Today I came by a few pages in Deleuze & Guattari that talk about a case where a city predated agriculture, with links to other books on the topics in the footnotes. It's interesting.
Submitted by An_Old_Big_Tree in anticiv (edited )
Marx, the historian, and Childe, the archaeologist, are in agreement on the following point: the archaic imperial State, which steps in to overcode agricultural communities, presupposes at least a certain level of development of these communities' productive forces since there must be a potential surplus capable of constituting a State stock, of supporting a specialized handicrafts class (metallurgy), and of progressively giving rise to public functions. That is why Marx links the archaic State to a certain
"mode of production." However, the origin of these Neolithic States is still being pushed back in time. What is at issue when the existence of near-Paleolithic empires is conjectured is not simply the quantity of time; the qualitative problem changes. Catal Hiiyiik, in Anatolia, makes possible a singularly reinforced imperial paradigm: it is a stock of uncultivated seeds and relatively tame animals from different territories that performs, and makes it possible to perform, at first by chance, hybridizations and selections from which agriculture and small-scale animal raising arise. [Footnote 11] It is easy to see the significance of this change in the givens of the problem. It is no longer the stock that presupposes a potential surplus, but the other way around. It is no longer the State that presupposes advanced agricultural communities and developed forces of production. On the contrary, the State is established directly in a milieu of hunter-gatherers having no prior agriculture or metallurgy, and it is the State that creates agriculture, animal raising, and metallurgy; it does so first on its own soil, then imposes them upon the surrounding world. It is not the country that progressively creates the town but the town that creates the country. It is not the State that presupposes a mode of production; quite the opposite, it is the State that makes production a "mode." The last reasons for presuming a progressive development are invalidated. Like seeds in a sack: It all begins with a chance intermixing. The "state and urban revolution" may be Paleolithic, not Neolithic as Childe believed.
Evolutionism has been challenged in many different ways (zigzag movements, stages skipped here or there, irreducible overall breaks). We have seen in particular how [anarchist] Pierre Clastres tried to shatter the evolutionist framework [i.e. the idea that non-state so-called 'primitive' societies necessarily develop into state societies] by means of the following two theses: (1) societies termed primitive are not societies without a State, in the sense that they failed to reach a certain stage, but are counter-State societies organizing mechanisms that ward off the State-form, which make its crystallization impossible; (2) when the State arises, it is in the form of an irreducible break, since it is not the result of a progressive development of the forces of production (even the "Neolithic revolution" cannot be defined in terms of an economic infrastructure). [footnote 12] However, one does not depart from evolutionism by establishing a clean break. In the final state of his work, Clastres maintained the preexistence and autarky of counter-State societies, and attributed their workings to an overmysterious presentiment of what they warded off and did not yet exist. More generally, one marvels at the bizarre indifference that ethnology manifests for archaeology. It seems as though ethnologists, fenced off in their respective territories, are willing to compare their territories in an abstract, or structural, way, if it comes to that, but refuse to set them against archaeological territories that would compromise their autarky. They take snapshots of their primitives but rule out in advance the coexistence and superposition of the two maps, the ethnographical and the archaeological. Catal Hiiyuk, however, would have had a zone of influence extending two thousand miles; how can the ever-recurring problem of the relation of coexistence between primitive societies and empires, even those of Paleolithic times, be left unattended to? As long as archaeology is passed over, the question of the relation between ethnology and history is reduced to an idealist confrontation, and fails to wrest itself from the absurd theme of society without history, or society against history. Everything is not of the State precisely because there have been States always and everywhere. Not only does writing presuppose the State, but so do speech and language. The self-sufficiency, autarky, independence, preexistence of primitive communities, is an ethnological dream: not that these communities necessarily depend on States, but they coexist with them in a complex network. It is plausible that "from the beginning" primitive societies have maintained distant ties to one another, not just short-range ones, and that these ties were channeled through States, even if States effected only a partial and local capture of them. Speech communities and languages, independently of writing, do not define closed groups of people who understand one another but primarily determine relations between groups who do not understand one another: if there is language, it is fundamentally between those who do not speak the same tongue. Language is made for that, for translation, not for communication. And in primitive societies there are as many tendencies that "seek" the State, as many vectors working in the direction of the State, as there are movements within the State or outside it that tend to stray from it or guard themselves against it, or else to stimulate its evolution, or else already to abolish it: everything coexists, in perpetual interaction.
Economic evolutionism is an impossibility; even a ramified evolution, "gatherer—hunters—animal breeders—farmers-industrialists," is hardly believable. An evolutionary ethnology is no better: "nomads—seminomads—sedentaries." Nor an ecological evolutionism: "dispersed autarky of local groups—villages and small towns—cities—States." All we need to do is combine these abstract evolutions to make all of evolutionism crumble; for example, it is the city that creates agriculture, without going through small towns. To take another example, the nomads do not precede the sedentaries; rather, nomadism is a movement, a becoming that affects sedentaries, just as sedentarization is a stoppage that settles the nomads. Griaznov has shown in this connection that the most ancient nomadism can be accurately attributed only to populations that abandoned their semiurban sedentarity, or their primitive itineration, to set off nomadizing. [Footnote 13] It is under these conditions that the nomads invented the war machine, as that which occupies or fills nomad space and opposes towns and States, which its tendency is to abolish. Primitive peoples already had mechanisms of war that converged to prevent the State formation; but these mechanisms change when they gain autonomy in the form of a specific nomadism machine that strikes back against the States. We cannot, however, infer from this even a zigzag evolution that would go from primitive peoples to States, from States to nomad war machines; or at least the zigzagging is not successive but passes through the loci of a topology that defines primitive societies here, States there, and elsewhere war machines. And even when the State appropriates the war machine, once again changing its nature, it is a phenomenon of transport, of transfer, and not one of evolution. The nomad exists only in becoming, and in interaction; the same goes for the primitive. All history does is to translate a coexistence of becomings into a succession. And collectivities can be transhumant, semisedentary, sedentary, or nomadic, without by the same token being preparatory stages for the State, which is already there, elsewhere or beside.
Can it at least be said that the hunter-gatherers are the "true" primitives and remain in spite of it all the basis or minimal presupposition of the State formation, however far back in time we place it? This point of view can be maintained only at the price of a very inadequate conception of causality. And it is true that the human sciences, with their materialist, evolutionary, and even dialectical schemas, lag behind the richness and complexity of causal relations in physics, or even in biology. Physics and biology present us with reverse causalities that are without finality but testify nonetheless to an action of the future on the present, or of the present on the past, for example, the convergent wave and the anticipated potential, which imply an inversion of time. More than breaks or zigzags, it is these reverse causalities that shatter evolution.
Similarly, in the present context, it is not adequate to say that the Neolithic or even Paleolithic State, once it appeared, reacted back on the surrounding world of the hunter-gatherers; it was already acting before it appeared, as the actual limit these primitive societies warded off, or as the point toward which they converged but could not reach without self-destructing. These societies simultaneously have vectors moving in the direction of the State, mechanisms warding it off, and a point of convergence that is repelled, set outside, as fast as it is approached. To ward off is also to anticipate. Of course, it is not at all in the same way that the State appears in existence, and that it preexists in the capacity of a warded-off limit; hence its irreducible contingency. But in order to give a positive meaning to the idea of a "presentiment" of what does not yet exist, it is necessary to demonstrate that what does not yet exist is already in action, in a different form than that of its existence. Once it has appeared, the State reacts back on the hunter-gatherers, imposing upon them agriculture, animal raising, an extensive division of labor, etc.; it acts, therefore, in the form of a centrifugal or divergent wave. But before appearing, the State already acts in the form of the convergent or centripetal wave of the hunter-gatherers, a wave that cancels itself out precisely at the point of convergence marking the inversion of signs or the appearance of the State (hence the functional and intrinsic instability of these primitive societies). [Footnote 14] It is necessary from this standpoint to conceptualize the contemporaneousness or coexistence of the two inverse movements, of the two directions of time—of the primitive peoples "before" the State, and of the State "after" the primitive peoples—as if the two waves that seem to us to exclude or succeed each other unfolded simultaneously in an "archaeological," micropolitical, micrological, molecular field.
There exist collective mechanisms that simultaneously ward off and anticipate the formation of a central power. The appearance of a central power is thus a function of a threshold or degree beyond which what is anticipated takes on consistency or fails to, and what is conjured away ceases to be so and arrives. This threshold of consistency, or of constraint, is not evolutionary but rather coexists with what has yet to cross it.
An_Old_Big_Tree OP wrote
See the excavations and studies of James Mellaart, Earliest Civilizations in the Near East (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965) and Catal HuyukQievj York: McGraw-Hill, 1967). The urbanist Jane Jacobs has drawn on this work in proposing an imperial model she calls "New Obsidian" (after the name of the lava used to make tools), which may go back to the beginning of Neolithic times, or even much further into the past. She stresses the "urban" origin of agriculture and the role of hybridizations occurring in the urban grain stocks: It is agriculture that presupposes the stock, and not the reverse. In an as yet unpublished study, Jean Robert ana- lyzes Mellaart's theses and Jacobs's hypothesis, applying them to new perspectives (D'ecoloniser Vespace).
Clastres, Society against the State, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Urizen, 1977). We have seen that, according to Clastres, primitive war is one of the principal mechanisms warding off the State in that it maintains the opposition and dispersion of small segmentary groups. But also, from this viewpoint, primitive war remains subordinated to these preventive mechanisms and does not become autonomous as a machine, even when it comprises a specialized body.
According to Griaznov, it was the sedentary farmers who went out on the steppe and became nomadic, during the Bronze Age: This is a case of a zigzag movement in evolution. See The Ancient Civilization of Southern Siberia, trans. James Hogarth (New York: Cowles, 1969), pp. 97-98, 131-133.
Jean Robert develops this notion of an "inversion of signs and messages": "In a first phase, information circulates principally from the periphery toward the center, but at a certain critical point, the town begins to emit, in the direction of the rural world, increasingly imperative messages"; the town becomes an exporter (D'ecoloniser I'espace).