Primal Communitas: A Reassessment

Sunset on Steppe (Belokurikha)


The paramount invention that led to human society was sharing…
(Morton Fried, The Evolution of Political Society, 106)

It is of interest to note that members of primitive societies had neither states nor our idea of pre-eminence.”
(Eli Sagan, At the Dawn of Tyranny, 7)



About kulturcritic

With a doctorate in religious studies from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, Sandy had a ten-year academic career, with appointments at University of Virginia and the Colorado School of Mines. He spent the next twenty years in executive ranks at several of America’s largest international firms, including Computer Sciences Corporation, Ernst & Young, and General Electric. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and North America, as well as parts of Eurasia and Africa. For the past five years Sandy has been living in Western Siberia with his wife and young child, teaching at the Pedagogical University and the Altai Institute for Law and Economics in Barnaul, Russia. Published works include VERONIKA: The Siberian's Tale (a novel), (Islands Press 2011) Apocalypse Of The Barbarians: Inquisitions On Empire (Islands Press, 2010), The Recovery of Ecstasy: Notebooks From Siberia (Booksurge, 2009), Recollective Resolve: A Phenomenological Understanding of Time and Myth (Mercer University Press, 1987), Ethical Decisionmaking Styles (Addison-Wesley Press, 1986), and Gandhi in the Postmodern Age: Issues in War and Peace (CSM Press,1984).
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7 Responses to Primal Communitas: A Reassessment

  1. the Heretick says:

    Very illuminating essay, all true, but no longer operative. We must also remember that these groups most probably had their own taboos and social customs, something which has totally broken down these days as many people no longer feel a part of the group, and rightly so.
    If people do feel part of a group it is not the national group, it’s most likely a gang, or a church, a gated community; and if they do feel part of the national group? it is just to get what they can get.
    It is my personal opinion that, speaking of the US, to be patriotic must be some sort of serious neurosis, especially among the “lower” social orders, because we are getting precious little out of the deal.

    Perhaps I am just overly empathetic, possessing an overactive response mechanism, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out, or feel, the anger in the air. The very best thing would be to get as far away from major population centers as possible, and to learn how to make a living off the land. There are so many skills our great, great grandfathers had conducive to human survival, so much lost knowledge. I don’t know exactly why, but I do hope some remnant makes it thru the cataclysm which is surely on its way.

    • Disaffected says:

      It is my personal opinion that, speaking of the US, to be patriotic must be some sort of serious neurosis, especially among the “lower” social orders, because we are getting precious little out of the deal.

      You said a mouthful there HT! I think our American society is in the midst of a mass collective mental breakdown. But hey, we sowed those seeds all throughout the 20th century – especially the last half – and now we’re reaping the fruits of all our hard work. I’m not sure anything meaningful will or should make it through the coming collapse. A clean break might be just what the species and/or the planet needs about now. Another REALLY good read that I’m plowing through right now:

      Schlosser is a VERY gifted researcher and writer!

  2. Disaffected says:

    Getting tough to find the comments again.

  3. Bolo Johnson says:

    Thanks for another signpost along the road to rediscovery Sandy (specifically Tim Ingold’s work – managed to find a cheap copy of Tim Ingold’s ‘Perception of the Environment’). Much appreciated!

  4. Disaffected says:


    Most recently, and especially in the West, we believe this so strongly that we attempt to overlay our worldview, like a template, on the rest of the human community, and expect everything to work according to our taken-for-granted assumptions, no matter how well or ill they might fit.

    You’re being too kind here Sandy, probably purposely so for the sake of making a separate argument. The western paradigm – the capitalist oligopoly perpetual exponential growth paradigm – must operate this way. The “grow or die” mantra has been inculcated at the B-School undergrad level for at least several decades now, and was always implied before that. Throw in ideas of Christian religious conversion, manifest destiny, and Northern European Caucasian racial, tribal, and cultural superiority, and you’ll see the combustible mix of totally incompatible neuroses on display throughout the western world today for what they truly are.

    We desperately need to rethink the nature of community today, and the meaning of the terms ~ communism, socialism, and tribalism. But, I’m afraid it is far too late for that!

    I agree on both counts, but like you, I wonder if that genie can be put back in the bottle again, especially at this late date. Global capitalism riding on the back of cheap fossil fuel based energy is a self-perpetuating one way trip. I suppose it’s possible that a handful of survivors emerging in a post-apocalyptic world might be able to start over at the sharing community level, but nothing has lead me to believe that it’s possible otherwise. Especially given that the worst effects of AGW are virtually locked in, and with them all the nuclear contamination issues of the nuclear power industry, never mind the likelihood that we’ll have a large scale nuclear missile exchange before the United States finally gives up the ghost. Homo industrialist is standing at the crossroads as we speak, and nothing in his recent experience has prepared him for the universally bad decisions (from an industrialist standpoint, anyway) he has before him now. The early reviews are not promising.

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