A Brief History of Politics
The coming impact of developments in technology, particularly biotechnology, that I see, makes me ponder what effects they will have on our politics. So, with your indulgence, I will attempt to trace my understanding of the evolution of politics in our species over the past several million years, and then project what I see in the future. I say the evolution of politics because I believe that all things evolve through some selection process, and that evolution never stops.
Human Politics Stage 1 – The politics of, by far, the longest period of our existence as a species is about the same as the politics of the apes that preceded us which is about the same as the gorillas and chimpanzees of today. All our ancestors lived in BANDS (of a few dozen individuals or less) of hunter-gatherers until about ten thousand years ago. These bands of relatives shared tasks equally (categorized by gender), had very few (portable) possessions and had no leaders. EVERYONE had to participate in food acquisition. Dispute resolution (as all important decisions) was a family affair and no other process was needed. Relations with other bands tended to be very violent so all men needed to be competent warriors if their group was to survive.
Human Politics Stage 2 – The first villages, made possible by agriculture, could include hundreds of people made up of several families (clans). These TRIBES approached or just passed the limits of a society where everyone would know everyone else and their families and were thus also very egalitarian. A larger polis needed a bit more leadership and slightly more evolved dispute resolution mechanisms. While still a society of equals, a BIG MAN would emerge as a result of everyone’s respect for him stemming from his strength, fairness and wisdom. Specialist craftspeople also first appeared to manufacture in a more professional manner the worldly goods of this culture. Barter first appeared and all men still needed to be warriors.
Human Politics Stage 3 – As agriculture advanced, several villages would associate as a CHIEFTANSHIP to manage the livestock, crops and lands and to provide for the common defense. Craftsmen became full time professionals and a standing police force/army became necessary to enforce the Hereditary Chiefs policies of land management, dispute resolution and defense. Under chiefs with military as well as general responsibilities and varied privileges made up the first human aristocracies.
Human Politics Stage 4 – As Chieftainships became larger, more populous, richer and more potent militarily, the first hereditary KINGDOMS came into being. A large bureaucracy of aristocrats oversaw the administration of the Kings realm and scribes developed writing (about 5,400 years ago) to keep accounts of the Kings properties, payables and receipts. Priests administered the state religion as a tool of the Kings policies. Standing armies of professional warriors capable of conquest as well as defense relieved many men of their military responsibility. Navies came into being; horses and chariots were put to military use. Slaves were taken to do all the hard work (Aristotle believed no city could contain more than 100,000 people because, everyone knew, that each citizen required 5 slaves). Astronomers were needed to plan the crops, architects and engineers were needed to glorify the city and capture other cities. Technologies of all kinds became possible and then necessary. Trade and commerce flourished over huge geographic areas driven by the desires of the aristocracies and military protection of the Kings. The first coins (money) appeared in the Kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor about 650 BC.
Human Politics Stage 5 – Thus far, each polis had its own language. Militarily powerful kings conquered other kingdoms and the first EMPIRES appeared made up of subject peoples and slaves who spoke many languages. Control of the empires subjects through the enthusiastic application of religious, military and police powers had become absolute. THE STORY OF HUMAN PROGRESS TO THIS POINT REQUIRED A STEADY AND DRAMATIC REDUCTION IN INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM.