Orderly Anarchy

Orderly Anarchy: Sociopolitical Evolution in Aboriginal California

Robert L. Bettinger
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt13x1htp
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  • Book Info
    Orderly Anarchy
    Book Description:

    Orderly Anarchydelivers a provocative and innovative reexamination of sociopolitical evolution among Native American groups in California, a region known for its wealth of prehistoric languages, populations, and cultural adaptations. Scholars have tended to emphasize the development of social complexity and inequality to explain this diversity. Robert L. Bettinger argues instead that "orderly anarchy," the emergence of small, autonomous groups, provided a crucial strategy in social organization. Drawing on ethnographic and archaeological data and evolutionary, economic, and anthropological theory, he shows that these small groups devised diverse solutions to environmental, technological, and social obstacles to the intensified use of resources. This book revises our understanding of how California became the most densely populated landscape in aboriginal North America.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95919-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    On August 29, 1911, a Yahi man who would later be given the name Ishi, turned up at a rural slaughterhouse in the northern Sacramento Valley, California, having lived the last three years entirely alone, the thirty or so years before that in a band of not more than fifteen or twenty individuals, successfully hiding from white civilization in the rugged volcanic mountains rising behind the modern town of Chico. His story, so eloquently documented in Theodora Kroeber’sIshi(1964), testifies to the resilience of the Yahi, their ability to persist, maintaining their culture and technology, despite encroachment by much...

  6. Maps
    (pp. None)
  7. CHAPTER 2 California in Broad Evolutionary Perspective
    (pp. 15-28)

    It is easy to place the peoples of California in broad evolutionary perspective: they are hunter-gatherers. Excepting a few groups along the Colorado River, the peoples of California made their living exclusively by hunting, fishing, and gathering indigenous, nondomesticated plants and animals (Lightfoot and Parrish 2009: 124–125). As it turns out, Native Californians furnish a large portion of what we know about hunting and gathering as a lifeway. They make up 55 (16%) of the 339 groups in Binford’s (2001) exhaustive sample of ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers, for example. Australia contributes almost as many (54 groups), but Australia is almost...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Evolution of Intensive Hunting and Gathering in Eastern California
    (pp. 29-58)

    The contact landscape of aboriginal western North America was mainly shaped by the emergence and spread of intensive hunting and gathering, often at the expense of agriculture. This evolutionary trajectory is undeniable in the Great Basin and Southwest where, having outcompeted, at least outlasted, their agricultural Puebloan predecessors, ethnographic hunter-gatherers were living among their ruins (e.g., Madsen 1994). The ascendance of intensive hunting and gathering is not so plain in California, however, because it developed in situ early enough to prevent agriculture from ever spreading there at all, leaving a California record that is hunter-gatherer from start to finish.

    The...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Privatization of Food
    (pp. 59-94)

    Jorgensen (1980: 224–225) has called attention to the singular lack of social integration and political development that distinguishes much of the ethnographic Great Basin and California (indeed, much of ethnographic western North America). He attributed this to the stubborn independence of the relatively small, economically autonomous groups that dominated that cultural landscape. As we have seen, these family groups likely first became viable with the advent of the bow, whose superiority in subsistence and defense promoted isolation, protecting the kin-limited, small group payoff structure that encouraged the subsistence intensification that had caused population in Owens Valley to triple between...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Plant Intensification West of the Sierra Crest
    (pp. 95-118)

    Events leading to the intensification and storage of plant foods west of the Sierra Nevada paralleled those in Eastern California, developing as a consequence of social fragmentation and shrinking group size triggered upon the arrival of the bow and arrow. I have already presented evidence (Figure 3.1) demonstrating that populations on both sides of the Sierra crest were growing on roughly the same trajectory between A.D. 850 and 1250, the Central Valley lagging slightly behind, and that population growth east of the Sierra Nevada was a consequence of plant intensification that followed the introduction of the bow and arrow (Chapters...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Patrilineal Bands, Sibs, and Tribelets
    (pp. 119-148)

    A key difference between plant intensification east versus west of the Sierra Nevada was that east of the Sierra plant intensification centered on pinyon, the unpredictability of which precluded the holding of territories. Intensification west of the Sierra focused on the much more reliable acorn, which was worth defending (Jorgensen 1980: 136). In good acorn places, with access to groves of multiple species, failure was unlikely, giving reason to hold and defend a more or less permanent home territory centered on acorn groves and other key resources. The bow made territorial defense feasible for small patrilineal groups (bands).

    With population...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Back to the Band: Bilateral Tribelets and Bands
    (pp. 149-178)

    Nearly 70% of California groups (25 of 36) organized as tribelets observed bilateral (nonunilineal) descent. Jorgensen (1980: 136, 181, 194) argued that virtually all of these tribelets had once been patrilineal but later expanded their descent rule to include the mother’s as well as the father’s side, becoming bilateral. The tribelet’s main function was defense and protection of kin group resources, so tribelets were most likely to form where resource protection was a problem, which favored patrilocal postmarital residence and patrilineal descent. It follows that the shift from patrilineal to bilateral descent must reflect a lessening need for this kind...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Money
    (pp. 179-198)

    Intensification in hunter-gatherer California was incentivized by changes in the economy and circulation of resources. Material conditions were important but ultimately not causal, certainly not in any straightforward way, environment being at turns both helpful (plant abundance, e.g., pinyon and acorn) and hurtful (Medieval Climatic Anomaly); technology both liberating (bow and arrow) and limiting (drudgery-intensive plant-processing technology). In any event, the signature development was not in subsistence or subsistence technology but in the economy proper (Burling 1962), specifically in privatization, first of gathered and stored plant resources and then ownership of resource patches (acorn groves, seed patches, fishing places, snaring...

  14. CHAPTER 9 The Evolution of Orderly Anarchy
    (pp. 199-222)

    Throughout this volume I have been pursuing a version of what my colleague Peter Richerson calls theorderly anarchy hypothesis,that productive social interaction and cooperation is possible between individuals, families, and groups who concede no common political bond, binding social responsibility or mutual subservience to higher authority. In my view, late pre-Euro-American contact political organization in much of California was evolving in this direction, certainly from the San Joaquin Valley north, becoming smaller, less structured, less centralized, rejecting the attempts of individuals to impose their will, leaders their authority, converging on essentially the same kind of family-centered system traditionally...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 223-242)

    I started in Chapter 1 with the relatively simple assertion that the ethnography of California contradicts conventional wisdom that the natural course of cultural evolution always leads from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from less to ever more complex and hierarchical systems. In the following chapters I showed that this transition, to agriculture and more hierarchical social organization, assumed in unilineal culture evolutionary schemes did not occur in aboriginal California, and might never have occurred without some cataclysmic change originating outside western North America, as happened with European colonization. I further argued that these patterns were not limited to...

  16. Glossary
    (pp. 243-248)
  17. References
    (pp. 249-280)
  18. Index
    (pp. 281-286)