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Are Weird Politics Normal?: Cheap, Easy-to-Use, Accurate Projectile Weapons, and the Emergence of Egalitarian Cooperative Grammars

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Document pages: 23 pages

Abstract: Syntagmatic functionalism provides theory and methods for the study of cooperative grammatical games, in which participants take turns making contributions to an unfolding inter-subjective behavioral chain or syntagm that, when well formed, outputs a normatively valued meaning (Gil-White 2020). Such games often contribute important system-supporting (structure-maintaining) functions. Political grammars are an important case in point. In extant NORMAL (Not Overly Ranked or Mechanized, Autochthonous Local) societies, political grammar is egalitarian. If such societies, and especially extant foragers, are useful models for the social organization of ancestral foragers, then human political grammar was long profoundly egalitarian. But in the last 10,000 years or so, in agricultural communities, hierarchy displaced egalitarianism — until modern times, when the political grammar in what are now called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies (after Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan 2010) once again became egalitarian. This paper employs syntagmatic functionalism to isolate the one-sentence goal of egalitarian grammar in both WEIRD and NORMAL societies and identifies a material causal antecedent that is common to both. It argues, amending Woodburn (1982), Isaac (1987), and Gintis, van Shaik, & Boehm (2015), that ancestral NORMAL egalitarianism first emerged in a counter-dominant social ecology brought about by the first projectile weapon, likely employed first against con-specifics rather than prey: stones. Modern WEIRD egalitarianism was established in the People’s Spring uprisings of 1848, thanks — crucially — to the development and widespread availability of modern, cheap, and accurate small firearms.

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