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In which we see how the development of writing, increased unit size, hierarchy, class and gender differences (including slavery) and war all go together.

After the invention of scarcity but before writing the size the “free rider” problem kept a unit (village, city, group, or tribe) from growing beyond the ability of human memory to keep track – an information limit. Symbol systems and proto-writing extended human memory until it met a new information limit.

Some people (like those of ‘Ain Ghazal) begin to have specialization and class distinctions. Proto-writing aids in the development of hierarchy by re-enforcing the seeming “natural” right of those who can use symbols to power.

As populations expand people begin to practice war as a way to gain new land to support their group’s population. Once war enters the picture other forms of group organization disappear as per Shmookler[i]. The invention of writing made war for both territory and tribute more practical.

Over time, symbol systems or proto-writing becomes writing and is expanded from keeping track to laws, history, poetry, stories, etc. but the ownership of writing remains in the hands of the now entrenched elites who can use it to their own ends.

With the aid of writing and organized force, a tripartite elite develops consisting of the priesthood, the military and the king. This new organizational form – the tripartite elite – let people expand the size of the organizational unit – from village to city from city to state from state to empire.

During this social transition from kin groups in small villages to kingships in city-states women loose power and class hierarchy, and slavery* are established.

The members of the tripartite elite used their ability to keep track and administer to control other members of the society and to wage war. (War amongst the various cultures – immediate and delayed return hunter/gatherers, agriculturalists, city-states – is examined in appendix B)

The tripartite elite form of organization was part of the transition from kinship to kingship it is based on class distinctions. Class distinctions imply:

  • Members of one class to keep information private from members of other classes,
  • Information is used to maintain class, gender, and individual dominance, and
  • Implied or actual use of organized force internally and externally

Sumer and Israel are taken as examples of:

  • The evolution from kinship groups to the tripartite elite
  • Women’s loss of power

With the use of writing and organized war, the universal form of political organization became the tripartite elite.


* This may take the form of serfdom, villienage, and wage or economic slavery


[i] Shmookler, Andrew Bard.
    1995. The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution NY, State University of New York Press.