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Ideology maintained the system that produced the inequality

Summary:
From John Komlos and RWER issue 104 . . . for the first 97 percent of our species’ history, humans did not compete for status by amassing economic and political power and thus such inequality cannot be viewed as socially necessary. Such competition was proscribed because it would be destructive of these societies’ collective well-being. Instead, their rules of the game compelled them to compete in other manners beneficial to the community, such as by being good warriors, good hunters and gatherers, being generous, kind, smart, and artistic.  That  is, competition was channeled into expressions beneficial to the community. However, with the rise of the state, reproductive success and the aphrodisiac properties of status, wealth, and power through sexual selection came to hold the keys

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from John Komlos and RWER issue 104

. . . for the first 97 percent of our species’ history, humans did not compete for status by amassing economic and political power and thus such inequality cannot be viewed as socially necessary. Such competition was proscribed because it would be destructive of these societies’ collective well-being. Instead, their rules of the game compelled them to compete in other manners beneficial to the community, such as by being good warriors, good hunters and gatherers, being generous, kind, smart, and artistic.  That  is, competition was channeled into expressions beneficial to the community. However, with the rise of the state, reproductive success and the aphrodisiac properties of status, wealth, and power through sexual selection came to hold the keys to the understanding the tendency of societies to become economically and politically unequal. Reproductive success meant that the heritable traits to be competitive were adaptive through natural selection. With the rise of the state,  power and wealth provided high status that enhanced the individual’s chances to survive and pass on their genes. Since these genes were heritable, the genes that governed the acquisitive nature of the human species became dominant in human populations. Status made a person more attractive to potential mates because those with power, status, and wealth were much more likely to withstand the vicissitudes of life and care for their offspring. Evolution selected for greed in human populations.

Obviously, sexual competition would have torn societies asunder if social institutions – the rules of the game – did not constrain competition within manageable limits. That is, stable societies required constraints, i.e., institutional and cultural guardrails. Nevertheless, extreme inequality could exist within these guardrails. And a narrative, an ideology was needed to provide an intangible glue to make the people feel that they belong together and are willing to sacrifice some of their natural freedoms for the advantages afforded by the safety of living peacefully within a community. Ideology played a major role in inculcating the idea that the norms, laws, and expectations in the society were fair and just, because it explained to those at the lower end of the distribution of wealth, income, and privilege why those at the top belong at the top: “Manipulating humans’ innate sense of fairness is the essence of ideology. Ideology hoodwinks the losers into seeing conditions that are contrary to their best interests as fair and just” (p. 450).

Thus, the dominant ideology maintained the system that produced the inequality by affirming a narrative that legitimized the distribution of income, wealth, and privilege by convincing the lower echelons of the society that the system was fair and inculcating them to exercise “deference to the views held by elites” (p. 4). That narrative is currently so powerful that even the 2008 financial crisis, that clearly falsified the contemporary ideology of neoliberalism, compelling even archconservative Alan Greenspan to admit that he had “made a mistake” in believing in it, did not lead to a substantial challenge to this ideology, much less to its universal refutation (Komlos 2023b, p. 1). read more

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