PNAS May 28, 2013 vol. 110 no. 22
Coevolution of farming and private property during the early Holocene
Samuel Bowles, and Jung-Kyoo Choi
The advent of farming around 12 millennia ago was a cultural as well as technological revolution, requiring a new system of property rights. Among mobile hunter–gatherers during the late Pleistocene, food was almost certainly widely shared as it was acquired. If a harvested crop or the meat of a domesticated animal were to have been distributed to other group members, a late Pleistocene would-be farmer would have had little incentive to engage in the required investments in clearing, cultivation, animal tending, and storage. However, the new property rights that farming required—secure individual claims to the products of one’s labor—were infeasible because most of the mobile and dispersed resources of a forager economy could not cost-effectively be delimited and defended. The resulting chicken-and-egg puzzle might be resolved if farming had been much more productive than foraging, but initially it was not. Our model and simulations explain how, despite being an unlikely event, farming and a new system of farming-friendly property rights nonetheless jointly emerged when they did. This Holocene revolution was not sparked by a superior technology. It occurred because possession of the wealth of farmers—crops, dwellings, and animals—could be unambiguously demarcated and defended. This facilitated the spread of new property rights that were advantageous to the groups adopting them.
Klevius comment: I'm surprised not to find myself in their citation list although I did this work deeper and more carefully already back in 1992 (available on line since 2004) with some assistance by George Henrik von Wright (Wittgenstein's successor at Cambridge).
I quote from my 1992 summary: Sedentism is a consequence of expanded demands for resources (EDFR) but not a necessary outcome. What was needed was a suitable climate with domesticable plants/animals (i.e. what was missing in other places during late Pleistocene/early Holocene, which produced high quality artefacts and sofisticated cultural traits without evolving into what we use to name civilizations). Why have humans been both progressive and static in their cultural development over time, and how is this connected to evolution? You want/demand what you need but you do not necessarily need what you want/demand. The latter is here described as Expanded Demand For Resources (EDFR). By using this as a basis a new way of characterizing human societies/cultures becomes possible. Departing from C. Levi-Strauss idea on "warm" and "cold" societies, civilized societies are here described as representing dynamics, hence contrasting against the more static appearance of the economic setting (lack of investment) of e.g. hunter-gatherers.
As a result the following categories emerge: A. Uncivilized without EDFR B Affected by EDFR but still retaining a simplistic, "primitive" way of life. C. Civilized with EDFR These categories are, of course, only conceptual. Applied to a conventional classification the following pattern appears: 1 The "primitive" stage when all were hunter/gatherers (A, according to EDFR classification). 2 Nomads (A, B, C). 3 Agrarians (B, C). 4 Civilized (C).