forelimbs for labour and the hindlimbs for walking. Our arboreal primate ancestor walked on all four limbs, all of which were, at the same time, specialised for use as hands. The polarisation in the function of the limbs in this ancestor meant that the forelimbs became specialised as hands and the hindlimbs for walking. This lead, of course, to bipedalism. This must, at least in part, have been an adaptation to a mode of life which was becoming increasingly ground-dwelling. Although climbing itself has a tendency to encourage bipedal behaviour. Interestingly, our bodily frames still retain the capacity to freely climb and move around in trees and our feet can still be adapted as hands, for example, in people who have lost their forelimbs or use of their hands. This polarisation and adaptation was, according to Leakey,

so significant an adaptation that we are justified in calling all species of bipedal ape ‘human’. This is not to say that the first bipedal ape species possessed a degree of technology, increased intellect or any of the cultural attributes of humanity. It didn’t. My point is that the adoption of bipedalism was so loaded with evolutionary potential – allowing the upper limbs to be free to become manipulative implements one day – that its importance should be recognised in our nomenclature. These humans were not like us, but without the bipedal adaptation they couldn’t have become like us. [1]

Some anthropologists would disagree with Leakey’s characterisation as warranting the use of the term ‘human’ for all ‘bipedal apes’. However, his ‘point’ about ‘evolutionary potential’ cannot be denied. The freeing of the hand from locomotion meant that early hominids had the potential to cultivate established skills, develop new ones and bring them to a more comprehensive degree of perfection in the course of the development of the labour process (fm9). ‘Inheriting’ definite skills from their primate ancestors, hominids could, potentially and later actually, begin (with the polarisation of the functions of the limbs), at a very rudimentary level, to produce tools for use in the acquisition of their needs.

The hand itself becomes specialised as the organ of labour so that production later becomes the material basis of human life (fm10). The human hand is far more dextrous and versatile in its operational capacity than that of any ape. Anatomically…

The most obvious feature that distinguishes the ape hand from the human hand is the length of the thumb in relation to the length of the remaining digits and particularly the index digit. The ape thumb is much shorter in relation to the index digit than it is in humans and makes it difficult to oppose the pulp of the thumb to the tips of the remaining digits. This, together with the absence of asymmetry of the head of the third metacarpal and the inability to cup the palm of the hand, restricts the apes to primarily the hook grip and the pinch precision grip [2]

The evolution of the labour process is synonymous with the development of the hand, the senses and the brain itself (fm11). Their evolution takes place together and only in relation to each other. The increase in the dexterity of the hand (especially in the opposability of the thumb and forefinger) and its modification to perform a multiplicity of operations and functions in the manipulation of natural objects and materials is a definite pre-condition for the further, and later, development of the labour process in human history.

At the same time, the development of the human hand itself is a product of the history of this labour process. The changes occurring in the structure and manipulative properties of the hand – side by side with the heightening of the tactile and other senses such as detection of pressure and temperature differences (and this implies neurological developments) – meant that the structure, properties and uses of natural materials could be more widely and deeply investigated so that existing techniques could be improved and new ones elaborated (fm12). The development of an…

extensive manipulatory behaviour was facilitated by hands freed of locomotor functions, stereoscopic vision, increasing brain size and more effective hand-eye coordination. The selective pressure for extensive environmental manipulation probably grew out of increasing tool use, which was, in turn, related to increasing problems of survival. [3]

It was the emergence and development of the labour process in later hominids which necessitated social co-operation between individuals. But this, in its turn, gave rise to the need for spoken language, speech, as a means of communication. Hominids cannot produce tools as a group and co-operate systematically in various activities (hunting, foraging, firemaking, etc) without communicating with each other. And it was this ‘imperative need’ to communicate which necessitated the birth and development of language in hominids. This means that the real source of the emergence and development of human language is the labour process itself where hominids are producing and co-operating together and maintaining the integrity of the whole labour process by communicating with each other. The birth of language therefore serves an important social survival function in that it services co-operation in the production process of tools and material needs in the course of the later evolution of hominids.

As hominid evolution proceeded, the development of existing skills and the learning of new ones involving the group or troop as a whole necessitated  greater degrees of co-operation and communication. This, in its turn, gave impetus to the further development of language which, intrinsically, becomes associated with the rise of consciousness itself and the origination of the human psyche as a totality.

Contemporary palaeoanthropology does not always grasp the relations involved in the origination of language (and its practical expression in human speech) as a necessity arising out the need for hominids to communicate with each other. ‘Cognitive processes’ emerge coincident with or later subsequent to the origination of language. They do not arise prior to language and then become the ’cause’ of language. For example, Lewin writes that…

with the passage of time and the emergence of new species along the Homo lineage, stone-tool making became even more systematic and orderly. [….] This increased orderliness in stone-tool manufacture must [….] reflect an increasingly ordered set of cognitive processes that eventually involved spoken language [4]

The fact that ‘stone-tool making became even more systematic and orderly’ implies co-operation, communication and, at least, the beginnings of language in order to socially structure a more ‘systematic and orderly’ way of making tools and organising other activities. Lewin cited here inverts the actual relation. An ‘increasingly ordered set of cognitive processes’ ‘reflected’ the ‘increased orderliness in stone-tool manufacture’ and the associated origination of language itself. Lewin puts the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’.

Cognitive capacities and ‘processes’ could not have arisen without the emergence and development of language. Word and thought are different yet inseparable aspects of the same cognitive relation. The notion that ‘cognitive processes eventually involved spoken language’ implies the possibility that spoken language (speech) emerged subsequent to ‘cognitive processes’ which is clearly incorrect on the basis of our conception we are elaborating here. The following conception more correctly approaches the truth of matters when it touches on the difference between those who propose an ‘early’ or ‘late’ development of language in hominid evolution, implying ‘strong evidence for an ancient origin for language’….

The timing of language origins has important implications for the nature of mind. If it appeared recently – in anatomically modern Homo Sapiens – language was secondary to previous non-linguistic changes in the brain, possibly increased general intelligence, and there was not much time for it to influence the structure of the brain or vocal tract. If it appeared early in our evolution it probably passed through many different forms and had a major influence on the evolution of the brain and vocal tract. The multitude of language adaptations seamlessly integrated into human nature provides strong evidence for an ancient origin for language. Adaptations of early hominids to aid speech acquisition may still influence how we learn, use and understand language today. [5]

Language does not, however, merely serve a communicative function. It is intrinsically necessary for the process of thought itself and verbal interaction plays a central role in the regulation of behaviour. Thought itself is a silent form of inner speech whilst, at the same time, becoming expressed externally in the form of speech. Perception, memory and the development of cognition are all become associated with the ability to master and apply language.

The origination of language systematically developed those organs associated with and necessary for it: the larynx, tongue, lips, hard and soft palates and the volume and structure of the mouth cavity (fm13). These developments would have been impossible without all those primate neurological structures inherited from their animal primate ancestors. Hominid evolution…

has ‘recruited’ for language purposes brain structures that performed other functions in the non-human primates. In the process of recruitment they have become modified to meet different, and far more demanding, functional requirements. [….]

Although the basic organisation of human language areas has been borrowed from our ancestors, these language areas are many times larger than would be expected in a typical primate brain. Changes in the relative size of these areas has also changed their function by altering connections between structures […..]

Changes in the brain give intriguing clues about the nature and uniqueness of human intelligence. They suggest that the human brain has been shaped by evolutionary processes that elaborated the capacities needed for language, and not just by a general demand for greater intelligence. [6]

The brain of the ancestral animal primate becomes materially transformed, becoming further evolved to a new, more complex, stage of development in the course of hominid evolution under the direct influence and different consequences of the material and social relations of the labour process. The human brain is, therefore, essentially, a social product resulting from that transitional period of development between ancestral primate and human and the subsequent social modes of life of humanity. It continues to develop materially and its processes become more refined and better adapted to orientate and guide human social behaviour. The ‘plasticity’ of the brain’s processes does not end once humanity has separated itself from the animal. The detailed anatomy and physiology of the brain continues to be subject to alterations and modulations with the social evolution of humanity beyond the hominid transitional phases (fm14).

The brain in hominid evolution is not simply a product of natural selection but is a social product of that evolutionary history. The human brain is not only larger than that of contemporary apes but is qualitatively more complex. These differences are a product of the hominid transitional period within which humanity’s social nature germinated and emerged. The human brain is the outcome of both this extensive transitional period of hominid ‘social’ development and of that of the ‘sapiential’ period subsequent to it. A complete development and transformation of the cerebral region of the primate brain takes place. The size and inner complexity of the brain as a whole changes so that all the other brain functions become modified as a result of this cerebral development which is a product of the transition taking place between ‘non-conceptualising’ primates and consciously thinking humans.

The development of speech simultaneously developed and cultivated the sense of hearing (fm15). Just as the arboreal existence of humanity’s primate ancestors necessitated the emergence and improvement of mechanisms of stereoscopic vision in order to correctly judge position and distance [7] (fm16), so the development of language and speech became a spur to the improvement and refinement of auditory mechanisms. Such developments in the hearing mechanism enabled hominids to distinguish more readily and adeptly between different sounds, stresses and intonations. But words are not merely symbolic representations of concepts.  The actual meaning of thought is expressed in language, so that the structure and origins of each are mutually related and inseparable from each other.  Thought and language, taken in their unity, reflect, mutually determine each other and evolve together in their reciprocality and their mutual relationship to each other. The origination of speech and language consequent on the evolution of the labour process forms the social medium within which the rise of consciousness takes place. This is why Engels writes….

First labour, after it and then with it, speech – these were the two most essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of the ape gradually changed into that of man, which for all its similarity is far larger and more perfect [8]

Over time, hominids increased their populations by learning and developing new skills that became increasingly more sophisticated and refined in the regular production of tools for use in the procurement of their means of subsistence. The more capable a group becomes in the production and use of tools, the more likely it is to overcome the obstacles that confront it in its daily existence. Groups producing a wider range of implements which were, at the same time, of consistently superior quality than those of their competitors would undoubtedly have possessed advantages over their competitors whose mode of life did not incorporate tool-making as an intrinsic feature or involved making tools of an inferior quality. The more adept toolmakers would have possessed a better chance of surviving the prevailing conditions and adapting to changes in them. The development of such capacities not only facilitated survival under the given conditions but also, at the same time, equipped hominids to more effectively change these conditions in such a way that the possibility of surviving and propagating their kind became enhanced (fm17). Leakey writes that…

When our ancestors discovered the trick of consistently producing sharp stone flakes, it constituted a major breakthrough in human prehistory. Suddenly, humans had access to foods that had previously been denied to them. The modest flake [….] is a highly effective implement for cutting through all but the toughest hides to expose the meat inside. Whether they were hunters or scavengers, the humans who made and used these simple stone flakes thereby availed themselves of a new energy source – animal protein. Thus they would have been able not just to extend their foraging range but also to increase the chances for successful production of offspring. The reproductive process is an expensive business, and the expansion of the diet to include meat would have made it more secure [9]

The emergence and establishment of a process – ‘culture’ – of consistent tool-making, involving the social co-operation and activity of individuals and the group as a whole, enhanced the chances of surviving adverse conditions confronting hominid groups. The impact of changing demands and conditions would have necessitated the development of superior tools. Migration to new areas and competition with other primates and animals may have been important in this process.  Additionally, the chance discoveries which must have occurred as hominids experimented with new materials and objects would have become an important source of innovation in the tool-making process (fm18). Innovation, once again, enhanced survival and facilitated the propagation of the group. Those groups that failed to innovate and remained entrenched in ways more suited to past conditions and demands would have become more susceptible to extinction.

The transmission of skills from one generation to the next ensures the survival and propagation of hominid groups. Language becomes an essential and indispensable medium for this transmission. Communication through language enables hominids to transmit and exchange techniques and other abilities without the need to recapitulate the steps in the development of technique which lead up to the acquisition and refinement of these capacities (fm19)….

Man masters verbal speech and with its help he can assimilate experience accumulated over a thousand years of humanity’s history [10]

By the combined means of demonstration and language, skills can be learnt and transmitted in a relatively short period of time. In the course of the acquisition of such skills, individuals can absorb and assimilate the lessons of the experiences of many generations. The achievements and legacies of previous generations of hominids are socially inherited and become modified and transformed by succeeding generations. The cultural heritage of hominids becomes richer – involving a wider range of, and operationally more intricate, skills – as hominid evolution proceeds. With animals, the transmission of skills occurs by means of inherent behaviour or by direct imitation, that is, through the learning involved in mimicry. However, with hominids and later humans, we have the emergence of verbal speech which enables the direct transmission and assimilation of knowledge and skills which have taken millenia of experience and practice to develop and refine.

An intermediate period of millions of years may have elapsed between the first use of a sharp stone to fend off predators and the fashioning of a delicate, razor-sharp, flint arrowhead for use in hunting. However, the ability to make the arrowhead does not require the recapitulation of the history of the labour process leading from the defensive stone to the flint arrowhead of the hunter.  The labour process of hominids had to pass through definite stages in order to develop and assimilate the skills necessary to produce the arrowhead. But the actual production of the arrowhead contains, subsumed within itself, the history of the labour process that leads up to the dextrous ability of hominids to make such implements. An aeon of experience is distilled in the simple act of producing the flint arrowhead.

The evolving material relations created by interacting with nature in the course of human activity become a source of real changes in human awareness and consciousness. The process of making a stone axe is not only mediated by, and further develops, an experiential knowledge of the techniques involved in the actual process itself. Moreover, with the later emergence of conscious awareness, such activities in themselves, at the same time, become the source of a whole range of notions stemming from the ignorance of those natural phenomena and material processes which are determining and mediating the production process of the axe itself. For example, the earliest, animistic notions of deity existent within objects and nature. The productive relationship between humanity and nature (labour process) continuously and simultaneously gives rise to and develops both technique and conceptions of nature.

These learnt skills would have become integrated into the practices and behaviour of the hominid group, enriching its repertoire of skills, and thus furthering its capacity to survive and reproduce itself. The process of tool-making and its diversification and refinement was a form of learnt behaviour which afforded those groups which developed it an advantage in the struggle for survival under the given conditions of the time. As the ‘tradition’ of tool-making was transmitted from one generation to the next and so on, it became, increasingly, a more sophisticated and efficacious process (fm20).

Toolmaking had ‘knock on’ consequences. For example, striking a stone against a flint produces a spark when making an axe. Later it is discovered that such a spark can be used to make fire from its contact with dry tinder. Knowledge of fire-making creates the capacity to keep warm both outside and under shelter in winter and the ability to tenderise food in the process of cooking it. More easily edible and digestible food means the body can assimilate nutrients more readily. This must have been important in the evolution of hominid physiology, brain and activity in general. The immediacy of the direct interaction and experience of hominids with nature in the course of their labour activities gave rise to new discoveries and their integration into their modes of life.

Tool-making and the use of tools (i.e. the labour process as a totality) becomes the basis, the foundation, upon which hominid evolution takes place and evolves towards human relations. Indeed, so much so that in relation to human existence generally, Engels asserts that labour……

is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself. [11]

The increasing augmentation of the generic learning capacities of hominids enabled them to more adequately tackle the demands placed on them by their conditions of life. This means that new forms of organisation which were intrinsic to, and necessary for, the learning and development of new and more complex skills amongst hominids – involving tool use and production – must have emerged and started to evolve. The growth in the complexity of social organisation in these groups, as hominid evolution proceeded, was, therefore, linked to the progression of tool-making to continuously new levels of sophistication and the resulting collective activities consequent on their use and deployment in various ways and in the course of the different activities of troops and groups in their struggle to survive. This made the acquisition of their means of subsistence less arduous compared to the activities of their ancestors. The historical gap between the hominid and the animal began to widen with the development of tool-making and use and the level and complexity of social organisation accompanying these activities in the labour process.

The evolution of hominids becomes characterised by a growth in the quantity, and a development in the qualitative complexity, of the labour functions. This itself implies the development of the hand as the organ of labour. The human hand, therefore, is both the organ and the product of labour. In the course of hominid evolution the hand has become specialised for labour. Indeed, so much so that the human hand itself implies the production and use of tools, labour, activity.

The sporadic use of available natural objects as tools was a feature of the modes of life of the animal, primate ancestors of hominids. But with later hominids (of the line ‘Homo’), after a lengthy period of transition, we find the systematic production of tools for pre-determined purposes, such as we find with Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, etc. It was an advance made necessary by the need to survive and overcome the impact and effects of the natural conditions under which these hominids lived. In other words, the labour process itself arises out of the need to survive and propagate under such conditions. Henceforth, all these skills and abilities learnt in the labour process offered descendants specific advantages in the struggle to survive and propagate their kind.

Co-operation enabled the group to more easily and readily secure its means of subsistence in the face of hostile natural conditions. Co-operation enhances the capacity of hominids to secure their means of subsistence. For example, in gathering activities and in the course of hunting. All those forms of behaviour and skills which facilitated or increased co-operation would have become socially assimilated as part of the ‘culture’ of the hominid group and refined according to their needs. Increases in the size of the group or troop would also have facilitated learning and the transmission of skills from one generation to the next. As Mithen remarks…

especially significant for hominids with their reliance on stone tools and capacity for strong social learning, is that as group size increases we should expect the opportunities for social learning (of whatever form) to increase. [……..] Consequently, the relative role of social to individual learning will increase. Similarly the rate of cultural transmission will increase. Individuals will be able to observe the actions of other individuals, such as their manipulation of objects more frequently and in more detail when living in large groups, due to the importance of intense kin-bonding, coalitions and the high frequency of visual monitoring and social interaction in general. This increased opportunity for observation will increase the extent of stimulus enhancement, true imitation and emulation. It may also increase the probability that individuals will engage in instructed learning [12]

Such forms of behaviour would have made the group more successful and these forms would have become structured into the relations of their social life. The effects of more efficient and productive forms of technique on the one hand, and more highly developed social co-operation on the other, motivated and engendered improvement and innovation in both areas (fm21).   Accordingly, co-operation became an indispensable part of the organisation of hominids in their struggle to survive. The unity of tool-making and co-operation in hominids formed the organisational basis for the evolution of the labour process and later for that of human society itself as a whole.

Hominids, in altering their conditions of life through the labour process in the course of the development of their interactions with nature, push themselves forward, further along the hominid line towards Homo Sapiens. We now know that different hominid species, and even different human species, emerged and which, for whatever reasons, later became extinct. Rather than the Hominidae being a ‘line’ of descent, it was more like a branching ‘tree’ of evolution in which some branches ended in extinction and the favoured one eventually made its way through the ‘tree’ to give rise to us, modern human beings. There were different intermediate forms which came and went in the course of hominid evolution, some forming part of our lineage and others ending in extinction at the termination points of their respective ‘branches’.

Thus, we can see that the labour process necessarily gives birth to wider forms of social co-operation in hominids and this, in its turn, necessitates the need for communication and the emergence of language (speech is ‘practical language’) which mediate this co-operation. As soon as language starts to originate, we have the beginnings of the communication of knowledge and ideas in speech. This, in itself, implies the beginnings of conceptualisation and of the rise of consciousness. The later emergence of humanity is, at the same time, the re-affirmation of the fundamental role of labour in the origin of human culture and the human psyche; that is, in the essential role it has played in the ‘transition from ape to man’

This was the principal, the quintessential complex which formed the basis for the transformation of the non-conscious awareness of the animal pre-hominid into the conscious awareness of human beings. Co-operation in the labour process therefore forms the driving social organisational basis upon which language and consciousness originate. In the beginnings of language is posited the germination of consciousness itself and the beginnings of the emergence of the human psyche itself as a whole (fm22). Hominid relations become increasingly subject to mediation by language and nascent forms of conscious awareness, by ‘consciousness in the making’.

[iv] Emergent Conscious Awareness as the ‘Revolutionary Agent’ in the Origination of the Human Psyche

The rise of conscious awareness is synonymous with the rise of the human psyche as a whole as a historically new, distinct form of motion. The ability of the pre-hominid ancestors of humanity to learn new skills and forms of behaviour constituted an essential pre-condition for the origination of hominid modes of life and later for conscious human life. However, the actual process of the origination of consciousness proper only commences when hominids have started to form relationships involving co-operation in toolmaking and other activities. Consciousness, therefore, can only be scientifically understood as a social product from its very earliest beginnings. Marx writes that….

Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all. Consciousness is at first, of course, merely consciousness concerning the immediate (Marx emphasis in bold) sensuous environment and consciousness of the limited connection with other persons and things outside the individual who is growing self-conscious. At the same time it is consciousness of nature, which first confronts men as a completely alien, all powerful and unassailable force, with which men’s relations are purely animal and by which they are overawed like beasts; it is thus a purely animal consciousness of nature (natural religion) precisely because nature is as yet hardly altered by history – on the other hand, it is man’s consciousness of the necessity of associating with individuals around him, the beginning of consciousness that he is living in society at all. This beginning is as animal as social life itself at this stage. It is mere herd-consciousness, and at this point man is distinguished from sheep only by the fact that with him consciousness takes the place of instinct or that his instinct is a conscious one. 

[Marginal note by Marx: We see here immediately: this natural religion or this particular attitude to nature is determined by the form of society and vice versa. Here, as everywhere, the identity of nature and man also appears in such a way that the restricted attitude of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another, and their restricted relation to one another determines men’s restricted relation to nature]

Marx continues….

This sheep-like or tribal consciousness receives its further development and extension through increased productivity, the increase of needs, and, what is fundamental to both of these, the increase of population. With these there develops the division of labour, which was originally nothing but the division of labour in the sexual act, then the division of labour which develops spontaneously or “naturally” by virtue of natural pre-disposition (e.g. physical strength), needs, accidents, etc, etc. Division of labour only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and mental labour appears. 

[Marginal note by Marx: The first form of ideologists, priests, is co-incident] 

From this moment onwards consciousness can really flatter itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice, that it really represents something without representing something real; from now on consciousness is in a position to emancipate itself from the world and to proceed to the formation of “pure” theory, theology, philosophy, morality, etc. [13]

The insight and profundity of Marx’s analysis here must be noted, written, as it was, at least thirteen years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species and twenty-five years before his Descent of Man.

The capacity to learn becomes the capacity of a conscious being and not simply an ability determined by the demands of immediate circumstances and by the unconscious processes of nature. The learning-instinct relations and complexes of the non-conscious awareness of the ancestral primate are adequate and necessary for its purely natural relationships and mode of life. However, they become inadequate and outmoded for the emerging social relationships of hominid and, later, human modes of life.

We have seen how language and the associated beginnings of conscious awareness originate in the need for hominids to co-operate in the labour process and other activities such as gathering, hunting, firemaking and even play. But what is the nature of the transformation which takes place (on the psychic level) as the non-conscious form of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid becomes transformed into the conscious form of awareness of humans over a very long period of transition, in truth, over hundreds of thousands if not millions of years? This is a long, drawn out transitional period of transformation and not a process which can be thought of in terms of centuries or even millenia.

We have presupposed that the non-conscious form of awareness in the ancestral animal primate is a complex (synthesis) of the instinctive and the learnt, that is, simple conditioned learning. This serves to sensuously and actively orientate the animal in the course of its life activity within its natural conditions and environment. Within this context of natural relations, it struggles to acquire its means of life in order to survive and propagate its species.

As conscious awareness originates, it comes into relation with those instincts which have arisen and evolved in the entire evolutionary prehistory of humanity’s animal ancestors. This collision of the ancient pre-human instincts, found in the non-conscious state of awareness of the animal, with an emergent conscious awareness constituted the protoconscious arena within which the first seeds of the human psyche were sown and started to germinate.

The mediation of the instinctive by emerging conscious awareness transforms the instinctive into the unconscious. An intermediation and opposition between the conscious and the unconscious arises with the transforming effects of the rise of conscious awareness on instinct. This intermediation of each by the other constitutes an integration of opposites (the conscious and the unconscious) which, once arisen, thenceforth later conditions the further onward historical development of the human psyche. Each side, in their mutual relation, conditions and determines the other and, in so doing, affects itself.

It is the impact of emergent conscious awareness on animal primate instinct which presents the emerging psyche as dichotomising (diremption) into the unconscious (which contains superseded within itself the instinctive capacities of ancestral primates) and the conscious (which contains superseded within itself the learning capacities of these primates).The relationship between learning and instinct found in the animal is transformed and superseded with the rise of conscious awareness.

This conflict (between these pre-hominid instincts and this emergent conscious awareness) could only be resolved with the positing of the unconscious as the psychic opposite of the conscious. In the process of this synthetic resolution, the unconscious thereby comes into relation with its opposite in the form of the conscious which had itself brought the unconscious into being through its mediative relationship with the ancient instincts of ancestral hominoids. The resulting synthesis, in positing the relation between the conscious and the unconscious, supersedes the relationship between instinct and learning found in the ancestral primate animal. Accordingly, the learning capacities of the animal primate are qualitatively transformed and raised to a conscious level.

This ‘fusion’ (synthesis) which takes place – in which the origination of conscious awareness simultaneously transforms the instinctive into the unconscious – as the human psyche starts to come into being, forms a very deep, organic connection between the animal prehistory of humanity and humanity as a product of socio-historical development. It is a consideration which cannot be neglected in any comprehensive theory of human development, especially in its psychological aspects. The social transformation of the biological legacy, which has been furnished by our primate ancestors, takes the form, within the psychic arena, of the relationship and interplay between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche.

The rise of consciousness is the fundamental determining agency in the process of the transformation of the non-conscious, pre-conscious awareness of the ancestral animal primate into that of hominids-becoming-conscious and later human beings. This emergence of conscious awareness gives the human psyche a self-mediating character (self-consciousness) not found in the awareness of pre-hominid ancestors. This self-mediation of the psyche also becomes integrated with the transformed biological legacy bequeathed by humanity’s primate ancestry.

The rise of conscious awareness therefore transforms the instinctive in the animal pre-hominid into the unconscious in humans as a result of the mediation of instinct by an emergent conscious awareness. An intermediation between the instinctive and the emergent conscious takes place (fm23). In affecting and transforming the instinctive in this way, the earliest forms of conscious awareness (protoconscious forms) are themselves affected and fed by the streams of instinct becoming the unconscious.

The unconscious is, therefore, that realm of the human psyche which arose as a result of the rise of conscious awareness itself with the consequent sublation and incorporation of the instinctive capacities of humanity’s animal ancestors and posited in the form of the unconscious. Since the unconscious is the supersedence of instinct, it must contain the instinctive absorbed and incorporated within itself. The psychodynamic which is the intermediation of the unconscious and the conscious becomes a fundamental dynamic in the history of this human psyche. The unconscious is integrated into the total life of the psyche so that these sublated capacities are not separated from, but are active in, the life of this psychic totality as a consequence of the origination and evolution of conscious awareness in the hominisation process.

The wholeness of the psyche means that the life of the unconscious is always being registered and expressed, in one form or another, in the field of consciousness. Reciprocally, what is taking place in consciousness is constantly mediating the whole arena of the unconscious. The intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious constitutes the life of the psyche as a singularity. Each mediates the other and cannot subsist without being in relation to the other. Each, in being the negation of the other, simultaneously and continuously reposits, determines and reaffirms the other and, in so doing, reaffirms itself and thus its own essential nature.

This becoming of the unconscious out of the transforming of instinct by emergent conscious awareness, determines and continuously reaffirms its conscious opposite in this primaeval psyche. Therefore, in creating its psychical opposite out of instinct in the form of the unconscious, this emergent conscious awareness simultaneously reasserts and reaffirms itself as the pivotal, inner ‘revolutionary’ agency in the transformation of the awareness of the animal primate into that of the hominid and later that of humans. The rise of conscious awareness thereby transforms the non-conscious awareness of the animal into the totality which is the human psyche.

The outcome of this process actually represents the transformation of one totality into another. The totality which was the pre-conscious, non-conscious form of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid (animals are aware but not consciously aware) is completely transformed into the totality which is the conscious form of awareness of humanity (Homo Sapiens Sapiens), that is, into the human psyche as a unity of the conscious and the unconscious.

The human psyche thus arises as an identity of the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious originates as the psychic opposite of the conscious which gives rise to the former in the course of the genesis of conscious awareness out of the non-conscious forms of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid. Thereafter, the conscious and the unconscious exist and evolve in opposition to each other within their mutual interrelation. In their identity and opposition, they constitute the most fundamental relationship of the human psyche which becomes the ‘exponent’ of its interrelated and intermediating conscious and unconscious sides and aspects.

The intricacy and complexity of the human psyche is, in this totality, the outcome of its entire social history and biological prehistory. For example, if we take the biochemical processes which govern the human ‘body clock’ which regulates biological activities on a 24 hour cycle, we can observe the same biochemical mechanisms in all animals, even the very simplest multicellular animals. This means that the biochemistry of these ‘body clock’ mechanisms evolved at the dawn of life itself, is very ancient indeed, was ‘selected’ and dates back many millions if not billions of years ago when life forms first established themselves on the planet. These mechanisms remain, intrinsically, part and parcel of the life of the human organism today.

What humans have inherited from their animal ancestors (what has been ‘passed down’ the ages) have either become vestigial or still continue to serve vital or important functions in the life of human beings. All those aspects found in the life of animal ancestors (biochemistry, physiology, even behavioural traits, elements, etc), which are still advantageous or remain necessary for human survival, have become assimilated (not absolutely abolished) into the human organism in the course of the evolution from animal primates. The biochemical mechanisms of ‘body clock’ given above are just one example of this legacy but many more could be given which we have inherited from our distant animal ancestors stretching back many millions if not billions of years. The neurological, biochemical and physiological processes which underlie the ‘fight or flight’ response (fear, ‘stress’, anxiety) is another example.

Consciousness originates and develops as a distinctly and specifically human form of awareness which arises in the unfolding and evolution of the hominisation process over millions of years. The emergence and further development of conscious awareness is, as we have proposed in this brief study, the revolutionary agent in the origination of the human psyche as a whole (fm24). According to Trotsky, writing in his notebooks on evolution and psychology in the 1930s…

Consciousness is a quite original part of nature, possessing peculiarities and regularities that are completely absent in the remaining part of nature. Subjective dialectics must by virtue of this be a distinctive part of objective dialectics – with its own special forms and regularities. [14]

The human psyche originates and evolves as a distinct form of motion which arises and becomes posited as a higher synthesis of the neurobiological and the social. Developing historically, it becomes subject to change in both its conceptual content and in its internal ‘structural’ relations according to alterations and transformations in social and historical conditions.

The rise of consciousness marks the rise of the human psyche as a whole because the origination and development of conscious awareness completely transforms all the capacities and inner relationships of the pre-hominid, non-conscious forms of awareness in the animal primate. It raises these capacities – in the course of superseding them – to a new, higher level in the form of the conscious awareness of human beings. The emergence of consciousness implicates ‘conceptual content’ and the structuring and relations of this ‘content’. This conceptual content does not originate in the material sphere of neurobiology or within the unconscious itself. Rather it is society’s own creation, the conceptual content of thought arises ‘externally’ within the realm of social relations, their registration and reflection. The image in the mirror (or the moving imagery of a film) does not originate in the materiality of the mirror itself but rather in the object which this materiality reflects. The image cannot be formed without the materiality of the mirror but the actual content, relations and significance of the image has its origins in the object itself external to the mirror.

This content of thought mediates, and is mediated by, the neurophysiology of the unconscious. The interrelationship between thinking and the perceptible ‘registration’ which is ‘feeling’ (mood and emotion) involves the intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious (the interpenetration of the conceptual and non-conceptual). A detailed analysis of the origins of human emotion and mood is beyond the scope of this brief study. However, in passing, it should be mentioned that the emotions, and mood, are not simply neurological phenomena but are actually related to, and originate within, the nature of human social experience and life and the interpersonal relationships and behaviour constituted and developed therein (fm25). The changing nature of humanity does not preclude the possibility that certain emotions (and even moods) which characterise the human personality in the present epoch may even disappear in later epochs on the basis of social relationships which have transcended the epochs of the reign of various forms of private property and all those psychosocial phenomena which arise on the basis of this reign.

The interrelationships of thought and feeling (emotion, mood) – and the subjective registration of these in the individual – actually expresses the identity of the neurobiological and the social in the psyche. One cannot ‘feel’ at all, be a ‘feeling being’ (Marx) so to speak, without a real connection and mediative relationship existing between our thinking (which is ‘external’, social, in origin) and our internal neurophysiology. If I feel ‘anxious’, ‘calm’, ‘angry’ or ‘depressed’, etc, the given state of mind (mood) corresponds to a real neurological and bodily state actually existing inside of me, which I register subjectively as a specific ‘feeling’, ’emotion’ or ‘mood’, with all the complexity of its physiology and biochemistry involved in its manifestation and perpetuation. But as much as I may try, I cannot separate the ontology of my moods and emotions from my real social experience and the manifestation and reflection of this in my thinking and behaviour which are, respectively, intrinsically linked to the psychogenesis and outcome of these moods, etc.

The origination of beings acquiring and developing the capacity to think marks the rise of the human psyche itself as a totality. In becoming ‘conscious’ of nature and of ‘man-in-the making’, this same ‘man-in-the-making’ becomes conscious of itself and, therefore, necessarily a self-conscious being. ‘Man-in-the making’ becomes a ‘reflective being’ capable of ‘self-consciousness’. The consciousness of men of themselves in their life-activity becomes, simultaneously, a self-consciousness. A conscious being becomes conscious of itself and so simultaneously becomes a self-conscious being. Consciousness originates as self-consciousness where humans possess the ability to reflect on both nature and themselves. Self-consciousness as a psychological process is itself ‘internally dialogued’. This structurally replicates, ‘internally’, the social communication which takes place between people. The actual ‘dialogues’ between people form the basis for the existence of both the content and structure of the ‘internal dialogues’ of consciousness. Generally, social relations underlie all the ‘higher functions’ of the human psyche fm26).

The animal form of awareness found in non-human primates is ‘non-conscious’ whereas the human form is ‘conscious’. The animal is aware, is a sentient being, but not conscious and therefore not self-conscious, not ‘self-aware’. As conscious beings, humans are conscious of, and can reflect upon, themselves, their environment and each other, their capacities, thoughts and feelings. This ability to reflect on thought itself, to consider mentally the concatenation of thoughts and the passage of their contents into each other, their relations, meaning and significance, demarcates human beings psychologically from the animal ancestors from which they evolved. These characteristics distinguish the conscious awareness of the human being from the non-conscious awareness of the animal.

Humanity’s growing awareness of ‘living in society’ is itself a reflection of humanity’s association and struggle (activity) in order to survive and propagate itself. This awareness of ‘living in society’ becomes negatively expressed in humanity’s sense of the ‘otherness’ of nature which ‘confronts men as a completely alien, all-powerful and unassailable force’ (Marx). Humanity living in nature distinguishes itself from nature as ‘other’ in the course of its transforming activity of nature. This is why it becomes ‘conscious’ of ‘living in society’. Marx understands communism…

as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man  [15]

And this implies the transcendence of the ‘alienation’ of ‘man in nature’ (of humanity’s sense of the ‘otherness’ of nature and, implicitly, of the sense itself of ‘living in society’?) Communism as ‘the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man’ implies the transcendence of the identification of nature as ‘otherness’ and therefore of the transcendence of the age-old sense of humanity, ‘living in society’, being distinct from nature, being ‘other’ in nature.

This sense of the ‘otherness of nature’ arises out of humanity’s subservience to, impotence in the face of, nature. Where this ‘subservience and impotence’ ends, in the ages beyond capital, lies the freedom in which humanity neither distinguishes itself from nature nor distinguishes nature from itself. Therein exists neither ‘society’ nor ‘nature’ as such (in humanity’s separation and alienation from nature) with the transcendence of this relationship of alienation but only the oneness of humanity immersed indissolubly in nature in which the ‘otherness of nature’ and the ‘otherness of socialised humanity’ has become resolved and transcended. Within this unity, this identity, this singularity, is transcended humanity’s conceptual differentiation of itself from nature and of nature from itself. Accordingly, there will be no self-identification of humanity by humanity as being ‘human’ and of ‘living in society’ and, likewise, nature is, accordingly, no longer identified by humanity as being ‘nature’.

The establishment of the relationship between the altering character of the prevailing social relations and existent forms of consciousness means that the conceptual content of human consciousness becomes subject to change and transformation on the basis of the evolution of the socio-historical process. Henceforth, the human psyche itself as a whole evolves historically in its intrinsic relationship to the development of social relations. For example, the thinking of the Neolithic farmer is animated by concerns and thoughts which are both similar and distinct from that of the modern capitalist farmer engaged in agricultural production for profit. Concerns about changing weather, disease in crops, livestock, pests, storage, etc, all preoccupied the Neolithic farmer as they do the capitalist farmer today. But the former was not concerned with the balance of the ledger book and whether rent or tax obligations can be met in the coming season because the property forms and the social relations of the two epochs are totally different. The transhistorical identities are differentiated by the specific character of distinct property forms and corresponding social relations and this dialectical relationship between the transhistorical and the historical is reflected in the different forms and modes of thought which are specific to the differentiations which distinguish and demarcate one epoch from another.

Consciousness evolves as an intrinsic, organic, mediating part of the whole socio-historical process. The historical development of the psyche – in its conceptual content, relations, structure, functions, inner complexity, etc – necessarily reflects and is reflected in the history of human society. However, at the same time, in its inner character and dynamic, it subsumes both the social and the biological within itself, incorporating them into a new psychological synthesis in the course of its psychohistorical formation and development (fm27).

Conscious thought actively mediates socio-historical relations and these relations mediate thought. There is an intermediation. The rise of consciousness (and its transforming effect on the non-conscious awareness of the ancestral animal primate) was therefore necessitated by the emergence of the social nature of hominid and later human relations. Accordingly, it started to emerge and commenced its ascent in the period of hominisation, that is, in the transition period from ancestral animal primate to human.

[v] Afterthoughts : Some Questions 

The purpose of this final section is to raise some questions and tentative propositions on the question of the future of the human personality beyond the capital era and in the evolution of the global commune.

We proposed in the previous section that the most fundamental relationship within the psyche itself is between the conscious and the unconscious. Can we envisage a resolution of the opposition between these two sides of the psyche into a higher synthesis, transcended into a higher form of the human psyche with a relatively more advanced form of awareness? The negation of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious is the positing of a higher human personality beyond both the conscious and the unconscious and their intermediation? The conscious and the unconscious become ‘superseded moments’ in the life-process of this higher order of the psyche?

Why should the evolution of the global commune encourage and facilitate this psychological resolution? Why should it become the social basis for this resolution and transcendence?

Does consciousness itself have a transhistorical role and, if so, what is this role in the history of society and the human personality? To prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of a higher form or order of the human psyche in the aeons succeeding the global epoch of capital? For the emergence of the higher human personality of post-capital societies? The emergence of this higher human personality, this advance, is also a ‘return’ to a naturalism beyond the alienation and artifice of previous epochs? A reconciliation of all the former development, both socio-historical and natural? Where ‘fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism’ ? (Marx, Paris Manuscripts, 1844) The ‘interim’ prepares the ground and conditions for the ‘return’ which is also simultaneously an irreversible advance?

The relationship between the conscious and the unconscious perhaps conceals the secret – revealed and manifest by social development in the ages beyond capital – to the future of the human psyche. Why? Because this relationship, in its dialectics and development, mirrors the changing and transforming character of the actual relations between Man as a social being and the natural legacy which Man has inherited as the outcome of all of pre-human evolution in its fullest sense and meaning. How this relationship alters, becomes transformed and even superseded will be determined by – and serves further to determine – the character and the evolution of the future relations between people in the post-capital aeons (the ‘social individual’ as opposed to the ‘private individual’ of bourgeois society)? This new type of human being (the ‘social individual’) will stand as the outcome of human activity taking place in the course of the social development of centuries subsequent to the negation of the capital system globally.   

A most (if not the most) fundamental question that we must address concerns the nature and quality of the subjective life of the human individual, that is, active humans as ‘feeling’ beings. ‘Feeling’ is the eternal focal point around which the nature and quality of the subjective life of the individual revolves. If I am an exploited, abused, oppressed being, how does that make me ‘feel’? How does this manifest in me internally, psychologically, subjectively? And if I am free of all this, what sort of a ‘being’ am I? And what sort of relations are established between people if this becomes universal?

If I engage in activities alone or with other people which I find pleasing, pleasurable, enjoyable but my subjective experience of these activities merely serves to psychologically displace my own internal pain (mental, not directly physical) whether I am conscious of this or not, then these activities merely articulate the continuation of alienation in social relations. If I drug myself with alcohol and narcotic substances because it drowns my sorrows and smothers the subjective registration of my oppression and dejection then the ‘consolation’ which I may find in such activity is a consolation which merely serves to transmute and express my alienation as an individual in a different guise. It does not transcend it but simply reaffirms it in a new form and therefore the existence of alienation as a continuing feature of social relations in general. It means that my ‘enjoyment’ is determined by and contaminated with my pain and therefore not enjoyment unmediated by this pain. Enjoyment which ceases to be mediated as such is not the crude, painful ‘enjoyment’ as bourgeois man experiences it but of a totally different and qualitatively higher order. An enjoyment which only people freeing themselves from (or free of) the alienation of bourgeois society can truly experience. Not an ‘enjoyment’ which can possibly be known to bourgeois man in the truncated crudeness and debilitating alienation of his relationships. The enjoyments of socialised humanity are of a different nature and order to that of ‘bourgeois man’.

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived  [16]

If, in societies beyond the epoch of capital, social relations no longer serve as a source of anxieties and fear, how would this transform interpersonal relationships and human behaviour in general? How would this transform the way people feel about themselves and their fellow men and women? Surely it would transform the whole of human life into a realm which we today in bourgeois society would find unrecognisable and totally ‘alien’?

If I have never experienced the anxieties, fears and alienation intrinsic to bourgeois relations then I can have no awareness of their presence or absence. I am a totally different individual to that formed by these relations. The relations within which people live their lives are totally beyond the nightmare world of pain and suffering we live in and experience today Indeed, I can have no concept of these experiences, and what they mean, because they have been superseded historically in the course of social development beyond the epoch of capital. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and is not aware of being free precisely because s/he is truly free.

It would mean the end of aggression and cruelty between human beings and a complete transformation in our relationship with both living and non-living nature in all its manifold and beautiful creation. Moreover, would it not totally alter the whole interpersonal character of sexual relations and the actual subjective experience of joy and pleasure itself? And when the ‘artificial appetites’ [Marx] and desires created by bourgeois relations lose their grip on human relations? When the commodification of our desires and pleasures ends? These alien, reified and idealised ‘things of thought’ in the epoch of global capital no longer plague the human personality?

There is an element of truth – when specifically re-contextualised socio-historically beyond its ‘ideological form’ in Buddhist thought – in the identification of ‘suffering’ and ‘desire’. How suffering breeds desire and desire contains suffering latent within itself. Yet impossible to transcend this relationship under the conditions of the current epoch. But in later epochs?

The seeking of pleasure unconsciously motivated by pain, its realisation followed by its disappearance as the re-emergence and repositing of pain in the psyche. Pleasure as the negation of ‘pain’ and, simultaneously, as its reaffirmation in its opposite form. Pleasure and pain as the mother and offspring of each other mediated by desire? The continuous re-positing and reaffirmation of pain in its negation by pleasure and vice versa. Their dialectical movement into each other. The ‘fetishisation’ of pleasure and pain as ‘things of thought’ in the current epoch of bourgeois relations? When pleasure becomes a ‘thing of thought’ (desire) does not this relation contain within itself the ‘pain’ of its non-realisation? And, moreover, the ‘pain’ of its loss after its realisation?

our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction.  Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature [17]

And what of the ‘fight or flight’ response inherited from our animal ancestors? This must and will be retained so it can be activated in response to real, imminent, extra-human threat to prepare people to respond to the presence of real danger in their relations with extra-human, natural conditions of life. But its presence in the social and interpersonal relationships between people will become redundant. Why? Because those relations and forms of behaviour [such as violence, abuse, aggression, threat, war, etc] which have mediated its activation in previous societies will be transcended. With the advance of human knowledge, science and technology, even the possibilities of natural threats and disasters tend to increasingly diminish. If we understand scientifically the geological genesis, onset and effects of earthquakes, for example, then we are capable of developing the technology to intervene to prevent them, or to minimise their impact, and build structures which can resist the death and destruction which they cause.

The rationalist asserts that ‘where knowledge of natural processes has been demonstrated, religious notions and superstition about these processes are  rendered obsolete and unnecessary’ (Dawkins, etc). Yes, but why do people still cling to their religious sentiments, with all the social division implied, in the age of advanced bioevolutionary theory, biotechnology, particle physics and the high speed computer? In an age where belief, ignorance, religion and superstition have been driven from one refuge after another? Of course, education can serve as a lever for liberation and emancipation from religion and, indeed, does for many. Yet many millions still cling to their ideological ‘comfort blankets’ in an age of suffering, oppression and despair despite all the scientific and technological advances.

The need for consolation is only necessitated in and where human relationships are characterised by ‘suffering’ and ‘loss’. And if there is, diminishingly, no longer any ‘loss’ or ‘suffering’, what then? Moreover, if men no longer assert control and power over the lives of other men with all the coercion, threat, violence and aggression implied in such relations, how must this alter human relationships and their reflection in the psychology of people? An ‘unfettering’ of human potential in which humanity becomes free to socially develop its capacities without these hindrances, unrestricted by oppressive social relations and the fear engendered by them?

The psychological transformation of people only starts to take place in the transitional period as capital is being progressively dislodged from the social metabolism. This is the start of the coming-into-being of the higher communal individual, the ‘social individual’, the individual of the global ‘realm of freedom’. The realm where both private and state forms of property have been superseded and the new communal realm has established itself irreversibly on a global basis, developing and maturing on the social ground of its own self-created foundations. This is the realm of human beings no longer touched by the psychosocial legacies, in their various forms, of bourgeois relations and untainted by the memory of their impact and effects on people. When the very notion of ownership itself vanishes (because the Earth and the creations of human activity is truly without owners), this must serve as a liberating drive in the development of the human personality.

 

References

( given in square brackets thus [  ] )

[1] Leakey, R. The Origin of Humankind. (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994) p.13

[2] Aiello, L. and Dean, C. An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy

(Academic Press, Elsevier Science, 2002) p.379

[3] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) p.21

[4] Lewin, R. Principles of Human Evolution (Blackwell, 1993) p.462

[5] Deacon, T.W. Biological Aspects of Language, Chapter 3.4 in ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution’. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.133

[6] Deacon, T.W. The Human Brain.  (Chapter 3.2) in ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution’. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.123

[7] See McKee, J.K. et al, Ibid, on the fossil evidence and adaptive function of stereoscopic vision originating in ancestral arboreal primates. pp.115-116

[8] Engels, F. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.357

[9] Leakey, R, Ibid, p.40

[10] Luria, A.R. The Mentally Retarded Child. (Pergamon Press, London, 1963) p.150.

[11] Engels, F. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.354.

[12] Mithen, S. Social Learning and Cultural Tradition: Interpreting Early Palaeolithic Technology. (Chapter 7) in ‘The Archaeology of Human Ancestry. Power, Sex and Tradition’. Steele, J. and Shennan, S. (eds) (Routledge, 1996) p.217

[13] Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 5. (London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1976)  pp.44-45

[14] Trotsky, L. Trotsky’s Notebooks, 1933-1935. Writings on Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism. (Translated, Annotated and with Introductory Essays by Philip Pomper, 175 pp) New York, Columbia University Press, 1986. p.102

[15] Marx. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1959. p.43

[16] Engels, F. From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.605

[17] Marx. Wage Labour and Capital, Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.83

 

Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

(fm1) The conflict between the existent capacities of a primate in its ‘struggle for existence’ and the demands and pressures placed on it in the struggle to survive under impacting conditions. Survival may depend on the ability to learn new skills and forms of behaviour. The consequences of not doing so resulting in extinction.

(fm2) Examples of overspecialisation and extinction in the evolution of primates or hominids. Hominids with a highly specialised diet and related dentition?

(fm3) References to this concept in Primatology and Paleoanthropology.

(fm4) The ‘radiation’ (branching) of the hominid lineage and the extinction of various branches and sub-branches.

(fm5) ‘Tradition’ meaning, in this respect, to hand down skills to succeeding generations by means of a process of mimicry and learning. From the Latin, tradere, to give up or transmit.

(fm6) Examples of the fashioning and use of simple tools in contemporary Pongidae.

(fm7) The commencement of the hominisation process in the literature

(fm8) Examples of intense crises in hominid evolution which served to accelerate the evolutionary process?

(fm9) Engels in The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man

(fm10) Engels, Ibid.

(fm11) Engels, Ibid.

(fm12) The development of the hand in hominid evolution and associated neurological developments.

(fm13) How the emergence and evolution of speech (practical language) in the Hominidae modified the structure of the vocal organs, mouth, tongue, etc.

(fm14) On the ‘plasticity’ of the human brain and the alterability, reformability and deformability of its neurological structures and processes. The learning process itself involves neurons creating new pathways and networks and making new connections.

(fm15) Changes in the size, structure and complexity of the brain as a result of the hominisation process and the effects of these developments on the development of the sense organs, eye, ear, smell, taste, sense of touch/temperature/pressure, (tactility), etc.

(fm16) Studies and literature on the origins of stereoscopic vision in arboreal primates.

(fm17) Tool making provides the basis for the survival and propagation of the hominid group. Those cultivating superior skills of tool making are at an advantage and invariably are more likely to survive than less advantaged hominid groups when subject to similar ‘survival pressures’.

(fm18) Any examples of chance discoveries in tool use/making by contemporary Pongids.

(fm19) See Luria and Vygotsky on the role of language in the cultural transmission of knowledge and technique.

(fm20) Evidence, references, citations for this in the anthropology literature.

(fm21) The ‘revolutionary’ role of the innovation and development of technique and co-operation in hominids.

(fm22) ‘Psyche as a totality’ is more complex and implicated than mere ‘consciousness’ alone. ‘Consciousness’ is not absolutely identical, without difference, to ‘psyche as a totality’ which embraces the former within this totality. The human psyche embraces conscious thought but, considered as a whole, this psyche is a qualitatively more complex phenomenon than conscious thought alone. The capacity to think is an intrinsic part of the psyche but this psyche is not simply identical to thinking per se. We must recognise that the psyche possesses an animal prehistory which predates it. This animal prehistory is sublated and becomes incorporated into the human psyche with the rise of conscious awareness in the transition from the animal to the human.

(fm23) The fundamental dialectical relationship in the human psyche between the conscious and the unconscious arises in the course of the origination of the human psyche itself from the mediation of animal instinct by the emergent conscious in our ancestors. In this way, the unconscious is really the outcome of the emergent conscious, of its mediating impact and affect on the instinctive legacy of our animal ancestry.

(fm24) In this study, hominisation is understood as the broad and lengthy evolutionary process through which ancestral animal primates developed into hominids (Hominidae) and ascended to modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens). Anthropologists differ in their estimation of the point of ‘arrival’ of ‘modern man’. However, the partial ‘integration’ and extinction of the Neanderthal line is generally thought to indicate the pre-eminence of ‘modern man’. Recent studies suggest that Homo Sapiens Sapiens emerged in Africa approximately 200,000 years BP and migrated outwards into Asia and Europe, that is, into areas which were already populated by other ‘Homo’ species such as Neanderthals. The start of the hominisation process indicates the most primaeval beginnings of conscious awareness itself and therefore the later rise of the human psyche as a totality.

(fm25) For example, the non-existence of jealousy and greed amongst prehistoric tribes and those discovered in the Amazon, etc, in modern times.

(fm26) The concept of the ‘internal dialogue’ is associated with Vygotsky’s studies in psychology. We can describe ‘internal dialogue’ as the mental process through and by which individuals ‘converse’ and ‘commune’ with themselves within the sphere of their own thinking. When people verbally ‘talk to themselves’, this is an open manifestation in speech of this internal dialogue. In the internal dialogue, individuals monitor the unfolding and progression of the conceptual content of their own thinking and feeling. The dissociation of this internal relation of thinking monitoring itself is important in the psychogenesis and development of those mental states which the psychiatrists refer to as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’, etc. For example, when one ‘side’ of the dialogue identifies the other as an external other outside the thinking subject, this can manifest, for example, as hallucination, ‘hearing voices’ as ‘external’ to self, etc, in the resulting mental state.

(fm27) The psychological in this study is understood as the synthesis of the neurobiological and the social but not within the sense and parameters of the bogus scientistic doctrine known as ‘Evolutionary Psychology’.

 

Shaun May

November 2018

 

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

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Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [2] Pre-Conditions in the Modes of Life and Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche

[2] Pre-Conditions in the Modes of Life and Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates

In so far as the human psyche is a social product of the human brain – a brain which itself has a biological prehistory and which predates the origination of consciousness itself – the pre-conditions, which were established in the modes of life and learning capacities of ancestral primates of hominids for the origination of this psyche, must be considered. It was the capacity of these ancestral primates to learn and develop new skills that constituted the most essential pre-condition for the origination of hominids and humanity, for the rise of consciousness, and thus for the origination of the human psyche itself as a totality (fm1).

In primates, the learning process is directed towards the acquisition of new skills and the innovation of new forms of behaviour which augment survivability. The process of learning in primates serves to generate new modes of behaviour and to increase the primate’s capacity to survive its conditions of life. In the primate forerunners of hominids, the ability to learn new skills and to transmit them to others in the group through mimicry was a crucial aspect of their mode of life which gave them a distinct advantage over other primates and animals in the struggle to survive under the prevailing conditions of existence. Such abilities, and their acquisition, are observable in contemporary primates where imitation is an essential vehicle for transmitting established skills to offspring (fm2). Interestingly, for example, with Chimpanzees (fm3)…

tool use is basically done by females. Males can make and use tools, but tool use is a learned and practiced behavioural tradition usually passed from mother to daughter. Sons are less apt to learn these techniques because they spend less time with their mothers and therefore have less time to observe how tools are made and used [1]

The transition to human life presupposed fundamental pre-conditions in the mode of life of these ancestral primates. Firstly the use (on a regular basis) and the capacity to fashion simple tools for use in the acquisition of the physical needs of these primates was essential (fm4). Again, with Chimpanzees, we observe the widespread making and use of simple tools for use in the acquisition of food, fending off predators, etc. To date (2005)…

It is now known that at least thirty two populations of chimpanzees make and use tools. Furthermore, diversity in tool use has been found, as well as in almost every other aspect of chimpanzee life and social organisation including hunting behaviour, fighting and social interactions [2]

Implicitly, making and using tools for various purposes in our primate ancestors must have involved the acquisition of specific skills which could be transmitted (i.e. learnt) and refined in the course of their transmission and repeated use from one generation to the next as we observe with contemporary primates in nature (fm5) [3]. This learning of new skills and the development of novel forms of behaviour enabled these ancestral primate groups to gain an edge over competitors in the struggle to survive.

This learning process equipped these primates to ‘cope’ – in a more adequate way – with the demands placed on them in their interaction with their natural conditions of life. The advanced learning capacities of ancestral primates and the transmission and refinement of acquired skills and behaviour resulting from the operation of these learning capacities were therefore essential, pre-constituted conditions necessary for the transition from animal primate to human.

This ‘culture’ of transmission of acquired skills gave such primates a distinct advantage in the struggle to survive, enhancing their chances of survival and augmenting adaptational capacities (fm6). The acquisition of these skills and their further elaboration and development into an ever-widening repertoire of skills and modes of behaviour was determined by the natural conditions of life of these primates. The demands placed on them by their conditions of life were the real determinants which governed the necessity to learn novel skills and forms of behaviour in order to counter and survive the impact of these conditions on their mode of life which was, indeed, organic to these conditions and vice versa (fm7).

In the course of developing new skills and forms of behaviour, ancestral primates must have engaged in a continuously changing relationship with their conditions of life in the course of which making adaptation an intensely active process. Changes in this relationship necessarily involved neurological developments in these primates and, as a consequence, an augmentation of learning capacities and mechanisms (fm8).

Behaviour which has been learned contrasts with those forms of behaviour in primates which are instinctive. In the former, the primate learns in order to adapt itself to and, at the same time, to actively engage its conditions of life. Therefore any adaptive activity is not simply a passive response to conditions. Such adaptations serve the primate in its active struggle to survive in the course of which it assimilates a wider repertoire of skills. In the course of its struggle, it becomes better adapted for the struggles to come in the future.

In the operation of instinctive capacities, the animal responds to the impact of its conditions of life on itself by means of the activation of innate capacities which are not learned. These innate capabilities themselves originated and evolved in relation to the conditions of existence of antecedent, ancestral, forms and have been transmitted directly, without the need to learn them, for their survival value. They serve as a collective means of survival in the struggle for life. They are, for each species, a ‘collective instinct’ (fm9) [4].

These innate responses function at all levels in the life of the animal and, by serving to maintain its survival, also facilitate its propagation as a species. However, it is in the learning capacities of the primate ancestors of humanity and in the behaviour and skills associated with them that the seeds of human consciousness must be sought and identified.

Humanity in the making inherits a legacy of ‘instinct’ from its animal predecessors. This legacy is itself modified with the rise of consciousness so that its activity as an aspect of the human psyche is distinct from its activity in the life of ancestral primates (fm10). Notwithstanding the importance of this inheritance, it is towards a consideration of the learning capacities of the ancestral primates of humanity that our attention must be directed. By ‘learning capacity’ is meant all those forms of behaviour, skills, biological and neurological mechanisms that serve the primate in its struggle to survive by a process of learning (fm11). These capacities constitute the most essential ground out of which consciousness arose and, therefore, out of which the human psyche as a whole originates in the course of the transition from animal to human.

Primates cannot survive without learning. Survival in primates depends on the development of definite forms of behaviour that are not instinctive but are learned in the course of their life activity (fm12). In the fight to obtain food, avoid or fight off predators, etc, those forms of behaviour that gave pre-hominids an advantage in the struggle to survive would have facilitated survival and been passed on to their offspring. By widening their repertoire of acquired skills and diversifying their modes of behaviour, the primate ancestors of humanity became more capable of surviving and reproducing in the context of continuously changing conditions of life.

The supersedence of a given complex of natural conditions – within which and through relationship to which definite forms of behaviour and skills had been developed – would have necessitated the alteration, or even complete transformation, of previous modes of behaviour which were adequate for survival under previous conditions but had become, with the changes in conditions, inadequate for survival. Under threat of extinction new modes of behaviour and skills had to be developed in order to continue to survive (fm13) [5]. For example, the move from arboreal to a ground-dwelling modes of life.

Therefore, whether an ancestral primate species survived or not (and evolved to a further stage of existence or into a different species) depended on whether or not it acquired and developed the necessary skills and behaviour (in the course of changing conditions) which provided it with the means of surviving the newly-posited conditions within which it found itself and struggled to maintain itself as a species.

It was the learning capacities of ancestral primates – the ability or inability to learn new skills – which gave them an advantage or disadvantage in the struggle for survival under changing conditions. The disadvantaged tended to perish whilst the advantaged or other distinct species filled their niche, in and under the new conditions (fm14). This process would have been shifted into an accelerated mode in periods of catastrophic change. For example, in the ‘extinction’ of the dinosaurs and their ‘eclipse’ by the mammals where catastrophic changes constituted the basis for this episode in the history of animal life. Or, generally, under conditions of rapid climate or environmental transformation.

In primate evolution – more specifically in those primates which immediately preceded the hominid line – the development of a wider repertoire of skills and complexity in their operation would have provided ancestral primates with an edge in the struggle to survive such catastrophes, e.g. drought, floods, disease, etc. On the road of primate evolution towards the hominid line, the ‘best’ learners tended to be the ‘best’ survivors so that survival and learning became linked. This learning necessarily precluded an overspecialisation. Rather it was the acquisition and development of generic skills (‘portable’ skills as with tools carried from place to place in later hominids) which had to be established in order to survive in a range of different (if not all) environments and conditions which were encountered on the path towards hominid evolution (fm15).

This general applicability of acquired skills in a wide range of situations and different conditions meant that the threat of extinction became lessened compared to those species that had overspecialised and thus were more vulnerable to rapid changes in their natural conditions of life. Therefore, it was not simply the ability to learn new skills – which in the evolution of ancestral primates facilitated survival – but to learn specific kinds of skills which, at the same time, had a general and enduring applicability under a wide and altering range of conditions (fm16). These generic skills could be adapted to counter demands placed on a species with alterations in their conditions of life and thus provide the necessary versatility requisite for survival.

The relatively advanced capacities of superior tool users and makers over other groups and the ability to transmit these skills to succeeding generations formed the embryonic complex out of which hominids could emerge and evolve towards modern humans. The use and fashioning of simple tools in hominoids (fm17) contained, potentially, the more advanced forms of hominid toolmaking and toolusing behaviour embracing co-operation, communication and, consequentially, the rise of language and consciousness itself (fm18)…

First labour, after it and then with it, speech – these were the two most essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of the ape gradually changed into that of man, which for all its similarity is far larger and more perfect. [6]

Accordingly, all these acquired skills and forms of behaviour – taken in their totality and interrelation – constituted the embryonic ground out of which human society could come into being and evolve as a new, distinct socio-historical form of development. Learnt behaviour in primates which is advantageous to their survival is not ‘selected’ at the genetic level in the same way in which an advantageous change in physiology or biochemistry resulting from genetic mutation is selected (fm19). However, in the sense that a specific mode of learnt behaviour is associated with, but not necessarily ’caused’ by, the specific biological character of an organism, then the transmission of that mode of behaviour to offspring through mimicry becomes associated, inevitably, with the transmission of the general biological character which defines the nature of the species in question and which, accordingly, is associated with definite modes of behaviour.

Therefore, if learnt behaviour facilitates survival because it gives an advantage in the struggle for life, then the continued survival of a population, whilst others are perishing, means that it will be in a favourable position to reproduce. In so doing, the next generation inherits its genotype and hence displays its general biological characteristics. Where advantageous modes of behaviour ensure the propagation of a species and are associated with the given biology of an organism, the latter will be passed on to the next generation which learns and assimilates the acquired skills and behaviour of, and from, the previous generation.

A complex relation develops between acquired skills and behaviour and the biology of the species. Acquired skills and behaviour, in facilitating the survival and propagation of a species, also simultaneously and necessarily facilitate the transmission of the biological character of the species. Biology, in its turn, serves as the physiological basis for the further development of the acquired forms of behaviour and skills (fm20).

The demands placed on an animal by its conditions of life are the real determinants which govern the necessity of the animal to learn new skills and forms of behaviour in order to survive the impact of these conditions on its mode of life (fm21). This, of course, is found in Darwin’s conception of Natural Selection…

Natural Selection, as enunciated by Darwin, is a simple and powerful process that depends on three conditions. First, members of a species differ from one another, and this variation is heritable. Second, all organisms produce more offspring than can survive [….] Third, given that not all offspring survive, those that do are, on average, likely to have an anatomy, physiology or behaviour that best prepares them for the demands of the prevailing environment. [7]

In learning and developing new skills and modes of behaviour, the animal, in its turn, alters its mode of life. Survival involves the development of behaviours and skills in the animal which are not only adaptive responses to its conditions but are, at the same time, an increasing and augmenting of the capacity of the animal to more readily and effectively respond to and counteract further changes in its conditions of life.

‘Adaptation’ in living organisms is therefore a two-way process in which the animal becomes better equipped to deal with the prevailing conditions of its life whilst, at the same time, within the context discussed here, it is an assimilation and refinement of new modes of behaviour and skills that prime the animal to actively overcome problems confronting it in novel situations and changing conditions. Hence, to a certain extent, the ability to survive or win through later struggles is prepared beforehand in the course of the life activity of the animal. In overcoming previous problems, it becomes better prepared to take on and overcome those obstacles yet to come.

For example, consider the origins of the nervous system of mammals out of the earliest neural structures in ancestral organisms and the development of these nervous systems into the complexities of the brain and nervous systems of primates. Leakey remarks that in relation to brain size…

The pattern of change through time is quite striking: the origin of major new faunal groups (or groups within groups) is usually accompanied by a jump in the relative size of the brain, known as encephalization. For instance, when the first archaic mammals evolved, some 230 million years ago, they were equipped with brains four to five times bigger than the average reptilian brain. A similar boost in mental machinery happened with the origin of modern mammals, 50 million years ago. Compared with mammals as a whole, primates are the brainiest group, being twice as encephalized as the average mammal. Within the primates, the apes have the biggest brains; they are some twice the average size. And humans are three times as encephalized as the average ape [8]

A correlation exists between the size and complexity of nervous systems on the one hand and the capacities of the animal to learn and develop new forms of behaviour and skills on the other hand. Generally speaking, the more complex the nervous system, the greater the ability of the animal to learn novel forms of behaviour and acquire new skills (fm22). Studies in contemporary primatology have more or less confirmed this general conception [9]. However, developments in neurological organisation and the increase in the complexity of nervous systems stems from the necessity to meet and surmount the ever-changing demands placed on the animal in its life activity under definite conditions in nature. Such neurological developments are driven by the demands of ‘external’, environmental factors and relations in the conditions of life and activity of primates. They do not simply arise and become established without these ‘external’ mediations.

Nervous systems become more intricate and tend towards a more complex level of organisation because, in the struggle of the animal to survive, the animal is subjected to ‘selection pressures’ to meet such demands. Those with the necessary neurological organisation which enables them to learn new skills and modes of behaviour, and which enables the animal to effectively meet and surmount the specific demands placed on them by changing conditions, will tend to survive (fm23). Those animals which are deficient in this respect will tend to lose out and be at a disadvantage in the struggle for survival. Any advantageous increase in the complexity of the animal’s nervous system will augment its capacity to learn new skills and modes of behaviour that serve it in that struggle.

Accordingly, it is the continuously changing conditions of existence on the one hand, and the advantage or disadvantage that specific modes of behaviour give the animal in relation to these changing conditions on the other hand, which determine whether or not any corresponding changes in its nervous system are ‘selected’ at the molecular and physiological levels. If behaviour is advantageous, then associated structures in the biology and neurology of the animal will be selected and transmitted to the next generation (fm24). In this way, the next generation possesses the appropriate biological structures that enable it to mimic established modes of behaviour and learn new ones. Established modes of behaviour can be both passed on and modified according to the changing needs of ancestral primate as the relationship between itself and its conditions of life changes.

Therefore, the relationship between biology and behaviour develops under specific conditions of life of the animal and cannot be understood in isolation from these conditions (fm25). For example, consider the ability of chimpanzees to use a stick in order to obtain food of one sort or another. This ability, often observed by primatologists, has been learnt and elaborated in the struggle to survive and is biologically conditioned only in so far as it is hunger that motivates the need to feed and, secondly, that the primate needs to possess the pre-requisite anatomy of forearm and associated neurological mechanisms, etc, which enable it to co-ordinate its movements. Therefore, in these respects, its biology must come into play. But it is a relationship between biology and learnt behaviour which enables the chimpanzee to use the stick to acquire food and feed itself and its offspring.

The manipulation of the stick to attain food (for example, wetting or licking the stick and then poking it into a nest of termites or ants) implies a necessary anatomy and dexterity of hand and forearm which is intrinsically associated with the biological inheritance and characteristics of the individual animal as being part of a definite species. However, whilst taking such biological mechanisms as a pre-condition for the development of new skills, it is the actual skill and capacity to use the stick to obtain food which has been learned and which confers an advantage in the struggle to survive. In situations where food is scarce such a skill would give an invaluable advantage over those which had not developed this skill and therefore would be a critical aid to survival. Such behaviour could be passed on to the offspring of the species group, thereby facilitating the survival of the group as a whole (fm26).

We can see that the ability of primates to learn new skills and modes of behaviour is an essential and necessary condition in their struggle to survive in changing conditions. Where this ability fails the primate, it inevitably loses out in its struggle to survive when and where changing conditions require the learning of advantageous skills and behaviour to survive. This development of new skills increases and widens the animal’s adaptational capacities in relation to its changing conditions of existence. The acquisition of new skills additionally raises the animal’s sensuous awareness of its environment to a different level, giving it a richer, more complex, conditioned awareness of its surroundings (fm27).

The behaviour of our ancestral primates was, therefore, a synthesis of the instinctive and the learnt. Their behaviour necessarily involved both simultaneously. Instinctive responses are selected at the physiological level of the organism because, in operating automatically and without the need to learn them, such responses are biologically indispensable for the survival of the species. If it were necessary to acquire instinctively-driven behaviour by a process of learning then animals would not be able to deal with the most immediate impacts of their conditions of life on themselves as living organisms and they would perish before they had time to mature.

For example, the mechanisms that biologically regulate drinking and reproduction in animals are instinctive. They do not have to be learnt. Instinctive mechanisms operate in order to maintain or realise the biological needs of an animal. An animal may have to learn to drink or eat in a certain way but it does not have to learn to be thirsty or hungry. For example, when an animal learns to associate the presence of a predator with threat, this learning process simultaneously involves instinct when it is threatened by that predator. Learning and instinct operate together in co-ordination with each other (fm28). The hedgehog, for example, learns that an inquisitive fox or badger can be threatening. However it does not have to learn to curl up into a protective prickly ball in order to defend itself against it. Likewise, it learns to discriminate between edible and inedible morsels of food but it does not need to learn to be hungry nor to regurgitate unpalatable food which it has learned to recognise as toxic. Spurred on by hunger, both learning and instinct are at work together.

A child does not have to learn to rapidly withdraw its hand from something that causes pain. Such an action is an automatic reflex i.e. it is an instinctive response which the child does not need to learn. However, a child does learn to associate particular situations or objects with danger (potential or actual) to itself and possible injury. In this process of learning, it acquires and develops a conscious knowledge of such situations and can modify its behaviour for its own safety. In the former instinctive case, a need to learn would mean certain injury or death whereas in the latter case a deficiency of learning could result in the same. Learning and instinct are not mutually exclusive; they involve each other, operate together and mutually determine each other.

Likewise, the behaviour of primates involves both instinct and learning and this must have been the case in the ancestral primates of humans. Learning in primates involves the acquisition of new skills and forms of behaviour which serve to facilitate their survival. However, learning does not take place independently of instinct and vice versa. Primates acquire their material needs by means of behaviour and actions which are conditioned and mediated by both instinct and learning at the same time. Learning becomes necessary for the primate in order to survive. The learning capacities of the primate become integrated with its instinctive inheritance in the course of its lifetime.

The neurological results and modifications involved in and associated with learning new modes of behaviour become synthesised with instinct at the neurophysiological level so that the latter can be affected by learning whilst instinct, in its turn, conditions the learning of new skills and behaviour (fm29). This coalescence of instinct and learning functions to provide the primate, in the course of its life activity, with a means of orientating its behaviour and developing its skills and actions in the struggle to survive under prevailing conditions. The non-conscious awareness (fm30) of the ancestral pre-hominid primate – mediating the life activity of the animal – is a synthesis of instinct and learning acquired in the course of its interaction with its conditions of life. This awareness orientates it in its life activity. This relationship between instinct and learning becomes transformed with the emergence of consciousness and, simultaneously, the human psyche as a whole.

Psyche as a whole is a product and outgrowth of the social development of hominids out of their pre-hominid, animal ancestors. This means that this lengthy process of evolution from the animal to the human does not absolutely abolish the animal legacy of human ancestry. Rather, it ‘conserves’ it in a higher, human form in the actual process of transforming it. For example, in order to survive, the animal ancestors of humans developed responses for dealing with the threat of predators. These same responses also served the animal in its struggle to acquire its means of subsistence. Such responses involved the capacity to evade or confront dangers which the animal encountered in its continual struggle to survive. In these situations, the response of the animal was mediated by an awareness of threat i.e. an awareness of when it was in danger of being attacked by predators. Its behavioural response to such threats involved the co-ordination of both instinct and learning (an awareness of the immediate, surrounding conditions of life acquired in the course of their life activities) (fm31). This legacy remains with us today in the form of the ‘fight or flight’ response to confronting danger. Humans have inherited these powers for dealing with threat from ancestral primates.

In the evolution of mammals and their forerunners, the constant threat of predators must have been a most important selection pressure in the development of instinct. Indeed, selection would have taken place at the biochemical level where the co-ordination of the activities of the nervous system and hormonal systems is vital in order to maintain the survival of the animal in the face of threat (fm32). Accordingly, instinct must have evolved in order to facilitate survival. Over a long period of natural development, instinctive responses must have originated, evolved and become more highly developed in succeeding generations in response to the changing conditions of life (fm33). In the immediate precursors of hominids, learning and instinct become more closely integrated and mediate each other. In the case of threat, animals learn to associate specific situations with danger. Such associations activate those instinctive responses which are inherent and prepare the animal to deal with possible or actual threat. It is the animal’s immediate awareness of threat which activates those instinctive capacities which prepare it to deal with threat, to run or to fight. Those responses that served to maintain the survival of the ancestral primates of human beings in the face of such threats from predators would have become part of the behaviour of the individuals of the group. Learnt behaviour that enabled a primate to effectively counter threat, by adopting one form of behaviour or another, facilitated its survival and became an intrinsic part of its life activity.

These powers therefore predate the history of the human psyche (fm34). With the rise of the human psyche, i.e. of beings possessing the capacity to think consciously, these powers – incorporating the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response – become integrated into the operation of this psyche. This integrating of instinct with emergent conscious awareness in early hominids enabled these ancestors of ‘modern man’ to more readily survive and counter the hostile impact of their conditions of existence on their life activities.

Those hominid ancestors of modern humans which possessed these instinctive capacities but which did not learn new modes of behaviour and skills, as established and changing conditions demanded, lost out in the struggle to survive and inevitably perished (fm35). As conditions changed, the need to acquire the material means of life demanded, at the same time, the modification of established practices and the development of new skills and modes of behaviour.

The punctuation of gradual changes in conditions by catastrophes of various kinds would have necessitated very rapid adaptations – involving an accelerated rate in the learning of new skills, etc – to changed circumstances on the part of hominid groups. Those groups that were more appropriately adapted to tackling and overcoming the constraints imposed on them by the new conditions resulting from such catastrophic changes would have survived. Therefore, any increase in the learning capacities of a given group of early hominids, especially the development and transmission of novel skills, would have given them an advantage over other groups in the struggle to survive.

In the course of the evolution of hominids, as one generation succeeded the next, the repertoire of skills and behavioural characteristics would have become widened and enriched. Older established skills became refined in the course of their historical usage and assimilation as well as becoming modified and diversified into new forms (fm36). This diversification and multiplication of basic skills and modes of behaviour into a wider range – quantitatively more numerous and qualitatively more complex – enabled hominids to survive within a widening spectrum of conditions and circumstances. The accumulation of ‘portable’, adaptable generic skills (with tools which could be carried from place to place), which were transmittable to succeeding generations, enabled hominid groups to spread out into previously unexplored regions (fm37).

Within the African ‘cradle’ itself….

from what we can gather, our human ancestors – and the australopithecines before them – had already left the forest (where the apes still live) and inhabited areas similar to the modern Savanna: tropical grasslands with tall vegetation, bushes, and scattered trees inhabited by large quadrupeds and a wide variety of plant and animal species. About two million years ago, Homo Erectus began to travel and colonize Asia, Europe and virtually all the Old World during a period of hundreds of thousands of years. This expansion probably was possible because tools were more evolved and intelligence greater (Erectus brain was more than twice the size of an australopithecine’s) [10]

The development of the relationship between instinct and learning in the ancestral primates of hominids (ancestral pre-hominids) provided the basis for the attainment of a wider repertoire of skills in the course of their evolution. The greater the capacity of a primate to learn and assimilate new skills and develop a wider range of behaviours to ‘deal’ with the different and changing conditions of its life, the more capable it becomes in its efforts to secure its material means of life and thus to survive and propagate its kind. However, it is the rise of consciousness itself which transforms the relationship between the instinct and learning capacities found in the ancestral pre-hominid. The beginnings of this transformation marks the beginning of the emergence of the human psyche as a whole with historically new features and relations.

Those ancestral pre-hominids (animal hominoid ancestors) – that immediately preceded the emergence of the specifically hominid line of evolution eventually leading to ‘modern man’ – were characterised by the highest possible form of non-conscious awareness. That is, by a form of awareness which stood on the threshold of the beginnings of conscious awareness whilst still retaining its character as a form of animal non-conscious awareness. This state of affairs constituted the transition phase between the two distinctly different forms of awareness which corresponded to the transition between the evolution of the ancestral animal hominoid and the beginnings of the lineages of the Hominidae.

The physical and sensuous interaction of these pre-conscious hominoids with their conditions of life took place on the basis of the unity of their instinctive capacities and acquired learning about their environment. This conditioned learning about their conditions of life in itself results from the interrelationships of the animal with its natural environment. What the animal learns about its life conditions mediates the activities and interrelationship of the animal with its conditions of life. Moreover, this learning must have involved ‘memorisation’ of one kind or another in which the animal’s immediate experience of its surroundings, the learning of new skills specifically, are ‘registered and stored’ neurologically, and not forgotten but can be replicated as and when required. For example, in the use and simple making of tools to acquire food, fend off predators, etc (fm38). Memory, therefore, is not a specific feature found only in hominids but also characterised their primate hominoid ancestors.

The ancestral pre-hominid’s capacities and activities were, accordingly, mediated by a state of non-conscious awareness which arises out of the evolutionary legacy passed on to it by its antecedents. This highest possible state of non-conscious awareness stands on the threshold of a move forward into the beginnings of the very earliest, primaeval, primordial forms of conscious awareness characterising the very earliest hominids as they began to emerge from their animal hominoid predecessors. This state of non-conscious awareness in these immediate ancestors of the hominid lineages stands as the highest possible synthesis of instinct and learning developed in animals in which the capacity to be aware of and ‘know’ their environment, and to be orientated by this awareness in the relationship with their conditions of life, is developed in these animal primate ancestors of humanity (fm42). Beyond this stage lies the beginnings of the hominid lineages and thus the primaeval beginnings of consciousness itself.

Next Section : The Rise of Consciousness

References (given in square brackets thus [ ] )

[1] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) p.94

[2] McKee, J.K. et al, Ibid, p.93

[3] See, for example, Pereira, M.E. and Fairbanks, L.A. (eds) Juvenile Primates: Life History, Development and Behaviour. (University of Chicago Press, 2002). Also the article by Whiten et al, Cultures in Chimpanzees. Nature, Vol 399, pp.682-685

[4] See, for example, Toole, G. and Toole, S. Understanding Biology. (Stanley Thornes Publishers, Cheltenham, 1995) p.549

[5] The work of Stephen Jay Gould and others is important in this area. For example, Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Harvard University Press, 2002) and Bintliff, J. (ed) Structure and Contingency: Evolutionary Processes in Life and Human Society (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999)

[6] Engels. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.357

[7] Lewin, R Principles of Human Evolution. (Blackwell, 1993) p.30

[8] Leakey, R. The Origin of Humankind. (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994) p.142

[9] See, for example, Reader, S.M. Relative Brain Size and the Distribution of Innovation and Social Learning across the Nonhuman Primates, Chapter 3 in The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Fragaszy, D.M. and Perry, S. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 2003) p.56ff

[10] Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and Cavalli-Sforza, F. The Great Human Diasporas. The History of Diversity and Evolution. (Helix Books, Addison-Wesley, 1996) p.44

 

Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

 

(fm1) The development of learning capacities and new skills in primate ancestors of humans.

(fm2) Learning through experimentation and mimicry in primates.

(fm3) Chimpanzees are part of the taxomomic family of Primates known as the Pongidae (sometimes called ‘Anthropoid Apes’) which are biologically related to humans, including the gibbons, orang-utans, and gorillas.

(fm4) The use of natural objects then later fashioning of simple tools for use in acquiring food, fighting off rivals, predators, etc.

(fm5) The transmission of acquired skills in primates through mimicry and learning : human ‘culture’ in embryo.

(fm6) Advantages (enhanced capacity to survive changes in conditions) conferred by learning and transmission of new skills in ancestral primates.

(fm7) How established conditions, and gradual or rapid changes in them, impel primates to develop new skills or to perish.

(fm8) The relationship between learning and neurological changes.

(fm9) Instinct. A particular form or tendency of behaviour found in animals which is innate for a given species. Such forms of behaviour are not learnt but may be mediated and affected by learning and vice versa. Instinctive behaviour arises and evolves in animals directly in relation to the confronting and impacting conditions of the mode of life of a given species. Natural Selection acts on definite forms of behaviour to which a given species is biologically pre-disposed and, in so doing, the phenotypic characteristics intrinsically associated with these forms of behaviour in an organism are selected. Concomitantly, the genotype of the organism (at the molecular level of the DNA) – underlying the ‘selected’ anatomy and physiology of the phenotype – is simultaneously selected.

Instinct does not emerge and evolve in isolation from learning and vice versa. In their unity, each mutually conditions and affects the development of the other. For example, nidification (nest-building) in birds takes different forms according to the material conditions of life of a given species. In the process of nest-building, a bird must also learn various skills involving the use and manipulation of different materials and construction technique. If one observes a bird constructing its nest, one can actually see it making ‘errors’. But these errors are the source of it learning to build a strong and stable nest for its hatchlings. It literally ‘learns from its errors’. Nidification is instinctive in birds but they must also learn in the actual process of building their nests. Thus, in nidification, both instinctive and learnt capacities are at work simultaneously. Therefore, animal instinctive behaviour is an inherent or innate pre-disposition towards certain forms of behaviour for a given species and directed towards the realisation of a specific objective or aim (non-conscious purposefulness) which can be mediated and affected by learning and vice versa.

(fm10) Consciousness and Instinct. How the rise of the former in hominids affects and transforms the latter.

(fm11) A more detailed and elaborated definition of ‘learning capacity’ is required.

(fm12) The critical importance of learning in primates for survival.

(fm13) Catastrophic changes in Nature and the need for rapid adaptation to the resulting new conditions. Evolution ‘in leaps’ (Gould, transformation, dialectics).

(fm14) Examples of this in primate evolution? For example, rapid climactic or environmental changes causing extinctions and rapid evolutionary changes.

(fm15) The disadvantages of overspecialisation (funnelled into a narrow niche existence) and the relative advantages of generic, ‘portable’, adaptable skills and behaviour in rapidly changing natural environments.

(fm16) The ‘survival value’ of developing generic, widely applicable and alterable skills in the primate ancestors of humanity.

(fm17) Hominoid. A member of the Hominoidea superfamily of primates including the anthropoid apes (pongidae) and their extinct progenitors. The classification system of biological science includes the Hominidae (i.e. modern man and extinct ancestral and extinct relative forms) as a sub-group.

(fm18) Tool use and making in the immediate primate ancestors of hominids later developed into their more advanced forms in hominids. This, of course, becomes significant for the later co-operation, for language and the rise of consciousness in hominids.

(fm19) For example, as with the selection of skin colour according to ambient levels of ultraviolet light or density of body hair according to the ambient environmental temperatures. People in sunny climates tend to have more Melanin in their skin (darker skins) for protection against the mutagenic effects of ultraviolet light and people in cold climates more body hair for insulation against the cold. For example, a comparison of sub-saharan black Africans and white northern Europeans.

(fm20)The unity and interaction of biology, behaviour and the learning of skills.

(fm21) On the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin.

(fm22) The correlation between the size, complexity and organisation of nervous systems and the ability to learn new behaviours and skills.

(fm23) Neurological evolution. The evolution of nervous systems.

(fm24) The ‘selection’ of neurological variations at the molecular (biochemical) and physiological levels inseparable from behaviour and advantages conferred by it in the course of the life activity of animals.

(fm25) The evolution of the relationship between biology and behaviour in animals takes place on the ground of the specific activities of animals under their natural conditions of life. Ethology.

(fm26) Illustrations of this from primatology?

(fm27) If an ancestral primate learns and develops a new skill in its struggle to survive then this enriches its experience of its surrounding conditions of life and simultaneously alters its awareness of these surroundings.

(fm28) The close relationship between learning and instinct, their interaction, and mutuality.

(fm29) Examples of this from animal biology, primate biology and ethology.

(fm30) Non-Conscious Awareness of immediate surroundings and their impact and stimuli is the form of awareness found in animals not involving conceptualisation as opposed to the conscious awareness specific to humans. Non-conscious awareness underlies the general mode of learning in all animals. From insects which communicate with each other by means of Pheromones, for example, to the more advanced forms of communications and learning found in primates.

(fm31) The biochemical and physiological basis of the ‘fight or flight’ response in anthropoid apes (alarm, fear) is essentially the same as that in humans. Cortisol, Adrenaline, etc.

(fm32)The biochemical and physiological relationships between the neurological and the hormonal in the ‘fight or flight’ and other responses.

(fm33) How did instinct arise and evolve in animals, in their primaeval ancestors? At the dawn of life and afterwards?

(fm34) How far back does the ‘fight or flight’ response go? Reptiles? Therapsids, etc? This response, it seems to me, must be very ancient and

dating back many millions of years into the age of the dinosaurs and perhaps before.

(fm35) The different lineages and branches of the Hominidae.

(fm36) The modification and diversification of toolmaking and other skills.

(fm37) The ‘radiation’ of hominids into different regions of the planet and the resulting later emergence of different ‘sub-types’ of humans such as Sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, Floriensis, Archaic Africans in central Africa, etc

(fm38) Studies in memory in contemporary primates.

 

Shaun May

October 2018

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Labour Process, Co-operation, Language, Consciousness, Psyche

Labour Process, Co-operation, Language, Consciousness, Psyche

Consciousness emerges as a socially necessary form of awareness out of the need to co-operate in the origination and development of the organisation and relations of the labour process of hominids. This is its ontological ground and mediating basis  The development of language and speech originate pre-conditionally and side by side with consciousness. The labour process in hominids necessarily involves social co-operation. This co-operation must involve the co-ordination of activities by means of intercommunication so that language, accordingly, asserts itself as a social necessity within the actual origination of the labour process itself. Language emerges because human beings must communicate with each other and speech – even in an emergent or rudimentary form – implies thought (consciousness or its beginnings). Language is externalised thought and conscious thought is internalised language. Practice (activity) necessarily gives rise to word and concept. In the beginning was the deed. From the point of their origination, word and concept mediate each other’s development and the totality of social activities. The need to co-operate and communicate in the labour process therefore gives birth to language and this, in its turn, necessitates the rise of consciousness itself and its development alongside and in relationship with language. Thenceforth, consciousness mediates social relationships and evolves with language within the context of changing socio-historical conditions.

The historic origination of consciousness is simultaneously the origination of the human psyche as a totality out of the non-conscious awareness of our animal primate ancestors. This period of transition took place over millions of years. The human psyche is not simply identical to consciousness. This psyche is more complex than mere consciousness alone. The rise of consciousness simultaneously engenders the unconscious as an intrinsic part of this psyche. Herein lies the fundamental distinction between consciousness and the psyche as a whole.  Consciousness is an integrated form of awareness in the life of the psyche as a whole but to identify consciousness per se as the psyche is incorrect and denies this complexity of the whole. Its life-process is qualitatively more complex than that of consciousness alone. The different aspects of the psyche must be considered in their relation to each other. In this way, the nature and function of each aspect is understood as being a part of, and intrinsic to, the life of the whole. Each aspect, function and facility affects and mediates the activities of all the others, constituting a psychic whole which is higher than a mere aggregation and ‘interaction’ of parts.

The relationship between instinct and conditioned learning found in the animal primate is transformed with the rise of consciousness. Originating consciousness transforms animal instinct into the human unconscious. In the course of this transformation, emerging consciousness establishes itself in dynamic relation to its psychic opposite (the unconscious) to which it has given rise in the course of the transforming of instinct by the rise of consciousness itself. Each – the conscious and the unconscious – therefore arise and evolve as mediating the life of each other and, in so doing, constituting the human psychic totality. The relation between instinct and learning found in ancestral primates is superseded with the rise of consciousness which gives rise to the higher relationships and content of the conscious and the unconscious within the human psyche as a whole.

The natural mode of life of ancestral primates is mediated – in the forms of interaction and relations which constitute it – by the synthesis of a conditioned learning and instinct which form the basic elements of the simple, non-conscious (pre-conscious) awareness of these ancestral animal primates. The origination of consciousness transforms the relationship between instinct and learning in the primate ancestors of humanity into the psychological relationship between the conscious and the unconscious. The origination of consciousness is therefore synonymous with the origination of the human psyche as a whole.

The unconscious is the realm of the human psyche which arose in the hominisation process as a result of the rise of consciousness and the supersedence of the instinctive capacities of humanity’s animal primate ancestors. The instinctive in these primate ancestors becomes transformed into the unconscious in humans in the course of the hominisation process with the rise of consciousness. The intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious becomes a fundamental dynamic in the evolution of the human psyche.

The conceptual content of the psyche does not originate in the unconscious but this content mediates, and is mediated by, the neurophysiology of the unconscious. For example, the interrelationship between thinking and feeling  involves the intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious (the interpenetration of the conceptual and non-conceptual).

The unconscious contains superseded within itself all those instinctive capacities formerly possessed by humanity’s primate ancestors. The unconscious is integrated into the total life of the human psyche so that these superseded (sublated) capacities are active in the life of this totality as a consequence of the origination and evolution of conscious awareness in the course of the hominisation process.

Is this relationship between the conscious and unconscious sides of the psyche an eternal feature of its structure and content? Or will this opposition be resolved into a higher synthesis in which both sides are sublated in the course of later social developments beyond the epoch of capital? Does consciousness have a ‘hidden’ psychohistorical role? To prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of a higher order of the human psyche?

The transition between the animal and the human is the process of an aware yet non-conscious natural being becoming conscious of itself and of nature. A process of transition between the mode of life of the animal primate and the earliest modes of human existence. Reflection – i.e. thought consciously monitoring its own movement – is an exclusive property of the human psyche not found in animals or in higher primates. Animals are aware (sentient) but non-conscious and do not possess the capacity to reflect. For example, when an animal encounters its image in a mirror it merely sees the image of its physicality, itself as an object. When a human being looks into a mirror it observes not only a physicality but also the ‘me’ or ‘I’. For the animal there is no ‘I’ to which this physicality is intrinsic. ‘I-ness’ is a function of the reflective capacities of conscious beings. Consciousness itself, as distinguished from the simple awareness of animals, is a social product of the human brain embracing and incorporating within itself an awareness of the ‘self’ involving the capacity to reflect.

Animals are aware but, unlike humans, do not possess the capacity to reflect on the external world or their ‘inner world’. Humans possess the capacity to conceptually monitor the movement of their own thoughts and feeling. This capacity (self-consciousness, reflection, reflexive thinking) arises in the course of the transition from animal primate to human, developing and becoming richer and more elaborate in the inner complexity of its content, structure and relations with the unfolding of the socio-historical process. Human consciousness is demarcated from the simple, non-conscious awareness of the animal in both its structure and content (which in contradistinction to the animal is conceptual) and which, unlike in the animal, is reflexively involved with itself and thus internally dialogued (Vygotsky) in the process of its development.

Within the ‘internal dialogues’, the individual (the self) ‘converses’ and ‘communes’ with his/her own thinking and feeling. Individuals monitor the unfolding and progression of the conceptual content of their own thinking and feeling. Vygotsky further proposes that the ‘inner dialogues’ of consciousness are intrapsychological transpositions of the dialogues and social interactions between individuals. These interactions are psychologically internalised in the form of ‘inner dialogues’ thereby reflecting the social structure and content of the actual relations between human individuals. The social and the psychological are, within this conception, not separable.

This conception of ‘internal dialogue’ also forms an important element in our understanding of so-called ‘mental illness’, that is, in the psychogenesis and development of those mental states which the psychiatrists refer to as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’, etc. For example, the dissociation of one side of a dialogue from the other and the identification of one side (the ‘external other’) by the other side of the dialogue (the subject, the ‘I’) as coming from an external source outside of the thinking subject’s own mental process. For example, in what psychiatry refers to as schizophrenia, ‘hearing voices’, etc.

The learning-instinct relations and complexes of the pre-conscious, ancestral animal primate are adequate and necessary for the natural relationships of the modes of life of these primates but become inadequate and outmoded for the emerging social relationships of hominid and, later, human modes of life.  Accordingly, this form of awareness must be and is superseded (sublated) into the higher formed structures, relations and functions of the human psyche. As this psyche originates, it dichotomises into the unconscious (which contains sublated within itself the instinctive capacities of ancestral primates) and the conscious (which contains sublated within itself the learning capacities of these primates).

It was the emergence and development of the labour process which necessitated social co-operation and which, in its turn, gave rise to the need for language as a means of communication. These were the most fundamental conditions that formed the ground upon which the non-conscious awareness of the animal primate became transformed into the conscious awareness of the human beings. This was the essential transformative element which formed the active basis for the origination of the human psyche itself as a whole. The rise of consciousness transforms the non-conscious awareness of the animal into the human psyche. The basic ‘conscious-unconscious’ structure and relations of this psyche originate in the course of this transitional period.

As human consciousness originated, it became integrated with the neurological legacy inherited from our primate ancestors. For example, those neurological and biochemical processes which prepared the primate ancestors of hominids to counter threat or evade danger; mechanisms which are intrinsic to the mode of life and biology of all primates. This meant that the human psyche in the making integrated all those neurological, physiological and biochemical processes from its animal ancestry which were necessary for the functioning, development and survival of hominids at a definite stage in their evolution and under the conditions of the origination of this psyche. This was passed on in later developments with the emergence of human beings proper. This ‘integration’ simultaneously alters this animal legacy, rendering it ‘human’.

The human psyche is, therefore, a complex synthesis of the social and the biological. This is illustrated by human emotional states where, at a physiological level in the brain, they are correlated with definite neurological states which come and go with alterations in mood. The emotional life of the individual expresses the specific character of the particular social relationships of the individual in a given society at a definite stage in its historical development. But this does not deny the ‘neurological aspects’ which reflect these relations. Moreover, the psyche of each particular individual represents, in one form or another and no matter how unique it is in its specific characteristics, the general character of the human psyche of a given society formed directly under the conditions and influence of its prevailing social relations. This general representation in each individual does not exclude the accentuation of particular aspects of the psyche which are only over-developments of such aspects, e.g. introversion, extroversion, ‘psychopathy’, etc, due to the specificity of the history of the individual’s social experience and its peculiar psychological internalisation. Each individual, irrespective of his or her psychological nature, has been formed under and within the complexity of the prevailing social relations which are organic to and condition the character of all interpersonal relationships.

human beings become individuals only through the process of history 

[Marx. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1993) p. 496. Notebook V.]

The particular uniqueness of each individual always embodies and expresses, in one way or another, the universal characteristics of the social relations and ‘social personality’ of the age. Each individual is a unique, and therefore differentiated, manifestation of these universalities and therefore expresses the universal relations of the age in and through the distinctness and particularity of their unique individuality.

A most (if not the most) fundamental question that we must address concerns the nature and quality of the personal subjective life of the human individual i.e. humans as ‘feeling’ beings.  Feeling is the eternal focal point around which the nature and quality of the subjective life of the individual revolves.

If I engage in activities alone or with other people which I find pleasing, pleasurable, enjoyable but my subjective experience of these activities merely serves to psychologically displace my own internal pain (mental, not directly physical) whether I am conscious of this or not, then these activities merely articulate the continuation of alienation in social relations. If I drink or drug myself because it drowns my sorrows then the ‘consolation’ which I may find in such activity is a faux consolation because it merely transmutes and expresses my alienation as an individual in a different guise. It does not transcend it but simply reaffirms it in a new form and therefore the existence of alienation as a continuing feature of social relations in general. It means that my ‘enjoyment’ is determined by and contaminated with my pain and therefore not enjoyment unmediated by this pain. Enjoyment which ceases to be mediated as such is not the crude ‘enjoyment’ as bourgeois man experiences it but of a totally different and qualitatively higher order. An enjoyment which only people freeing themselves from (or free of) the alienation of bourgeois society can truly experience.

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived 

[Engels. From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p. 605]

If, in societies beyond the epoch of capital, social relations no longer serve as a source of anxieties and fears, how would this transform interpersonal relationships and human behaviour in general? How would this transform the way people feel about themselves and their fellow men and women? Surely it would transform the whole of human life into a realm which we today in bourgeois society would find unrecognisable and totally ‘alien’?

If I have never experienced the anxieties, fears and alienation intrinsic to bourgeois relations then I can have no awareness of their presence or absence. I am a totally different individual to that formed by these relations. Indeed, I can have no concept of these experiences, and what they mean, because they have been superseded historically in the course of social development beyond the epoch of capital. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and is not aware of being free precisely because s/he is truly free.

It would mean the end of aggression and cruelty between human beings and a complete transformation in our relationship with both living and non-living Nature in all its manifold and beautiful creation. Moreover, would it not totally alter the whole interpersonal character of sexual relations and the actual subjective experience of joy and pleasure itself? And when the ‘artificial appetites’ [Marx] and desires created by bourgeois relations lose their grip on human relations? When the commodification of our desires and pleasures ends? These alien, reified and idealised ‘things of thought’ in the epoch of global capital?

There is an element of truth – when specifically re-contextualised socio-historically beyond its ‘ideological form’ in Buddhism – in the identification of ‘suffering’ and ‘desire’. How suffering breeds desire and desire contains suffering latent within itself. Yet impossible to transcend this relationship under the conditions of the current epoch. But in later epochs?

The seeking of pleasure motivated by pain and the disappearance of its realisation as the re-emergence and repositing of pain in the psyche. Pleasure as the negation of ‘pain’ and, simultaneously, as its reaffirmation in its opposite form. Pleasure and pain as the mother and offspring of each other mediated by desire? The continuous re-positing and reaffirmation of pain in its negation by pleasure and vice versa. Their dialectical movement into each other. The ‘fetishisation’ of pleasure and pain as ‘things of thought’ in the current epoch of bourgeois relations? When pleasure becomes a ‘thing of thought’ (desire) does not this relation contain within itself the ‘pain’ of its non-realisation. And, moreover, the ‘pain’ of its loss after its realisation?

our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction.  Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature

[Marx. Wage Labour and Capital, Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.83]

The need for consolation is only necessitated in and where human relationships are characterised by ‘loss’ and ‘suffering’. And if there is no longer any ‘loss’ or ‘suffering’, what then? If men no longer assert control and power over the lives of other men with all the coercion, threat, violence and aggression implied in such relations, how must this alter human relationships and their reflection in the psychology of people? An ‘unfettering’ of human potential in which humanity becomes free to socially develop its capacities without these hindrances, unrestricted by oppressive social relations and the fear engendered by them?

But what of the ‘fight or flight’ response inherited from our animal ancestors? This must and will be retained so it can be activated in response to real, imminent, extra-human threat to prepare people to respond to the presence of real danger in their relations with extra-human, natural conditions of life. But its presence in the social and interpersonal relationships between people will become redundant. Why? Because those relations and forms of behaviour [such as violence, abuse, aggression, threat, war, etc] which have mediated its activation in previous societies will have been transcended. With the advance of human knowledge, science and technology, even the possibilities of natural threats and disasters tend to increasingly diminish.

The psychological transformation of people starts to take place in the transitional period as capital is being progressively dislodged from the social metabolism. This is the coming-into-being of the higher communal individual, the ‘social individual’, the individual of the global ‘realm of freedom’. The realm where both private and state forms of property have been superseded and the new communal realm has established itself irreversibly on a global basis, developing and maturing on the social ground of its own self-created foundations. This is the realm of human beings no longer touched by the psychosocial legacies, in their various forms, of bourgeois relations and untainted by the memory of their impact and effects on people. When the very notion of ownership itself vanishes (because the Earth and the creations of human activity are truly without owners), this must serve as a liberating drive in the development of the human personality.

Shaun May

September 2018

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Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [1] Introduction

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche 

[1] Introduction

The point proceeds towards a place which is its future, and leaves one which is its past; but what it has left behind is at the same time what it has still to reach: it has been already at the place which it is reaching. Its goal is the point which is its past

Hegel   Philosophy of Nature

It comes about that each step in the progress of further determination in advancing from the indeterminate beginning is also a rearward approach to it, so that two processes which at first may appear to be different (the regressive confirmation of the beginning and its progressive further determination) coincide and are the same.

Hegel   Science of Logic (Vol. 2)

 

The transition from the mode of life of ancestral animal primates to that of hominids, and later, human modes of life takes place on the basis of definite natural pre-conditions foremost amongst which is the associative behaviour of ancestral primates in their natural environment and their advanced ability – relative to the rest of the animal kingdom – to learn from their experience in the course of their interaction and relationship with each other and to their surroundings and to acquire and develop new skills for dealing with these surroundings. This learning in our primate ancestors involved the refinement of those skills that enabled ancestral primates to gain an edge in the struggle to survive (fm1) (fm2) (fm3) (fm4). In relation to contemporary primates, their social behaviour…

is keenly important for understanding primate adaptations and evolution. Because of the highly social nature of nonhuman primates, we must view natural groups, as well as individuals, as the adaptive units of the species. Primate young are born relatively immature; they need the protection and care afforded not only by their mother but also by the social group. The pattern of prolonged immaturity, coupled with a relatively large brain size, means that life in a primate social group provides many opportunities for learning. Social living places a premium on learning. Most of the primate behavioural repertoire is learned, resulting in substantial individual behavioural plasticity that allows flexibility in response to environmental challenges and gives the primate an evolutionary advantage, especially in changeable environments. Primates can, for example, respond to changing environmental conditions almost instantaneously by modifying their behaviour. This behavioural flexibility has relevance for understanding human evolution. To understand the habitat shift that occurred among our ancestors, we must be cognizant of the behavioural background of monkeys and apes. This successful habitat shift obviously involves behavioural plasticity, that is, the ability to adapt to new surroundings, and a constant curiosity leading to the acquisition of new traits to meet new environmental challenges, such as new foods and new predators. [1]

This learning capacity of the ancestral primate must be considered in order to form a starting point for understanding the origination of human society and therefore of the human psyche as a totality (fm5). Accordingly, the human psyche is not exclusively a product of social development but is the outcome of its entire prehistory of natural and social development. To put forward a ‘starting point’ would be to deny that this ‘entire development’ It is a complex synthesis of natural and socio-historical elements. It is a social product of the brain containing both its natural and social history superseded within itself. But this also applies to human sense perception of the world which is never a purely neurophysiological process but involves the thinking, active, cognising, feeling human subject consciously ‘experiencing’ the world (fm6). Mental life is an active, essential and intrinsic ingredient in this conscious human ‘experience’ of the world. In human sensation, an interaction of the neurophysiological and the psychological is always taking place. These inner relations of the human psyche express the unity of the social conditions of life of people (as manifest in the psychological) and the neurological substratum of the psyche itself.

The psyche is a product of the brain because without the living, functioning physiology of this organ, thinking is inconceivable. Different forms of damage to the brain and forms of poisoning invariably result in psychomotor, perceptual and cognitive disturbances and thought disturbances (fm7). This demonstrates that the human psyche has neurophysiological and neurochemical presuppositions which are not simply determined by the social conditions of existence. However, thought is also a social product of the brain because the conceptual content of human thought arises out of the history of humanity’s social being which is social activity (fm8). However…

Natural science, like philosophy, has hitherto entirely neglected the influence of men’s activity on their thought; both know only nature on the one hand and thought on the other. But it is precisely the alteration of nature by men not solely nature as such, which is the most essential and immediate basis of human thought, and it is in the measure that man has learned to change nature that his intelligence has increased. The naturalistic conception of history…… as if nature exclusively reacts on man, and natural conditions everywhere exclusively determined his historical development is therefore one-sided and forgets that man also reacts on nature, changing it and creating new conditions of existence for himself. [2]

Indeed the physiology of the primate brain itself undergoes changes with the transition from ancestral primate to hominid. It not only becomes larger. It is changed qualitatively, becoming more complex (fm9). It has been found, from a study of brain endocasts, that…

the increase in brain size between australopithecines and early Homo increased the number of folds in all parts of the cerebral cortex. These new folds may simply be an effect of this overall size increase rather than a specific change. These hominids may have been the first to use Broca’s area for language but endocasts alone are not enough to prove it [3]

Broca’s area is that part of the human brain that is necessary for the development of language. It is a scientific (perhaps we might say empirical) reservation in the extreme to postulate that such quantitative changes might take place without any corresponding (if only minor yet significant) qualitative changes in the degree of complexity of the brain resulting from these developments. Even if these changes involved a mere increase in the quantity of neural interconnections and networking, only the most untheoretical and scientistic of palaeoanthropologists might deny the possibility of qualitative changes as the the brain of early Homo developed out of its australopithecine predecessors.

Hominids begin to develop the ability to think through the use of concepts i.e. humans in the making develop consciousness which emerges in the transition to, and further onward social development of, hominid modes of life. Attempts to explain the origins of the human psyche on biological grounds alone are always deficient. Although it sometimes denies an exclusively biologistic approach to human psychological evolution, the much vaunted, fashionable and recently mushroomed area of ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ does emphasise the biological over the social and, in so doing, tends to neglect the centrality of social relations in the evolution of the psyche (fm10). According to Mithen, two of the ‘leading lights’ of Evolutionary Psychology (Cosmides & Tooby)…

argue that we can only understand the nature of the modern mind by viewing it as a product of biological evolution. The starting point for this argument is that the mind is a complex, functional structure that could not have arisen by chance. If we are willing to ignore the possibility of divine intervention, the only process by which such complexity could have arisen is evolution by natural selection. In this regard, C & T treat the mind as one treats any other organ of the body – it is an evolved mechanism which has been constructed and adjusted in response to the selective pressures faced by our species during its evolutionary history  […]  C & T argue that the mind consists of a Swiss army knife with a great many, highly specialised blades; in other words it is composed of multiple mental modules. Each of these blades/modules has been designed by natural selection to cope with one specific adaptive problem faced by hunter-gatherers during our past [4]

Firstly, let us acknowledge the elements of truth in this description. Only those completely ignorant of evolutionary theory might deny the importance of the struggle for existence, genetic mutation, phenotypic variation and natural selection in the origination and development of human neurology out of those neurological structures of its many ancestral progenitors. After all, the human psyche is inconceivable without that material organ known as the brain and the brain as a biological organ has an evolutionary prehistory of many millions of years. And, of course, by implication, chance alone cannot account for the origination of this psyche. However, to view the “modern mind” itself within this biologistic framework is to deny its intrinsic social nature i.e. that the biological is superseded (but not annihilated) within its social character. Human beings learn to think only by ‘being in society’ and what is ‘mind’ without thinking? The ‘Swiss army knife’ model with ‘multiple mental modules’ is a mechanistic conception in the extreme. It is most fitting to the most formalistic and positivistic modes of thinking of some scientists who do, indeed, conceptualise the human psyche as just ‘any other organ’ for empirical study.  Contrast this with Hegel’s conception (writing at the beginning of the nineteenth century) of ‘mind’ in which he develops the thesis that..

our own sense of the mind’s living unity naturally protests against any attempt to break it up into different faculties, forces or, what comes to the same thing, activities conceived as independent of each other [5]

Scientific theories which deal with the nature of living matter can only be applied, without qualification, to formations which are exclusively biological in character. Likewise, the application of chemical theory and technique in order to understand living matter can only be made on the basis of the premise that living systems are not simply a ‘complex mixture of chemicals’ but represent a qualitatively different, more complex form of organisation of matter.  Therefore, speaking generally, the application of the body of knowledge and methods of a ‘lower’ sphere of matter (e.g. physics or chemistry) to the material and relational complexities of a ‘higher’ (e.g. biology or social relations) sphere, in order to gain knowledge of it, can only be made under specific conditions and with qualifications which take into account the distinct organisation and characteristics of the ‘higher’ formation which is being investigated (fm11). Without these qualifications, scientific thinking invariably falls into reductionism and thereby steps into a highly circumscribed, limited mode of ‘scientific’ investigation. It is a mode which is more abstract, emptier in its content, more divorced from the truth of its subject. If this is so much so in the relation between the chemical and the biological, in the study of human culture the effects are even more marked and profound. Richard Jones, in his study on reductionism, writes that…

When a reductionist says “A is really only B” the movement is always towards smaller parts or more general realities. Reductionists “reduce the more valuable to the less valuable, the more meaningful to the less meaningful”, and never the other way around. The more individual and special is devalued and absorbed into something broader. Simply put: things are less than they seem. If things are reducible to a reality below the surface, then much of human life loses its value. The effect on our lives is to undercut the reality of what is specific to being human – consciousness, free will, personhood, our cultural relations. What seemed special about humans is dissolved into nothing but lifeless and soulless matter. [6]

Therefore to understand the human psyche as a totality it is insufficient to focus exclusively on its biological side. Its origins and development as both product and producer of social conditions and relations that have themselves come into being historically need to be considered.

Psyche – an intrinsic and essential part of human social development – is not merely ‘its own result’ as Hegel maintained (fm12). However, this latter assertion contains an element of truth. Thinking human beings are simultaneously both producers and products of history. In the course of the development of human society…

Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e.g. the village becomes a town, the wilderness a cleared field, etc, but the producers change too, in that they bring out new qualities in themselves, develop themselves in production, transform themselves, develop new powers and ideas, new modes of intercourse, new needs and new language. [7]

Consciously-acting humans create the conditions that form the ground for the development of consciousness (fm13). Human activity and the social relations corresponding to these forms of activity become mediated by definite, historically-determined forms of consciousness. This implies that ‘human nature’ is mutable and subject to transformation in the course of people’s activities over the ages.

This contrasts with the conception in Evolutionary Psychology of an eternal basis of ‘human nature’ (fm14) which has been (since the dawn of humanity) and will be for all time and places. Moreover, we see in the general approach of Evolutionary Psychology an ingrained scientism displayed in reductionist and functionalist forms [8]. The ‘modular’ conception of ‘mind’, which characterises Evolutionary Psychology, contrasts with relatively recent developments in the neurosciences in which…

..the insight is growing that the brain does not consist of a collection of circumscribed areas, responsible for highly specific cognitive functions. Rather we should think in terms of “interlocked neuronal (functional) networks” in which for the execution of particular functions certain circumscribed areas may be necessary, but not sufficient. To quote a statement by Lopez da Silva (2000, p29) “Even today, a general tendency is to think that because a certain area has a given anatomical name, it should correspond to one function, i.e. one anatomical name = one cognitive function!”. In Lopez da Silva’s opinion a strict correspondence might be true for a very few simple functions, but this certainly does not hold in general [9]

Evolutionary Psychology ‘explains’ social relations and behaviour on the basis of the principles of Darwinian evolution (fm15) and, more specifically on the basis of so-called “adaptation” [10]. However, such notions of “adaptation” – which are more appropriate to the evolution of animals alone and not the more complex history of humanity  –  do not grasp the human personality as something that has come into being and has been formed under the direct influence of, and shaped by, the forces of the history of human society through time and place; something that is, and must be, subject to further alteration and transformations as human society evolves. In other words, such notions which we find in Evolutionary Psychology convey the idea that fundamental change in social relations can never fndamentally alter “human nature”. In other words, all the major features, behaviour and characteristics of the social relations and mental life of contemporary human life – which are explained by Evolutionary Psychology through the conception of “adaptation” – are essentially insurmountable. Humanity can revolutionise its social conditions of life, but must, insists Evolutionary Psychology, continue to live with social relations which are manifestations of evolution’s ‘hardwired’ ‘computer programming’ of the human brain. Revolutionise as much as you like but humanity’s fate is sealed. In other words, such notions which we find in Evolutionary Psychology convey the idea that fundamental change in social relations can never alter ‘fundamental human nature’ (fm16). The religious undertones and undercurrents are palpable. Man is competitive, selfish, greedy, possessive, brutish, homicidal, evil and nasty. He is ‘hardwired’ to be so. Live with it. Or turn to God for consolation.

‘Human nature’, like the precepts that seek to absolutise it, is subject to change and transformation. Changing social relations (changed by thinking-acting human beings) and conditions alter social consciousness so that even ethical ideas become reformed and adapted to the new conditions and relations. Moralities – which are not ‘installed’ by evolution, natural selection and ‘adaptation’ into human beings like ‘computer programmes’ or ‘software’ into a ‘hard drive’ –  become transformed so that what was understood as ‘moral’ in one period appears as ‘immoral’ in the succeeding one and vice versa.

Social development is continuously shifting the ground from underneath prevailing forms and established systems of morality (fm17). In this historical flux, categorical imperatives and absolutes in the realm of ethics are revealed to be relative forms which begin to become transformed or even vanish completely as new social relations eclipse the old, necessitating the emergence of new forms of morality which serve to justify and perpetuate the establishment of the new social relations in opposition to the old.  Likewise, the forms of human social behaviour are not immutable aspects of human relationships. Rather.. 

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived. [11]

The way ‘real people behave’ is no more eternal than the social relations and conditions that engender their forms of behaviour.  If, for example, the social and historic conditions which form the mediating ground and give rise to wars between people are superseded, then men will no longer engage in those forms of conflictual behaviour which we see on our TV screens every day in the epoch of capital. The gun will disappear to be melted down into and truly replaced by the ploughshare. The human personality – at different times, periods and places in human history – is an organic part of the unfolding of the historical process and this is reflected in the changing conceptual content of the human psyche (fm18) so that…

socio-historical shifts not only introduce new content into the mental world of human beings; they also create new forms of activity and new structures of cognitive functioning. They advance human consciousness to new levels. [12]

Therefore even…

higher cognitive activities remain socio-historical in nature, and that the structure of mental activity – not just the specific content but also the general forms basic to all cognitive processes – change in the course of historical development. [13]

 

Next Section : Pre-Conditions in the Modes of Life and Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates

 

References

(given in square brackets thus [  ] )

[1] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) pp.90-91

[2] Engels, F.  Dialectics of Nature.  Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.511.

[3] Deacon, T.W. The Human Brain, chapter 3.2 in  The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995)

[4] Mithen, S. The Prehistory of the Mind : A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science (London, Phoenix, Orion Books, 1998) pp. 42-43

[5] Hegel, G.W.F.  Philosophy of Mind. (Clarendon, Oxford, 1971) p.4

[6] Jones, R.H. Reductionism. Analysis and the Fullness of Reality (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bucknell University Press, 2000) pp.14-15

[7] Marx. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Notebook V. (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1993) p.494.

[8] See, for example, Evolutionary Psychology’s general conception of ‘human nature’ in Falger, V.S.E. Evolutionary World Politics: The Biological Foundations of International Relations in Evolutionary Interpretations of World Politics. Thompson, W.R. (ed) (Routledge, 2001) p.36

[9] Kalverboer, A.F. and  Gramsbergen, A. Brain-Behaviour Relationships in the Human – Core Issues in Handbook of Brain and Behaviour in Human Development. Kalverboer, A.F. and Gramsberger, A. (eds). (Springer, 2001) p.8

[10] See, as an example of this conception, Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L. and Tooby, J. The Adapted Mind. Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. (Oxford University Press US, Cary, NC, 1992)

[11] Engels.  From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring.  Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.605

[12] Luria, A.R. Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1976) p.163.

[13] Ibid, p.8

 

Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

(given in brackets thus (fm   ) )

 

(fm1) Studies in Paleoanthropology

(fm2) Studies in Primatology

(fm3) Hominid. Any member of the Hominidae including modern man and the extinct hominid ancestors or relatives of mankind e.g. Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis, and Homo Neanderthalensis. Modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) is the only extant species of the Hominidae. Recent discoveries have shown that the ‘radiation’ of hominids out of Africa into Asia and Europe also produced other human types such as the ‘Denisovans’ and ‘Floriensis’ besides Neanderthals. Also the existence of a distinct type of human (‘Archaic Africans’) in central Africa, differentiated from modern man, has also been discovered by researches in Genetics and Molecular Biology. It is thought that these different types sometimes came into contact, mixed and interbred as evidenced by the presence of specific DNA markers found in the modern human genome. The remains of more types of humans, resulting from the radiation and evolution of Hominids out of Africa, are possibly waiting to be discovered across the globe.

(fm4) Primates. The order of mammals that includes the prosimians*, monkeys, apes and extinct animal primate ancestors of hominids and of contemporary animal primates. The primates possess flexible hands with opposable digits which are necessary for dexterity. They have stereoscopic vision and developed brains which are structured and differentiated into interrelating parts performing a diversity of complex functions. Most primates are arboreal and anatomically unspecialised. They generally inhabit warm climates. The behavioural organisation and relations of the different species within the order are characterised by a trend of increasing complexity and increasing capacity to learn. (*Prosimians. The lower sub-order of primates (and their extinct primate ancestors) which includes the lemurs, tree shrews, tarsiers and lorises.)

(fm5) Learning. The process of acquiring and developing knowledge, skills, abilities or novel forms of behaviour found in animals and raised to the cognitive level of consciousness and reflexive thinking (self-consciousness) in humanity. A highly developed capacity in primates in general. Conditioned knowledge is knowledge acquired by primates, and animals in general, in the course of their interactions (experience) with their conditions of life throughout their lifetime.

(fm6)  Interaction of the psychological and neurological in sensation; role of psychological factors in sense perception.

(fm7) How brain injury impacts cognition/perception.

(fm8) Marx and Engels on the relationship between Thinking and Being

(fm9) Changes in the size and complexity of the brain in the transition from ancestral animal primates to hominids and humans.

(fm10) The conception of the origins of the human psyche, its evolution and character on the basis of Evolutionary Biological Theory alone gives this conception in ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ its flawed and faux character. Bogus pseudoscience.

(fm11) Biopoiesis : the origins of life. Life is more, a qualitatively higher sphere of nature, than a mere complex mixture of chemicals. The biological is not simply identical and ‘reducible’ to the chemical no matter how complex the latter may be.

(fm12) Hegel – Philosophy of Mind (Encyclopaedia)

(fm13) Marx and Engels – The German Ideology and Theses on Feuerbach.

(fm14) The ‘ Evpsychies’ ‘ conception of an ‘eternal human nature’ based on their scientistic mis-extrapolations of Bioevolutionary Theory.

(fm15) See Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby. Reference [10]

(fm16) Ditto. See Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby. Reference [10]

(fm17) How social transformation changes moral conceptions and is, indeed, motivated by them.

(fm18) Luria and Vygotsky : Conceptions alter with socio-historical ‘shifts’. But this also applies to ‘mental structures’ and relations as well. This opens the path to the real social evolution of the human psyche in the ages beyond the capital relation.

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

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Children in the Family and in the Commune

Children in the Family and in the Commune

In his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Frederick Engels traces the origins and historical development of the different forms of the family. The evolution of its later forms, especially the monogamian patriarchal forms, is closely connected to the development of private property. Engels summarises the relationship between production, the family, private property and the state in the preface to the first edition of the text… 

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 organisation under which the people of a particular historical epoch and a particular country live is determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour on the one hand and of the family on the other. The lower the development of labour and the more limited the amount of its products, and consequently, the more limited also the wealth of the society, the more the social order is found to be dominated by kinship groups. However, within this structure of society based on kinship groups the productivity of labour increasingly develops, and with it private property and exchange, differences of wealth, the possibility of utilising the labour power of others, and hence the basis of class antagonisms: new social elements, which in the course of generations strive to adapt the old social order to the new conditions, until at last their incompatibility brings about a complete upheaval. In the collision of the newly developed social classes, the old society founded on kinship groups is broken up. In its place appears a new society, with its control centred in the state, the subordinate units of which are no longer kinship associations, but local associations; a society in which the system of the family is completely dominated by the system of property, and in which there now freely develops those class antagonisms and class struggles that have hitherto formed the content of all written history. (emphasis in the original)

(Engels. F., The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Preface to the First Edition. Penguin, 1985. pp.35-36)

The family in its earlier forms foreshadows the rise of private property and in its later forms becomes an intrinsic part of the different social systems of private property. Engels traces the origins of the monogamian nuclear family in previous forms of the family, reaching its latest stage of development in bourgeois society. Today, under the impact of the unfolding of the contradictions and crisis of the capital system, we are witnessing the break up of the family, its widespread dissolution as the traditional unit for ‘the propagation of the species’. Millions across the globe are now living alone or in ‘experimental communities’ which lie outside the traditional structure and orbit of the nuclear family. In the United States and Western Europe the so-called ‘extended family’ is more or less extinct. The internal conflicts which are shaking the family unit today reflect and are part of the wider and deeper crisis of the whole capital system across the world. All this, of course, is having repercussions for children, their development, lives and welfare. In Europe and North America, the number of children ‘taken into care’, that is, under the guardianship and supervision of the state power, is increasing every year. This, in itself, indicates that the nuclear family is in many instances an unsuitable place within which to rear children.

The life of the child in the typical nuclear family today (parents and children) and its wider life in society as a whole make up the two sides of the conflict between the child’s private conditions of life and its wider social conditions of life. In bourgeois society, the psychological development of the child is centred in the family, that is, within the social arena where its physical and other needs are putatively met. Not exclusively so, of course, with the profound encroachment of the ‘outside’ into the ‘family lives’ of children. However, the nuclear family is the social medium within which children form their earliest, most significant psychological attachments and dependencies.  The establishment, interplay and development of these attachments and dependencies form and condition the psychological content and conflicts of the inner relationships of the nuclear family.

The socio-economic conditions and parameters which prevail in capitalist society necessitate, maintain and encourage the continuation of the inner relationships of the nuclear family and their inherent contradictions. However, at the same time, these same socio-economic conditions, in the course of their development, create the basis for the disintegration of the nuclear family. This is especially the case today with the unfolding of capital’s structural crisis which must have the most profound impact on the family institution as it intensifies.

The conflicts between the ‘public’ lives of individuals and their ‘private’ lives within the exclusive coterie of the nuclear family can only subsist under conditions of social alienation. This separation between the ‘private’ world of the individual and the individual’s ‘public’ role in society is a function of the rise and evolution of private property and not something inherently human. Marx notes that…

Individuals have always proceeded from themselves but of course from themselves within their given historical conditions and relations, not from the “pure” individual in the sense of the ideologists. But in the course of historical development, and previously through the fact that within the division of labour social relations inevitably take on an independent existence, there appears a cleavage in the life of each individual, insofar as it is personal and insofar as it is determined by some branch of labour and the conditions pertaining to it. 

(Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976.  p.78) 

This social ‘cleavage’ in the life of people is reflected in the conflicts within their internal psychological worlds. For example, in the form of the relationship between the public persona of the individual on the one hand (embracing occupational/professional relationships, etc) and the inner egoism of the private world of thought and feeling of the same individual on the other hand.

Such antagonisms between the private and public sides of people’s lives are necessitated, cultivated and perpetuated by the social relations of the capital system itself which serve to ‘fragment the personality’ of the individual in his or her personal relationships. This social process of splitting the human personality into a ‘divided self’, under the conditions of alienation in the age of capital, commences very early in childhood. This, for example, can be seen in the problems and conflicts which emerge in disaffected children within the school system.

The development of children within the structures of the nuclear family takes place within a microsystem of self-enclosed, inward looking, socially claustrophobic relationships which today are displaying a tendency towards rapid break down, often very soon after they have been established. This itself is a manifestation of the unstoppable invasion of social crisis directly into the very depths and heart of the nuclear family. The dissolution of the nuclear family is a tendency of social development in the age of capital’s structural crisis.

The rearing of children takes place on an entirely different (indeed opposite) social foundation in the commune. The fundamental precondition for this altered way of nurturing children is the abolition of private property. The very notion of property disappears with the negation of private property. Those human characteristics which are intrinsically associated with the rule of private property, such as greed, acquisitiveness, possessiveness, etc, in both things and personal relationships, gradually disappear. Human relationships become free of their psychological effects. This means that children are no longer seen as ‘the children’ of specific individuals but are reared within the social conditions, and through the gregarious social relationships, of the commune. This tends to resolve and abolish the conflict between the private and public sides of the lives of children. Children become ‘social individuals’ as opposed to infantile versions of the ‘private individual’ of later adult existence in the age of capital and commodity production.

Children become ‘the children’ of the whole commune. They are reared by the whole commune as the relationships which characterise the internal structure of the nuclear family disappear with the evolution of the commune on the basis of its own self-created foundations. Of course, all this is anathema to the ideology of the bourgeois, nuclear family. It would mean that biological parents cease to have the same degree of social significance which they have for ‘their’ children reared within the monogamous nuclear family. Every adult in the commune becomes the social ‘parent’ (guardian) of each and every child. All children see each other as ‘brothers and sisters’  Hence, the very notions of ‘parent’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’ ‘daughter’, etc, which express the narrow social relationships of the nuclear family will vanish. Child-adult relationships become transformed in the commune where biological parentage does not have or confer any special, exclusive social role or privilege upon these adults. The child is reared by the whole commune and grows to maturity without any notions of ‘my family’, ‘my mother’, ‘my father’, etc. The narrow, exclusive mode of rearing children in bourgeois society is superseded. The socially claustrophobic way of bringing children to maturity within the nuclear family ends. Children will be safe to wander under adult supervision, to inquire and be educated by many, to stay and live in the different locations of the planet, within communal relations in which they are completely safe, cared for and nurtured in their personal development by each and all.

These contrasting ways of rearing children relates to what Marx meant when he wrote that… 

the ability of children to develop depends on the development of their parents and that all this crippling under existing social relations has arisen historically, and in the same way can be abolished again in the course of historical development. Even naturally evolved differences within the species, such as racial differences, etc,…can and must be abolished in the course of historical development. 

(Marx, The German Ideology. p.425) 

The psychology and behaviour of children is a sensitive indicator of the general character of the social relations of the epoch. Vygotsky proposed that the development of the individual involves the psychological assimilation of the dominant social relationships and modes of behaviour. Specifically, relative to child development, he writes that…

Any function in the child’s cultural development appears on the stage twice, on two planes, first on the social plane and then on the psychological; first between people as an interpsychological category, and then inside the child, as an intrapsychological. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory and to the formation of concepts. The actual relations between human individuals underlie all the higher functions.

[Vygotsky, L.S. Development of Higher Mental Functions. Psychological Research in the U.S.S.R. (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966) pp.44-45.]

This implies that children’s subjective experience of people and the world (how they think and feel about each other and themselves) is largely conditioned by the psychological internalisation of the social relationships within which they are reared.

The maturation of children in the commune outside the social relations of the nuclear family facilitates a higher degree of personal independence in children than can ever exist in bourgeois society. This accords with the human freedom that necessarily results from the establishment and development of classless, communal social relations beyond the epoch of capital.

The dependencies and attachments (‘family ties’) which characterise the nuclear family of bourgeois society must disappear with it as a social formation. The abolition of private property and the evolution of the commune forms the social basis for the dissolution of the nuclear family. People’s needs become unconditionally guaranteed (‘to each according to their needs’) and attainable outside the bounds and parameters of the traditional social unit of the nuclear family. It becomes historically redundant and obsolete as a social structure.

If the needs of children in the complete sense of the term (and not simply material needs like food, shelter, clothing, etc) are unconditionally guaranteed by society as a whole, then this must further serve to dissolve the traditional ties of the nuclear family based on the existence of private property. This must also transform children subjectively in terms of their internal psychological world and in their relations with each other and adults. For children, as with adults, it is only within the commune that each individual has…. 

the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; hence personal freedom becomes possible only within the community. In previous substitutes for the community, in the state, etc, personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed under the conditions of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class. The illusory community in which individuals have up till now combined always took on an independent existence in relation to them, and since it was the combination of one class over against another, it was at the same time for the oppressed class not only a completely illusory community, but a new fetter as well. In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association. 

(Marx. The German Ideology. p.78)

Shaun May

September 2018

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Art in the Commune

Art in the Commune

Marx writes that the ‘narrowness’ of the ‘professional development’ of the artist expresses ‘his dependence on the division of labour’. Ultimately, the ‘exclusive’ character of Art is a function of this division of labour and is an expression of the fact that society continues to be divided into opposed classes.  Art remains under the sway of these class relations with their division of labour and, in its completeness and diversity as an activity, is essentially inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of people.

This social appropriation and monopolisation of Art takes place on the basis of, and is motivated by, the economic and cultural conditions of bourgeois society, intrinsic to which are its educational systems and institutions. The division of labour is a necessary feature of the organisation of bourgeois society in contradistinction to later post-capital, classless societies where the separation between manual and mental forms of labour is superseded with the end of class relations. 

Art, in particular, becomes an integrated part of these newly-posited social relationships in the commune. It becomes intrinsic to the life of each and every individual and not something alien or distinct from this life. Art is not identified or distinguished as a separate or distinct sphere of human activity as it is in bourgeois society. The social appropriation of Art in bourgeois society – its transference (estrangement) into and monopoly in the hands of specific social strata – is overcome in the commune. Under capitalism, Art is a medium through which the alienation of humanity is and can be expressed and, at the same time, a means of protesting (sometimes unconsciously) against those social conditions which necessarily produce human alienation in its different forms.

In bourgeois society – where the division of labour fragments labour into different manual and mental forms – Art itself becomes a distinctive sphere of human activity which is a sphere of activity monopolised and controlled by distinct social strata, groups or even ‘talented’ individuals. Thus, in The German Ideology, Marx writes that….

The exclusive concentration of artistic talent in particular individuals, and its suppression in the broad mass which is bound up with this, is a consequence of the division of labour. Even if in certain social conditions, everyone were an excellent painter, that would by no means exclude the possibility of each of them being also an original painter…..with a communist organisation of society, there disappears the subordination of the artist to local and national narrowness, which arises entirely from the division of labour, and also the subordination of the individual to some definite art, making him exclusively a painter, sculptor, etc; the very name amply expresses the narrowness of his professional development and his dependence on the division of labour. In a communist society there are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities. 

(Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. Lawrence and Wishart, London,.1976. p.394)

Every individual in the commune will be artistic without being an ‘artist’. There is art but there are no ‘artists’.  Art becomes an expression of the free life of humanity in the commune and integral to its development, unconditioned by the ‘enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour’.

 (Marx. Critique of the Gotha Programme. Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.320)

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

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