Definition via Negation


There is a Taoist inflection here somewhere...

Also: via negativa


tl;dr: Negative definition of "equality": that state which exists when the trappings of "civilisation" are taken away.

Puisqu’il n’y a pas de réponse claire et généralement acceptée à aucune de ces questions, l’utilisation du terme ’égalitaire’ a conduit à des arguments sans fin. En fait, on ne sait toujours pas très bien ce que le terme ’égalitaire’ signifie. En fin de compte, le terme n’est pas employé parce qu’il a une substance positive, mais plutôt pour la même raison que les théoriciens de la Loi naturelle du XVIe siècle ont spéculé sur l’égalité dans l’état de la nature : Le terme ’ égalité ’ est un terme par défaut, se référant à ce genre de masse protoplasmique de l’humanité que l’on imagine comme étant un reste lorsque tous les attributs de la civilisation sont dépouillés.

Il s’ensuit que tout travail historique qui prétend porter sur les origines de l’inégalité sociale est en réalité une enquête sur les origines de la civilisation ; un travail qui implique à son tour une vision de l’histoire qui, comme celle de Turgot, conçoit la civilisation comme un système de complexité sociale qui garantit une plus grande prospérité globale, mais en même temps, garantit que certains compromis devront nécessairement être faits dans le domaine des libertés et des droits. Nous essayons de raconter une histoire différente.


Defining "culture"

For if everyone was broadly aware of what surrounding people were up to, and if knowledge of foreign customs, arts and technologies was widespread, or at least easily available, then the question becomes not why certain culture traits spread, but why other culture traits didn’t. The answer, Mauss felt, is that this is precisely how cultures define themselves against their neighbours. Cultures were, effectively, structures of refusal. [...] ‘Societies’, wrote Mauss, ‘live by borrowing from each other, but they define themselves rather by the refusal of borrowing than by its acceptance.

dawn-of-everythingch. 5


Rude names for outsiders that stick - e.g. Eskimo: "those who eat raw fish"

vs people naming themselves - "middle kingdom" 中国, mediterranean, Tolkien's middle earth, Norse Midgard, Maya Middleworld, ???


Divergence from a common ancestor

Brain function

It’s a simplification, but an accurate one, to say that the frontal cortex—and particularly its prefrontal portions—acts as the chief executive officer of the brain. It is here that alternatives are weighed and choices considered. It is also here that emotionally driven impulses to act are evaluated and either given permission to go ahead or—if necessary—inhibited. One of the most important duties of the cortex is “to inhibit inappropriate response rather than to produce the appropriate one,” suggests neuropsychologist Joseph Ledoux. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), writes psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, “plays a central role in the seemingly free selection of behaviours” by inhibiting many of the alternative responses that arise in a situation, allowing only one to proceed. “It makes sense, then, that when this region is damaged patients become unable to stifle inappropriate responses to their environment.”3 In other words, people with impaired PFC function will have poor impulse control and will behave in ways that to others seem uncalled for, childish or bizarre.

hungry-ghostsch. 16

As a prominent researcher expressed it, it’s not a matter of free will but of “free won’t.”*25

hungry-ghostsch. 26

Finding a direction in life

Sometimes, it seems like the only way I find my way in life is by making one mistake, experiencing one disappointment, after yet another. I'd say No to some particular thing I do, branch out into some vaguely hopeful directions, only to have to say No again.

Freedom of (non-)Choice

In order for someone to make a choice, that person must also be free to not choose. In the 1982 film, Sophie’s Choice, for example, on entry to a Nazi death camp the title character is forced to select one child to live, and one to go immediately to the gas chamber. If she fails to select, they will both die. Using this definition, Sophie was not making a choice but selecting among bad alternatives. [...] As I hope was shown in the discussion of DeBeers and apartheid, and throughout this book, a primary function of government within our culture has been to disallow people the choice of remaining free of the “free-market” wage economy.

culture-make-believech. Production


culture-make-believe Jensen, Derrick. The Culture of Make Believe. ↩︎ 1

hungry-ghosts Maté, Gabor. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. ↩︎ 1 2

dawn-of-everything Graeber, David, and David Wengrow. 2021. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. Signal. ↩︎ 1

sagesse-kandiaronk Graeber, David, and David Wengrow. 2019. “La Sagesse De Kandiaronk: La Critique Indigène, Le Mythe Du Progrès Et La Naissance De La Gauche”. Revue Du MAUSS Permanente. [link] ↩︎ 1