The Play Theory of Hunter-Gatherer Egalitarianism

Play counters the tendency to dominate, in humans and in other mammals.

Most remarkably, unlike any other people that have been studied, hunter-gatherers appear to lack hierarchy in social organization. They have no chief or big man, no leaders or followers. They share everything, so nobody owns more than anybody else. They make all group decisions through discussion until a consensus is reached. In fact, another name that anthropologists regularly use to refer to band hunter-gatherer societies is egalitarian societies. As part of their egalitarianism, they have an extraordinary degree of respect for individual autonomy. They don’t tell one another what to do or offer unsolicited advice. Elsewhere I have described how this egalitarian ethos underlies even their interactions with young children (Gray, 2012 and here).


Read also: Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence

About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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