The Feasting Model

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.

1 thought on “The Feasting Model

  1. Shelby Huffman

    I was intrigued by your topic and well as the doubt that you put forth when analyzing this theory. I believe that this comment fully illustrated this theory probability for success. ” ” A “feel good”, “smug” self-awareness is not economically sufficient” ”

    I felt that this theory had no platform in which social hierarchy could have been established. Your ideas that there must have been some type of agriculture before this idea of social stratification, i found to be a great point. I think that this theory in a effort to describe the “start” of agriculture i ignored the physical facts of humanity. All societies in order to survive have distinct roles, sometimes these roles were separated by gender, age, etc. yet there were there. In almost any society we can study today, we will see a presence of a leader. Normally in pre-agricultural societies this was the “strongest” or most “cunning” warrior. The stratification of power, can be said to be visible even before the presence of agriculture.

    So its more than likely that these leaders of “power” would show off that they were in power. Let that be the size of his home, clothes he wears, symbols or relics worn, etc. in some way he would be distinguishable from the others. Meaning that there is separation within the society. I think the idea that any time of pomp or show of dominance would only be possible with a pre-existing underlining system.

    The quote in the second to last paragraph i think is a sound idea for your argument “And once kinship ties begin breaking within the community due to hierarchy contestation or scarce resource for an increasing population density, competition arises. ” This idea that this separation of community is what leads to separate groups i find to be key to deconstructing this theory. Excess to resources will lead to those separate groups to either succeed successfully or fail creating a social inequality to the system. Only for the reason of someone having more of something, not because they show they have more.

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