The Feasting Model set forth by Bryan Hayden was, in my opinion, the most fascinating concept in our reading and lectures thus far. This hypothesis is much different than others present. It confides more on the evolution of behavior than changes in climate, or population density, or technology. The notion that agriculture, domestication, and the sedentary lifestyle were perpetuated by man’s desire to show wealth through extravagant displays of food reveals much about not only human nature, but also society. While competition in social status is known to be a reoccurring theme in history, this theory somehow seems incomplete to me. A “feel good”, “smug” self-awareness is not economically sufficient, in my opinion, after a cost-benefit analysis.
A relationship must have existed for a random group of hunter/gathers to feel any sort of competition with each other. Furthermore, social stratification must have been in place before mass accumulation of crop can happen. Access to the best seeds, land, and water were taken by those in positions of power and/or authority. I cannot believe that the one who toils the land is the same one to ostentatiously displays its bounty. Especially since his fertile land will come under threat of seizure. In conclusion, this theory is not capitalistic enough standing alone.
If the competition began after institutions were set in place (i.e. state, religion, laws), then it would make more sense. It seems only natural to me that elementary fraternal populations had developed certain innate practices even during the hunter/gather to chiefdom era. Here, in these social establishments, lay the basic foundations for pomp and circumstance: communal integration, cultural responsiveness, recognizing natural phenomena through “religious” practices. Small celebrations bring communities together and these frequent interactions lead to social acknowledgment of land ownership, for now collective admissions are basic institutions. And once kinship ties begin breaking within the community due to hierarchy contestation or scarce resource for an increasing population density, competition arises. One community becomes two, and two becomes four, and an “one-upmanship” feasting model is more viable. But the concept of community, hierarchy, and institution must be in place for settlements to practice agriculture.
There is complete validity in saying that for a community and institutions to develop there must have been a stable food supply. Agriculture provides a steady amount of crop previously referenced. And that is where this particular theory, against my personal opinion, leads to a chicken vs. egg situation.