In the Introduction, "Foragers and Others," by Lee and Daly, it's acknowledged that "Hunter- gatherers are a diverse group of peoples living in a wide range of conditions." Nevertheless,
within the range of variation, certain common motifs can be identified. Hunter- gatherers are generally peoples who have lived until recently without the overarching discipline imposed by the state. They have lived in relatively small groups, without centralized authority, standing armies, or bureaucratic systems. Yet the evidence indicates that they have lived together surprisingly well, solving their problems among themselves largely without recourse to authority figures and without a particular propensity for violence (p. 1 -- my emphasis).
With reference to hunter-gatherer social life, they write as follows:
The basic unit of social organization of most (but not all) hunting and gathering peoples is the band, a small- scale nomadic group of fifteen to fifty people related by kinship. Band societies are found throughout the Old and New Worlds and share a number of features in common. Most observers would agree that the social and economic life of small-scale hunter gatherers shares the following features.
First they are relatively egalitarian. Leadership is less formal and more subject to constraints of popular opinion than in village societies governed by headmen and chiefs. Leadership in band societies tends to be by example, not by fiat. The leader can persuade but not command. . .
Mobility is another characteristic of band societies. People tend to move their settlements frequently, several times a year or more, in search of food, and this mobility is an important element of their politics. People in band societies tend to "vote with their feet;' moving away rather than submitting to the will of an unpopular leader. Mobility is also a means of resolving conflicts that would be more difficult for settled peoples.
A third characteristic is the remarkable fact that all band-organized peoples exhibit a pattern of concentration and dispersion. Rather than living in uniformly sized groupings throughout the year, band societies tend to spend part of the year dispersed into small foraging units and another part of the year aggregated into much larger units. . .
A fourth characteristic common to almost all band societies (and hundreds of village based societies as well) is a land tenure system based on a common property regime (CPR). . . In traditional CPRs, while movable property is held by individuals, land is held by a kinship- based collective. . . [my emphasis]
Under "Ethos and Word View," Lee and Daly give special importance to sharing, as
the central rule of social interaction among hunters and gatherers. There are strong injunctions on the importance of reciprocity. Generalized reciprocity, the giving of something without an immediate expectation of return, is the dominant form within face-to-face groups. Its presence in hunting and gathering societies is almost universal. [My emphasis.]
Another important element shared by almost all hunter-gatherer groups is Shamanism:
Shamanism is another major practice common to the great majority of hunting and gathering peoples. The word originates in eastern Siberia, from the Evenki/Tungus word saman meaning "one who is excited or raised.” Throughout the hunter-gatherer world community-based ritual specialists (usually part-time) heal the sick and provide spiritual protection. They mediate between the social/human world and the dangerous and unpredictable world of the supernatural. Shamanism is performative, mixing theatre and instrumental acts in order to approach the plane of the sacred (pp. 3-5).
In sum, what just about all hunter-gatherer populations would appear to have in common (with certain important exceptions) are: small bands; lack of central authority; tendency toward non-violence; relatively egalitarian ethic; mobility; flexible patterns of concentration and dispersion; communal ownership of property; "generalized reciprocity" (i.e., sharing of most resources with no expectation of return); shamanism.
I've quoted at length from Lee and Daly, highly respected authorities on hunter-gatherer societies, because just about everything they find that all or almost all such peoples have in common are features already identified here as characteristic of HBC. So we must ask the following question: is this commonality due simply to the fact that the three groups we've been using to construct our HBC model, EP, WP and Bu, are themselves hunter-gatherers? In other words, are all hunter-gatherers to be explained by "hunter-gatherer-ivity"? Or, to put it in functionalist terms, is hunter-gatherer culture in general a function of hunting and gathering in particular? I wonder how many functionalists have realized how circular this "explanation" is. Hunters and gatherers apparently live the way they do because they hunt and gather. And they hunt and gather because that's the way they live.
Is there an alternative explanation? Yes, of course, and I've thoughtfully provided it. Hunters and gatherers live the way they do not because they hunt and gather (duh!), but because they are highly conservative peoples who have gone to a tremendous amount of trouble over many thousands of years to preserve their traditional way of life, based on traditions that could only have been established tens of thousands of years ago by their common ancestors, a very particular group who actually existed at a very particular time and place, whom I've been referring to as HBP. This would explain not only why they all seem to share so many core values, but also why they continue to live by hunting and gathering, wherever possible, in the face of so many forces at work in the world of today trying to "modernize" them.
(to be continued . . . )