Sleep is a beautiful thing
... it is the place where the blind can see, the lame can walk, and the dead can dance.
The shift into intensive agriculture both for food and secondary products became increasingly important. Men abandoned hunting and were absorbed into the new tasks in agriculture and herding.
This shift was also characterised by social and economic divisions which were much more significant than previously — divisions of wealth and poverty as well as land ownership.
Ehrenberg outlines five significant factors and implications of this shift.7
1. Once large-scale herding was established then cattle-raiding as a variation of hunting developed. This was the origin of warfare. For the first time there existed ownership of a resource which was both worthwhile stealing and easy to steal.
2. Individual plough agriculture heralded the shift in gender control of farming. Men controlled the agriculture and herding and women spent more time in food preparation, making craft products like textiles and child rearing.
3. Although less land was need for the same amount of production than horticulture, plough agriculture is far more labour intensive especially where the land is of poor fertility and the question of population growth pressured the most arable land available. Therefore women need to produce more children for more workers and this would put more emphasis on what was seen as their major role. This would also lead to greater value beginning to be put on male children as women withdrew from farming activities and contributed less to the daily production of food which had been their major role and the basis of their equal social status.
4. This had implications for the social organisation of communities and a shift from matrilinial and matrilocal organisation to patrilineal and patrilocal organisation which laid the basis for the replacement of the clan system by individual and husband-headed family units. Male farmers and herders would teach their sons the necessary skills and techniques in the process of intensive farming. This would pressure the inheritance through sisters’ sons of the matrilineal system. In women-dominated horticulture, women teach their daughters who stay with them so inheritance is not a problem. In horticulture property is communally owned and less tools and equipment is needed therefore there is less at stake in inheritance. The dominance of men in production of food and secondary products becomes a source of contradiction to matrilineal and
matrilocal systems of social organisation. Pressure builds up on communal ownership when communal methods of collective labour are broken down by the more individual labour of men in plough farming and herding.
5. Large increases in related tasks and the growth in the range of material possessions through intensive farming and food preparations over time leads to craft specialisation and exchange. In the first instance these were part of the normal range of settlements but given the time and energy involved and the growth of food surpluses, specialisation and exchange occurred, increasing the division of labour.
Trade and commodity exchange were mainly carried out by men on behalf of the household or clan. Increasingly this would put pressure on them to subsume the products of their own agricultural work with the products of the household and would add to the tendency to shift to individual ownership and control over all products.
Material possessions and inheritance led to accumulation generationally which increased wealth and social hierarchy of class, status and power. The wealthy became powerful by lending to poorer clan families who in return gave services such as labour or combat duties. The divide between wealthy and poor widened with the poor becoming more indebted and having less time to spend in the production of their own subsistence. This context sets the framework where people as well as products, animals, goods and land become objects of value for exchange. In this context children or women could be given for labour or reproduction to pay off obligations incurred by the poor.
So while Engels’ theory has had some of its assumptions shaken by the expansion of evidence available today, the overall thesis of a social explanation of the oppression and exclusion of women stands the test of time and evidence well.
A Marxist explanation of the social development of private property and the oppression of women makes sense of the data. There is no evidence to back up biological determinist theories, nor do they rely on evidence. Such theories are ideological, given credence in order to distort, undermine and discourage attempts to eliminate gender inequalities.
It is extremely useful for anyone who is committed to the elimination of gender and class inequality to understand the social basis for such inequality. Engels’ classic work is essential in developing such an understanding. It helps show us the way to advance today’s struggles and move ahead to the liberation of women and society.
Since the end of the Cold War in the late 20th century, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention was a hallmark of liberal and left opinion on international affairs.Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War
The enemies of human rights were rogue states and left-leaning, democratically elected “autocracies”. In the Balkan war the Kosovo intervention became the model for humanitarian intervention.
Jean Bricmont wrote a powerful polemic against humanitarian intervention, renamed humanitarian imperialism.
Western powers used human rights as a justification for intervention in countries that were vulnerable to their attacks. The criteria for such intervention had become more arbitrary and self-serving,
After the fall of the Soviet Union, human rights, especially the rights associated with liberal democracy, moved into the vacuum left by the absence of a Left alternative.
In the process, the defense of human rights became an occasion for the display of First World arrogance. This defense supplied the rationale for military intervention.
All wars need a legitimating ideology.
Very few on the political left at that time saw the need to be wary of human rights arguments as a defense for humanitarian intervention. They failed to understand that it was doublespeak for western neo-imperialism.
Politicians routinely attached the word “humanitarian” to political or military causes that needed a wider moral justification.
It is a truism today that war propaganda means uses journalists to repeat ‘acceptable’ terminology.
Part of the indoctrination process that primes the population to support a war persuades them of the ‘just cause’.