Saturday, November 28, 2009

Primitive Communism Or Anarchism In Tanzania?

The December 2009 issue of National Geographic has an article about a tribe I had never heard of before, one of the last hunter-gatherer groups in the world, the Hadza of northern Tanzania, now under pressure from outsiders to end their way of life. They are apparently very selfish, grabbing food without any sharing or order, and not particularly caring about each other too obviously, with someone just being thrown into a hole in the ground when they die without any ceremony. However, they do represent that vision of that primitive communisim/anarchism and all its idealized purity, although the author, Michael Finkel, may be romanticizing. Anyway, here is a quote from near the end of the article (p. 118)

There are things I envy about the Hadza -- mostly, how free they appear to be. Free from possessions. Free of most social duties. Free from religious strictures. Free from family responsibilities. Free from schedules, jobs, bosses, bills, taxes, laws, and money. Free from worry. Free to burp and fart without apology, to grab food and smoke and run shirtless through the thorns.


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Myrtle Blackwood said...

'Free' markets. Fighting for 'liberty'. Neoliberals.

Sounds familiar.

'Freedom' TO act.
'Freedom' FROM acts of oppression.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Freedom is a qualitative thing.

Simon Halliday said...

Have a look at the Small Scale Societies papers by Henrich et al (includes a massive list Bowles, Gintis, Fehr, Barr as co-authors) - they used the Hadza as one of their sample groups for experiments. They did indeed behave quite self-interestedly.

Barkley Rosser said...


That also shows up in the Amazonian rain forest tribes.

To Brenda, I would note that the Hazda leave about as little a footprint on the ecology as any group around. However, for better or worse, their way of life is as doomed as was that of the Australian aborigines, and the early evidence is that they will not assimilate well to the outside world and will suffer many adverse social consequences when they are finally forced to give it all up.

Shag from Brookline said...

Hadza = Libertarianism? What would Ayn Rand say if she were thrown into a hole in the ground?

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Some history of Tanzania:

Late 1960s and early 1970s. McNamara began boosting lending of the World Bank and simultaneously lowered the standards for its loans. With the World Bank’s aid and advice the dictatorial regime under Julius Nyerere implemented his ujamaa, or villagization program. The Tanzanian army was used to drive the peasants off their land, burn their huts, load them onto trucks and take them to where the government thought they should live.

The World Bank Vs. the World Poor
by James Bovard. September 28, 1987

Myrtle Blackwood said...

However, there's another picture of Julius Nyerere here:

"....It has been my privilege to be associated with Mwalimu Nyerere for the past 25 years. During a visit to Harlem, New York, in the late 1960s Mwalimu extended an invitation to Africans in the Diaspora to come to Tanzania and participate in building a socialist African state. I came over through a new organization called the Pan-African Skills project and have lived in Tanzania ever since, for a quarter of the century.

Nyerere's Tanzania was a magnet then for anti-colonial activists and thinkers from all over the world. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, for instance, was deeply influenced by his time as a student at the University of Dar-es-Salaam. Museveni belonged to a study group led by the Guyanan Walter Rodney, who wrote his seminal book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa while he was a professor there.

The University of Dar-es-Salaam became the centre for the guerrilla-intellectuals and activists of African liberation movements. FRELIMO of Mozambique, the ANC and PAC of South Africa, ZANU and ZAPU of Zimbabwe, the MPLA of Angola and SWAPO of Namibia all had offices and training camps in Tanzania. The country also gave safe haven to US civil-rights activists, Black Panther party-members and Vietnam War resisters. It was an exciting place to be. Under a head of state who valued equal rights, justice and development more than the pomp and power of office, Tanzania was at the heart of the anti-colonial struggle....

Barkley Rosser said...

The land the Hadza hold is very harsh and long not desired by others, which is why they have managed to hold onto it, quite beyond all the programs of Nyerere and others. But, their time is coming to an end. Of course, this has been the pattern of most holdout aboriginal hunter-gatherers.

kevin quinn said...

This is a wonderful reductio ad absurdam of the reigning view of what freedom amounts to, what Isaiah Berlin called "negative" freedom. "running shirtless through the thorns", indeed! An alternative view, Hegel's, was that freedom is what we have when we recognize each other as acoountable for our actions, that it is a fragile and precious social accomplishment.