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Typescriptofpaperpublishedin:InS.Bergerbrant&S.Sabatini(eds.

)Counterpoint:Essaysin
ArchaeologyandheritageStudiesinHonourofProfessorKristianKristiansen.Oxford:Archaeopress,
575582.

GENESANDAGENTS:CLOSINGTHETHEORETICALGAP

JohnC.Barrett
DepartmentofArchaeology,UniversityofSheffield,UK

Abstract
Thesearchforageneraltheoryofevolutionthatisapplicabletobothbiologicalandhumansocio
culturalhistoriescurrentlystandsorfallsupontheacceptancethatevolutionarytheoryis,
necessarily,Darwinianinform.ThischapterquestionstheadherencetoDarwinianmechanismsof
evolutionwhilstacceptingthattheevolutionofallformsoflife,atitsvariouslevelsof
organization,operatesuponthebasisofacommonprinciple.Thatprincipleisthatlifeissustained
byitsabilitytoreadtheconditionsnecessaryforitsownexistence.Formsoflifearedifferently
structuredcatalyticsystemsthatidentifythenecessaryinformation,andimporttherequired
energy,toundertaketheworkofselfcreation.Differentformsoflifecannotbereducedtoa
singledeterminatesuchasgenetics.Theroleofarchaeologyistoestablishtheevolutionary
historiesofthoselivingsystemswithinwhichhumanityhasvariouslydefineditself.

Keywords
Autopoiesis,Darwin,Evolution,Genes,Neolithic,BronzeAge

Wordcountofmaintext:6559


Introduction
Mypurposeinthiscontributionistodemonstratethatbothbiologicalevolutionandsociocultural
evolutionoperateuponthesamefundamentalprinciples.Thisdoesnotimplythatthereproduction
ofsocioculturalconditionsisreducibletothelevelofabiologicaldeterminate(contra.Wilson
1998).Myargumentwillmoveawayfromtheprinciplesthatgovernthemodernsynthesisof
Darwinianevolution(Huxley1974)andIofferthiscontributiontoKristianfortworeasons.First,it
questionstheoperationofcurrenttheoriesofculturalevolutionandtheoriesofhumanagencythat
Kristianhascorrectlyidentifiedasfollowingdivergentpathsinthedevelopmentofarchaeological
theory(Kristiansen2004).Second,itoffersaperspectiveuponthechangingscalesatwhichthe
forcesofhistoryhaveoperatedintheprocessesofsocialevolution(Kristiansen2011).
Employingthetermevolutionasadescriptorforvarioushistoricalprocesseshasprovenproblematic
(Trigger1998).Ononereadingthetermmerelydescribestheemergenceofoneformalarrangement
outofitspredecessor,althoughthisbeliesthechallengeofidentifyingthemechanismsthatmight
drivesuchatrajectory,andofassessingthecontroversythatariseswhenthesemechanismsgive
risetohistoricaltrajectoriesthatappeartobeprogressiveanddirected.Carneiroprovidesan
excellentreviewoftheapplicationofevolutionisminculturalanthropologyandYoffeehascritically
reviewedearliermodelsofsocialevolutionwithparticularreferencetogeneralizedtypologiesof
socialdevelopmentastheyhavebeenappliedtotheriseofearlystates(Carneiro2003;Yoffee
2005).MyconcernistoquestiontheuseoftheDarwiniantheoryofevolutionanditsrelianceupon
naturalselectiontoexplaintheevolutionofnetworksofhumanbehaviour.Bysodoing(andperhaps
somewhatcounterintuitively),Ihopetoestablishthatacommonstructureexistsbetweenbiological
reproductionandtheevolutionaryforcesofhumanagency.

TheDarwinianmodel
Theconceptofevolutionisinexorablylinkedtoitsapplicationinbiology,andbecausetheadoption
ofDarwinianprinciplestotheanalysisofsocialdevelopmenthaslongbeenanissueofcontention
(cf.Barlow&Silverberg1980)wemustbeginwithsomecommentontheDarwiniantheoryof
evolution.Itisimportanttodistinguishbetweenthefactualobservationthatalllifeisrelated
throughahistoryofevolutionarydevelopment,andtheproblemsthatcomewithattemptsto
explainhowsuchanevolutionaryprocessmightoperate.TheDarwiniantheoryofevolutiondeals
withthelatterbyproposingthattwo,relativelyautonomousforcesexplaintheevolutionoflife:the
reproductionofinheritedvariabilityandnaturalselection(GodfreySmith2009).Theformer
supposedlygeneratesaspectrumofvariabletraits(phenotypicalcharacteristics)thataredistributed
acrossthemembersofareproducingpopulation,whilstthelattersupposedlyactstosecurethe
reproductivesuccessofsomeofthosevariablesoverothers.Populationthinking,whichMayr
(1976:2629)attributedtoDarwin,thereforetreatspopulationsascomprisingcompetingand
variableindividualcarriersofinheritedtraitsuponwhichnaturalselectionoperates.Whilst
populationsaremadeupoforganismsoflimitedlifeexpectancytheirhistorieshavebeen
characterizedaslonglivedlineagesofphenotypicalvariation.Instressingthecentralityofgenetic

inheritanceDawkinsdrewthedistinctionbetweenthetransienceoftheindividuallifespan
comparedtotheenormouslongevityofsuccessfulgeneticlineages(Dawkins1976).
Thereishoweverasignificantambiguityinthewaytheconceptofnaturalselectionisemployedin
theliterature(Brunnander2007).Inoneusage,naturalselectionwinnowsthevariableproductsof
reproductiontosecurethesuccessofsome(thebetteradapted).Thisusageimpliesthatthe
reproductiveprocessthatisacteduponbynaturalselectionisinitselfblind,havingnoinherent
directionotherthantodrawupontheavailablereproductiveresources.Itisthereforenatural
selectionthat,overtime,isgiventhetaskofguidingtheevolvingtrajectoryofthepopulationasa
whole.Inthesecondusage,theconsequenceofreproductionappearstobethattheorganism
adaptstoitsenvironment,asifthemechanismsofreproductionhadsomeinherent(i.e.directional)
propensitytoselectfortheadaptiveoptimum.Theroutinefailuretodistinguishbetweenthesetwo
uses,andindeedtousethetwointerchangeably,isonetargetinFodorandPiattelliPalmarinis
recentcritiqueoftheDarwiniantheoryofevolution(Fodor&PiatelliPalmarini2010).
IntheDarwiniantheoryofevolutionthephenotypethereforedescribestheformandbehavioural
characteristicsoftheorganismuponwhichnaturalselectionsupposedlyoperates.Thelivesof
individualorganismscontributetoanevolvingpopulationwhosehistorytrackstowardsanadaptive
optimum.Ithasbecomecommonplacetodescribetheinheritedresourceuponwhichan
organismsdevelopmentdepends(andwhichuntilrelativelyrecentlywastreatedasfully
determiningthatdevelopment)asasourceofinformation(MaynardSmith2000),withtheinherited
geneticmaterial(thegenome)beingascribedtheroleofencodingthatinformation(GodfreySmith
2000a,cf.Kay1998).IndevelopingthisanalogyMaynardSmith(2000:179)proposedthatthe
informationbeingencodedbythegenomewastheconsequenceofnaturalselection.Ifwewereto
assumethatthegenomedeterminedthedesignoftheorganismthenwewouldhavetoassumethat
naturalselectionwasissuingthecommandmaketheorganisminthiswaybecausethisdesignhas
workedwellinthepast.Ifwenowconsiderthetwousesoftheconceptofnaturalselectionwe
havealreadyidentifiedweareconfrontedbytwooptionsconcerningthewayapopulationoftraits,
bundledtogetherasphenotypes,mighttracktowardsanoptimumlevelofadaptationoverthe
courseofareproductivecycle.Inthefirst,naturalselectionistreatedasanexternallyderivedinput
intotheprocessofreproductionwhich,bysuppressingthereproductivepotentialoftheleast
adaptivetraits,achievestheoptimumoutput.Thus,asMaynardSmithproposed,naturalselectionis
thecommandencodedbyDNA.Inthesecond,theinheritedinformationistreatedasaninternally
generatedmechanismthatmanages,inwaysthatareundefined,toselfselectforanoutputthatis
theoptimumcombinationoftraitsforadaptation.
Ifnaturalselectionweretoactasaninputselectingforthemostadaptivephenotypicoutputsofa
reproducingsystem,thennaturalselectionwouldseemtoexplaintheevolutionofthephenotype
withinthelimitsofitsinheritedresources.Selectionisthereforetakentoactholisticallyonthe
phenotypesuchthat[A]llthatisbeingevaluatedbyevolutionistheselectivevalue,thefitness,of
individuals(Mayr1976:45).Howeverthetraitsthatcontributetotheindividualsphenotypeare
oftenexplainedashavingafunctionalroleinsolvinganadaptiveproblem,asinananimals
camouflagesolvingtheproblemofprotectionagainstpredators.Thisresultsinanatomisticviewof
thephenotypeascomprisinganassemblageoftraitsthatareexpressionsofparticularcombinations
ofthegeneticcodewhichhasbeenselectedfor.Althoughthisconformstopopularassumptions
thattherearegenesfor...thisorthatcharacteristic,thepositionisnotsustainable.Therearetwo

problems.First,manytraitsareneutraltoselectionandmaybecarriedforwardonthebackofquite
differenttraitsthatareselectedfor(Gould&Lewontin1979).Second,andmoreimportantly,genes
donotfunctioninthiswayandthereforeneithercannaturalselection:Toconsidergenesas
independentunitsismeaninglessfromthephysiologicalaswellastheevolutionaryviewpoint(Mayr
1963:263&1976:45).Onereasonwhythehumangenomeprojecthasbeensuchasurprise(or
failure,dependinguponyourpointofview)hasbeenthattheassumeduniquenessofhumanityis
notrepresentedbyasimilarlevelofuniquenessgenetically(cf.Strohman1997;Lewontin2001:133
195).Itseemsincreasinglydifficulttoseehownaturalselectioncanoperatewiththenecessary
targetedprecisiononthegenomeifitistofulfiltheverydemandingrolerequiredofitbythe
Darwiniantheoryofevolution(HoandSaunders1979;Fodor&PiatelliPalmarini2010).
Thesecondformofadaptationistexplanationwehaveidentifiedimpliesthatthemechanismof
reproductionisabletodirecttheorganismtowardsanoptimaladaptivedesign.Theprocessby
whichsuchdirectedtransmissionofvariabilitycouldoccurappearsunspecifiedbutmight
presumablyinvolveaninternalmeansofgeneratingphenotypicaldesignsasaresponsetoexternal
stimuli.Inotherwords,thiswouldinvolveaformoflearningthatappearstoveerawayfrom
DarwinianandtowardsaLamarckiantheoryofevolution(Gould2002:145).Asunlikelyasthis
seems,directionaltransmissionhasbeenincorporatedintoexplanationsofculturalevolutionasif
suchamovewereunproblematicfromaDarwinianperspective(BoydandRicherson1985:81ff.
Shennan2002:56ff.).Theproblemposedbythisformofexplanationforthedirectiontravelledby
anevolutionarylineageexposestheconflictthatcurrentlyarisesbetweennarrativesofbiological
andsocioculturalevolution.Giventhatsocioculturalbehaviouralpatternsarepartofthehuman
phenotype,andgiventhatthehumanphenotypeissupposedlyaproductofnaturalevolution,itis
difficulttoseehowwearriveatdirectedevolutionfromwhatareassumedtobeDarwinian
mechanismsofnaturalselection.

PostDarwinianevolution
Darwinopenedhiscasefortheevolutionoflifesdiversitywiththeobservationthatbreedersof
racingpigeonsanddogscouldselectbreedingpairstoensurethepreservationanddevelopmentof
desiredtraitsacrossthegenerations(Darwin1899[1859]).Heconcludedthatinheritedvariability
wasageneralfeatureinthereproductionofalllivingthingsandthatnaturalselectioncouldfulfila
roleanalogoustothatofthebreeder.Naturalselectionwasgiventheroleoffixingthe
characteristicsofapopulationoverseveralreproductivecyclesandofgivingrisetospeciationby
diversifyingtheconditionsofselectiononasinglepopulation,splitperhapsbetweenenvironments
bymigration.Thehistoryoflifewasthuspresentedasgraduallybranchingphylogenies(Darwin
1899[1859]:diagram).BeingunawareofMendelsevidenceforparticulateinheritance,Darwin
assumedthatinheritancethroughsexualreproductioninvolvedtheblendingofparental
characteristics.
Withthesynthesisthatwasestablishedbythe1930sbetweenDarwinianevolutionandMendelian
genetics,andfollowingthediscoveryofthedoublehelixstructureofDNAintheearly1950s,the
basisfortreatinggeneticsasacodefortheexpressionofdifferentformsoflifeappearedtobe
confirmed.Theevolutionoflifecouldnowberegardedastheproductofthechancegenerationof

geneticmutationsandgeneticmigration,coupledwiththenecessityforsurvivalthroughnatural
selection.
Thegenecentricmodelofevolutionreacheditsclearestexpressioninthedogmaofmolecular
biology,whichdefinedlifeintermsofgeneticlineages(replicators)thataretransferredbetweenthe
shortlivedvehiclesrepresentedbytheorganism(interactors).Indeedonemightbeforgivenfor
thinkingthatthisdogmapromulgatedthepopularbeliefthatDNAistheonlymaterialtopass
betweenparentandoffspringandthiscanresultintheconfusion,alreadynoted,astowhetheror
notnaturalselectioncanberegardedasultimatelyactinguponthegenome.Wearelefttowonder
astowhathashappenedtothedevelopingorganismthroughwhichgenesfindanexpressionof
theirfunctionanduponwhichnaturalselectionissupposedtowork?Isitnotoddthat[T]he
organismasarealentity,existinginitsownright,hasvirtuallynoplaceincontemporarybiological
theory(Webster&Goodwin1982:16)?
IfaKuhnianrevolutioniscurrentlytakingplaceinbiology(Strohman1997)thenitisdoingso
courtesyoftheorganismsrenewedclaimtobetheobjectofstudy.Giventhatevolutionis
essentiallyaboutthewaysthereproductionoforganismseithermaintainortransformtheirform
andbehaviouracrossthegenerations,thenthesymmetrybetweenbiologicalandsocialnotionsof
evolutionwillturnuponthemechanismormechanismsthatenableeitherthemaintenanceor
transformationofdifferentlevelsofbiologicalorder,fromtheleveloftheorganismthroughtothat
ofthesocialgroup.GiventhecomplexityoftheissuesIaimsimplytoindicatesomeofthecommon
principlesbywhichsystemsoforganicorderareconstructed,whetherthatbeatthelevelofthe
organismorthecommunity,andinwhichculturalproductionfindscommongroundwithbiological
production(cf.Griffiths&Gray1994:2789&301).
Themostbasicformtakenbyanorganismisthecell.Thiscontainsthechemicalmechanismwhich,
bymeansofthemanufactureofdifferentproteins,generatescellsthathavequitedifferent
functionsintheconstructionofthemulticellularorganism.Insexualreproductionthefertilizedcell
(thegamete),whichisitselfthesymbioticcombinationoftwocells,thespermandtheegg,divides
toproducetheparticularcellsthatbuildthevariousorgansinthedevelopingfoetus.Whatis
remarkableinthisprocess,apartfromitsveryexistence,isthateachcell,whatevertheirfunctional
differences(cellsforheart,liver,lungsandsoon),containsthesamegeneticmaterial.The
implicationisthatthedevelopmentalprocessdirectsproteindevelopmentduringcelldivision.
Theimportantpointtotakefromthisisthatanagencyimmanenttotheorganismitselfisdoingthe
workthatgeneratesthegrowthandsustainsthefunctioningofthemulticellularstructure.The
minimaldefinitionofagencyisthatitdoesworkandthishasthreeimplications:1)agencyrequires
anintakeofenergy,2)itisdirectedbyreferencingitselftowardssomecondition(ithas
intentionality),3)ithasamaterialconsequence.Thegeneticmaterialitselfcannotdothework
involvedindevelopinganorganism,foritisbutaninertchemicalstructurecomprising
complementarypairsoffourchemicalbasesthatarebondedoppositeoneanotheralongthedouble
strandsofnucleicacidthatformtheDNAhelix.Thischemicalresourceisjustonecomponentofthe
portfolioofconditionsthatthegameteinheritsfromtheparentsandtheenvironment,andwithin
whichthefoetuswilldevelop.Theseconditionsincludethechemical,nutrientandtemperature
gradientsthatexistwithinandaroundthefertilizedegg,thebehaviouralpatternsoftheparents,
andthewidernicheenvironmentthatwillhavebeenmodifiedbythebehaviourofprevious

generations.Notonlydoesthisentireenvironmentconstitutethewidercontextwithinwhichthe
workofdevelopmentisundertakenbut,asOyamahasargued,itquestionsthestatusofthe
dichotomyoftentakentoexistbetweeninheritedbiologicalresourcesthatfocusinparticularupon
genetics,andtheresourcesofnurture:inotherwordsitquestionstheviabilityofmaintainingthe
nature/nurturedichotomy(Oyama2000a).
Theproblemwiththebiologicalliteratureatthispointisitsfailuretoacceptthenecessaryexistence
ofanagencytoundertaketheworkofbuildingtheorganismandtoevaluatethemechanismsthat
directthatagency.Itistheemergenceofsuchanagencythatcharacterizesthebiologicallevelof
organizationandthusliftstheprocessesoforganicdevelopmentabovebeingconsideredsimplythe
productof,andthereforereducibleto,achemicalreaction.Thefailuretorecognizetheemergent
roleofagencyasthecharacteristicofbiologicaldevelopmentalsystemshasresultedintheconfused
claimsthatseektoidentifythecausativemechanismsresponsibleforproteinsynthesiswitha
mixtureofgeneticandwiderenvironmentalfactors(cf.GodfreySmith2000b).Suchclaimsare
thereforerestrictedtoevaluatingtheextenttowhicheithergeneticorenvironmentalfactorscode
for,ordetermine,thedevelopmentofthephenotype.Theonlycourseofactiontoovercome
choosingbetweenthestrictlydeterministoptionspresentedbythenature/nurturedichotomyisto
favourabroadassemblageofdeterminateconditionsprovidingforacausaldemocracy(Sterelny,
Smith&Dickison1996;Oyama2000b).
Theforceofthecodingforanalogymightimplythatgeneticmaterial,eitheraloneorintandem
withotherconditions,encodesandtransmitsinformationnecessarytosynthesizetheaminoacid
sequencesofproteinmoleculeswhere,aswehavealreadyseen,thatinformationissuggestedas
derivingfrom,andthusdeterminedby,naturalselection.Howevertheanalogywithinformation
cannotbetakentoindicatethatgeneticmaterialcarriesmeaningforithasnosemanticcontent.
Rather,iftheanalogyistohaveanyforcethenitmustbethatthismaterialreduceserrorby
constrainingtherangeoffuturetranscriptions(Kay1998).Meaningisonlygeneratedwhenan
agencyrespondsbysynthesizingaminoacidsequencesinthereproductionoftheproteinmolecules
ofcells.ThatagencyismanifestintheworkachievedbythestructurallycomplexproceduresofRNA
transcription.RNAaresinglechainsofnucleotidesthatcontaintheenergy(sugar)andthepotential
tocatalysethroughtheproductionofenzymes,theprocessesthatarenecessarytosynthesizeand
foldaminoacidsintoproteins.Thisworkisdonebyrespondingsequentiallytocertainsectionsof
theDNAstructureand,tocontinuetheanalogy,itistheRNAproceduresthatexpressareadingof
theDNAintheirconstructionofproteins.Meaning,inotherwords,isnotencodedinDNA,butis
broughtintobeingthroughthereadingthatisundertakenbytheagencyofRNAofcertainbase
sequencescarriedontheDNA.ThisundoubtedlycomplexprocessmeansthatsectionsofDNAare
selectedfortheconstructionofparticularproteins,althoughthisprocessisstillatsomeremove
fromtheconstructionoftheparticularcharacteristicsofthematuringphenotype.Aconsiderable
andcomplexlevelofinteractionbetweenproteinsistheninvolvedinthefurtherdevelopmentof
theorganism(Dupr2005:199).Theclassicalconceptofthegeneasthedeterminateforaphysical
characteristicisnowopentosignificantrevision(Portin2002).Indeed,ifgenesexisttheydosoin
virtueofbeingrecognizedasunitsofsignificancebyRNA:theyexistonlyintheexpressionofbeing
read.Thisprocessofreadingrequiresacertainorientationorintentionalitytowardsthegenetictext
andthismightbepartlyinformedbytheavailableenergysources,environmentalcontextandstage
inthedevelopmentalsequenceatwhichthisprocessoccurs.Thisopensthepossibilitythatthe
developmentoftheorganismisdirectedtowardstheenvironmentalcontextinwhichitwillgrow.

Fromhereitispossibletosketchamodelofdevelopmentalandevolutionaryprocessesthatforms
anaxisofsymmetrybetweensocialandbiologicalevolution.Thismodelmustallowbothforthe
reproductionofsystemicorderovertimeandthegenerationoftransformationsinthatorder.The
stabilityofthesystemmaybeforthelongtermwhilsttransformationsmayberelativelyrapid
describingahistoryofpunctuatedequilibriaratherthanthegradualismthatDarwinascribedto
phylogeny.Thisshapeisfamiliartothehistoriestracedbythesocialsciencesanditalsoseemslikely,
althoughthisiscontested,todescribetheshapeofthepaleontologicalrecord(Eldredge&Gould
1972;cf.Dennett1996:282ff.).
KauffmanandClayton(2006)proposethatbiologicalagencyemergesataparticularlevelof
organizationalcomplexitywhenaminimalsetofphysicalconditionsareinexistence.Thecasebeing
madehereisthatbiologicalagencyemergesatthelowestleveloforganizationthatisnecessaryfor
thereproductionoforganismsandthatitistheemergentconditionthatdistinguishesthe
reproductionoflifefromtheprocessesassociatedwithchemicalreactionsandtowhichitcannotbe
reduced.Biologicalagencythereforeconstructsformsoflifeandthis,byextension,takesplaceat
variouslevelsoforganizationalcomplexity,fromcellsthroughtopopulations.Eachlevelmaybe
characterizedbyemergentformsofagencythatoperateaccordingtocertaincommonprinciples.
Twooftheseprinciplesarekeytoourminimaldefinitionofagency.Agencyworksbyintentionality
whichmeansthatagencyhastobeorientatedtowardssomeobject,suchasthedispositiontoread
sectionsofthegeneticsequenceinacertainway.Todoworkandthustoconstructorderrequires
thetransferenceofenergy,whichmeansthatthedevelopmentalsystem,suchasthecellorthe
population,canonlysustainanagencybymeansofapermeableboundaryacrosswhichenergymay
beimported.Ofcoursethisdescribestheprocessofmetabolism,whichisadefiningcharacteristicof
life,butitalsoallowsforenergytobedifferentiallyappropriated,stored,anddistributedina
complexstructure.Consequentlywenowreplacegeneticcausationwiththecontingenciesof
construction,wherelife,ifonemightputitthisway,istheconstructionofmeaning,theoperation
(andthereforetheoutcome)ofwhichispartlycontingentuponthematerialtobereadandthe
sourcesofenergythatareavailabletobeutilised.Indeedwemightreiteratethepointthat
significantchangesinenergysourcesderivedfromthewiderenvironmentmighteitherdisruptor
redirectthewayinheritedresourcesarereadandthereforeshifttheoutcomeofthedevelopmental
process.
Thecharacteristicoftheagencythatdefinesthecommonaxisbetweenbiologicalandsocial
reproductionisthereforethatitmetabolizestheenergynecessaryfortheworkofmakingcomplex
organismswithinternalflowsofenergyandmatterandwhichrangefrombiologicalindividualsto
populations.Itundertakesthisworkbyorientatingitselftowards,andextractingmeaningfrom,the
orderitfindsembeddedwithincertainresources.Thisaccommodatestheevolutionaryprocesses
discussedbyHodderelsewhereinthisvolume.Suchsystemscanthereforeberegardedasself
organizing.Itfollowsthatcomplexselforganizingsystemsmaintainthemselvesinstatesthatarefar
fromthermodynamicequilibrium(Kauffman1995:910).Asanoutcome,populationsdevelopin
waysthatdirectthemselvestowardstheconditionsoftheircontinuingexistence,whichmeansliving
towards,andcopingwith,theexternalconditionsthattheyinhabit.Life,inotherwords,hasa
directioninitsclaimtofutureexistence.Vareladescribedthisasbeingthemeansbywhichthe
organismexperiencestheenvironmentashavingsignificanceandvalueforitself(Varela1996).

Thequestionofsocialevolution
Humansocietiesareparticularkindsofpopulationcomprisingparticularkindsoforganisms.
MaturanaandVarela(1998)developedageneralmodelforalivingorganismbasedoncellularlife
andwhichdescribedtheorganismasanetworkofprocessesoperatingwithinasemipermeable
boundary.Theorganismgrowsbytheselfgenerationofthatsamenetworkandofitsboundary
conditions.Describedasautopoiesis,theworkofgrowthdemands,aswehaveseen,theoperation
ofanagencyorientatedtowardsaninformationsourceandsustainedbyasystemofmetabolism.In
thetermsofthisgeneralmodelaquestionarises:shouldtheselfgenerationofselforganizing
populationsthatincludehumansocieties,beconsideredasaformoflife?Thesepopulations
obviouslyrepresentaleveloforganizationatsomeconsiderableremovefromthatdiscussedby
MaturanaandVarela,andthesuggestionthattheybetreatedinthiswayiscertainlycontentious
(Luisi2003:57).Oneimportantdistinctionisthatautopoiesislaysemphasisuponthedevelopment
oftheorganismratherthanupontheprocessesofreproduction.Ontheotherhandreproductionis
obviouslythefocusofbothneoDarwinianandMarxisttheory:Friedman,forexample,hasargued
cogentlythattheunitofanalysisinthecaseofhumansocialevolutionisneithersocietynora
particularinstitution,butthetotalprocessofreproduction(Friedman1982:179).Howmightwe
resolvetherelationshipbetweenthegrowthoftheorganismandthereproductionofapopulation?
TheDarwinianclaimthatthefitnessofthephenotypeisestablishedbynaturalselectionthat
determinestherelativereproductivesuccessofinheritedvariabilitywithinapopulation,would
requireustomaintaintheanalyticaldistinctionbetweentheorganismsbehaviour(whichispartof
itsphenotype)anditsenvironmentwhichselectsforit.Howevertheselectivereproductionof
behavioursfromonegenerationtothenextmustalsohavematerialconsequencesforthe
organismsenvironment.Dawkinsreferstotheseconsequencesastheorganismsextended
phenotype(Dawkins1999)andthisintroducesaproblem,forhowarewetoviewmaterialculture?
DarwinianarchaeologistsechoDawkinsbytreatingmaterialcultureasanextensionofthehuman
phenotype,andthustreatthefunctionalityofmaterialcultureasdeterminedbyitsadequacyfor
environmentaladaptation(Mesoudiet.al.2004).Butmaterialcultureisalsoadominantcomponent
ofthehumanenvironment.Whenhumansdothingstheydosowithreferenceto,andasthe
expressionof,theirpracticalcompetenceinexploitingthematerialculturalenvironmentinwhich
theyfindthemselves.Theanalyticalframeworkthatsetsthefitnessofbehaviouragainsttheforces
ofenvironmentalselectionisthereforecompromisedgiventhatmaterialcultureisbothbehavioural
outputandenvironmentalinput.
Thetreatmentofmaterialcultureasamanifestationofhumanbehaviour(andthusasanadaptation
totheenvironment),ratherthanbeingtheenvironmentwithinwhichhumanbeingslive,ispartof
thefoundationuponwhichthesupposeddistinctivenessofhumanityfromtherestoftheanimal
kingdomrests.Thathumansmakeartefactsiswidelyregardedasindicativeoftheirpossessingthe
uniquecognitivepropensitytodesignthingsandtorepresentideas.Humanevolutionoutofnature
isthuswrittenasifitweretheemergenceofahominidcapableofdesignandofsymbolic
representation.AsIngoldnotesinacriticalreviewofsomeofhisearlierwork,thequestionofthe
designofenvironmentalmodificationsasappliedtoanimalandhumanbehaviour(comparing,for
example,thebeaverslodgewiththehumanshouse)hascometorestupontheassumptionthat
thebeaverslodgeisdesignedbywhateverinnatemechanismsalsodesignthebeaversbody,
whereashumansareendowedwithmindscapableofdesigningtheirhousespriortotheprocesses

ofconstruction(Ingold2000:175).Humans,itwouldseem,actontheirenvironmentwhilstanimals
liveinecologies.Buthumanbehaviourexpressestheabilitytolayclaimtooccupysomepartofthe
worldeffectively,apracticalabilitytocopeinthelivingworldofthings.Certainlyhumansdo,under
variouscircumstances,objectifytheconditionstheyconfrontbutiftheywerenotpartoftheworld
ofexperienceinthefirstplacetherewouldbenothingtoobjectify.Itisthereforethehumanability
toinhabitecologiesthatenablesthemtoobjectifyanenvironmentalpolicy.
Totreattheenvironmentasselectingforthereproductionofcertainbehaviours,andthereforefor
thereproductionofmaterialculturaltraditionsastheconsequenceofthosebehaviours,isclearly
problematic(Ingold1992&2000:172ff.).So,indeed,isthedistinctionbetweenthenaturaland
culturalenvironment.Anadequateecologicalanthropology,writesIngold,mustbecentrally
concernedwiththemutualconstitutionofpersonsandenvironmentandavoidthenotionthat
environmentiseitheranaccommodationtotheimperativesofnature,or...anappropriationof
naturewithinthecategoriesofculture(Ingold1992:40).IndrawinguponGibsonsconceptof
affordanceasbeingthatqualitywhichanenvironmentcanfurnishforananimalorhuman(Gibson
1979:36ff.),Ingoldmakestheimportantpointthattheaffordancesofobjectsaretheirinherent
potentialswheredifferentanimalscanliveinasharedenvironment,andmoreovercansharetheir
perceptionsofwhatitaffords(Ingold1992:423originalemphasis).Theculture/naturedichotomy
isthusdissolvedbytherecognitionthattheselforganizationofbiologicalpopulationsexpressesthe
individualorganismsabilitytoactonareadingoftheirenvironmentthatincludesthebehavioursof
nearneighbours.Selforganizationisthetransmissionacrossapopulationofacommonbehavioural
responsetothereadingofanenvironment(Camazineet.al.2003).
Thedevelopmentofhumanagencyisaparticularformofsensemakingwhichrecognizescertain
affordancesasofferedbytheenvironmentfordevelopingitsownplaceintheworld(Thompson
2007)andwhichIngold,borrowingfromHeidegger,referstoasthedwellingperspective(Ingold
2000:185).Theautonomyoftheagentdoesnotmeanthattheagentisisolatedbutonlythatitcan
actonitsownbehalf(Kauffman&Clayton2006:505).Inthiswaytheculturalorderoftheworldis
constantlybroughtintobeingbytheworkofhumanlearninganddevelopmentwhichmaintains,
elaborates,andattimestransforms,therelationshipsbetweenpeople,plants,animalsandthings
(Latour2005).Itisbymeansofthesenetworksthattheperformancesofothersbecome
recognizablythemanifestationsofparticularqualitiesofhumanity(Barrettforthcoming),andby
beingintheworldinthiswaythedistinctivelyhumanpropensityemergestotreattheorderof
thingsasiftheyrevealedsomeunderlyingorgoverninglogic:arevelationthatisoftenenhancedby
ritualizedpracticesandculturalrepresentations.Humansocietiesnomoreexisttoreproduce
lineagesofculturalresource(selfishmemes)thandoorganismsexisttoreproducegeneticlineages.
Thereproductionofculturalresources,asthereadingofenvironmentalconditionsovertime,occurs
withinthecontextofhumansocialreproductionbecausethoseresourcesarethenecessary,but
contingent,sourceofinterpretableinformationfacilitatingthehumanagentsdevelopment(Ingold
2000:172188).
Theanalyticaldistinctionthatautopoiesisintroducesbetweenthedevelopmentofindividual
organismsandthereproductionofabiologicalpopulationcannowbeseentoconfirmtheviewthat
evolutionarychangearisesfromthewaysorganismsareabletogrowthemselvesandthatthe
evolutionarytrajectoryemergesovertimebythereproductionofthepopulation.Socialevolutionis
thusanemergentproperty(Kauffman&Clayton2006)resultingfromthechangesinthewaysthe

individualmembersofthatpopulationwereabletodevelopbypracticalreferencetothebehaviours
ofconspecificsandthesemioticvaluesofferedbytheenvironment(Hornborg1996).Fromthe
perspectiveofhumansocieties,thisgivessubstancetoGiddenssTheoryofStructurationwhich
concernstherelationshipbetweenshorttermagencyandthelongtermtrajectoriesofsocial
structuraldevelopment.WhilstGiddensacceptsthepossibilityofsomeconnectionwiththe
conceptualvocabularyofbiology(Giddens1984:231),theTheoryofStructurationhasremained
concernedwiththerelationshipbetweenabstractconceptsofagencyandrulesandresources,
ratherthanacceptingthatthedevelopmentofhumanagencyisfundamentallylivedasaquestionof
biologicalgrowth.

SocialevolutionfromtheStoneAgetotheBronzeAge
SocialevolutionpresentsachallengetoaneoDarwinianreadingofhistory.Ifthebehaviourofa
populationsmembersdidindeedtracktowardsanadaptiveoptimumundertheauspicesofnatural
selectionthenitbecomesdifficulttounderstandwhychangeshouldaccrueonceastateof
homeostasishasbeenreachedbetweenapopulationanditsenvironment.Thewidespread
assumptionthatagriculturerepresentedaninherent,andthereforeunderstandable,economic
advanceonhuntergatherereconomieswaschallengedwiththepublicationoftheMantheHunter
symposium(Lee&deVore1968)andSahlinssassessmentofhuntergatherersasrepresentativesof
theoriginalaffluentsociety(Sahlins1974[1968]:139).HoweveritiswiththeriseofBronzeAge
systemsthatthechallengetoaccountforsocialevolutionarychangeappearsparticularlyacute.On
mostaccountstheEuropeanBronzeAgewitnessedincreasedsettlementdensities,increasedsocial
ranking,increasedlevelsofcraftspecialization,andincreaseddependencyonlongdistance
exchange.Allthesefactorsthereforearemanifestationsofincreasedstructuralcomplexity,andwith
itaquantitativelyincreasedlevelofthermodynamicdisequilibriumwhichwouldhaveincreasedthe
riskofsystemicfailure.Whymightsocialevolutionresultinthisincreasedriskratherthanstabilize
atanadaptiveoptimum?Onecoherentattempttoanswerthisquestionhasproposedthatthe
socialevolutionarytrajectorywasdeterminedbyaninternalstructurallogicoperatingwithin,but
notdeterminedby,certainenvironmentalandtechnologicalconstraints(Friedman&Rowlands
1977:203).Thatstructurallogicdescribesthereproductionoftheentiresysteminwhichproduction
islinkedtoconsumptionthroughexchange,andwherethebiologicalreproductionofthesocialunit
playsacentralroleinstructuringdebtobligationsandalliancesthatareultimatelylinkedtothe
supernaturaldomainofancestorsandgods(cf.Friedman1982;Kristiansen&Rowlands1998).The
presumptionis,therefore,thatthereproductionofahumanpopulationisstructuredbyexchange
relationswhich,inturn,structureasymmetricalrelationsbetweenparticipants,householdsand
supernaturalbeings.Suchexchangerelationsappeartobeinherentlycompetitiveandthusdrive
evolutionarygrowthtolevelsofconsumptionthatmightexceedlocalecologicalconstraints.
Twolinkedproblemsattendallstructuralistmodels:theirinherentabstraction,andtheresulting
treatmentofhumanagencyasifitweredeterminedbythelogicofthoseabstractlydefined
structures(Thompson1978).Ifpeoplemakehistorybutnotunderconditionsoftheirown
choosing,thensocialevolutionmightbebetterconceived,asIhavealreadyargued,asthe
emergentpropertyofpopulationsresultingfromthepracticesbywhichtheirmembersgenerated
theirowndevelopment(butnotundertheirchosenconditions).Thisisfundamentallyanecological

10

issue.Allhumanagentsrequiretheintakeofenergy(food,sunlight,warmth)fortheirown
developmentandthepracticesthathavestructuredtheorganizationofhumanpopulationsarealso
thepracticesbywhichparticularenvironmentshavebeenbroughtintoview.Theboundary
conditionforapopulationssystemismappedbytheapplicationofthetechnicalandlabour
processesofenergyextraction.Theseboundaryconditionsmight,undercertainhistorical
conditions,beobjectifiedaspoliticalboundarieswhentheresourcesofnatureareclaimedas
property,orwhendominantpolitiesareabletoextractenergyreservesfromtheproductof
subservientsystems.Theinternalorderofanyevolvingsocialsystemwillalsobestructuredby
boundarieswhosemaintenanceinvolvestheprocessing,flowandtheasymmetricalappropriationof
energyandmaterialsthatsustainthelifechancesofsomeportionsofthepopulationaboveothers
(asiswitnessed,forexample,inthecaseoftheocraciesorclassdividedsocieties,orindeedas
constitutedinrelationsofageandgender).
WhatSahlinsdefinedastheDomesticModeofProduction(1974:41ff.)hasneverbeen
underproductivebyreferencetoanythingotherthananabstractpotential,whilstitwasanecology
thatinrealitydefinedamodeoflifedevelopedbythosewholaidclaimtoanenvironmentinwhich
meanings...participateinitsconstruction(RappaportquotedinHornborg1996:52).This
perspectiveallowsfortheevolutionfromStoneAgetoBronzeAgepoliticaleconomiestohave
emergedinvirtueofthewayshumanagenciesdevelopedthemselvesbyrevealingthemeanings
theyfoundtobepresentinecologies.
Thetransitionfromhuntergatherertoearlyagriculturalsystemsarosefromtheredesignofthe
boundaryconditionsacrosswhichenergywasimportedtosustainasystemofhuman,plantand
animalmetabolism.TheNeolithicrevolutionoccurredwhentheforagersprocurementofenergy
directlyfromtheplantsthatweregatheredandanimalsthatwerekilledwasbothtemporallyand
spatiallydisplacedbythepropensitytostoretheenergyprovidedbythefertilityofthelandinthe
growthandreproductionofdomesticatedplantsandanimals(Barrett2011:76).Themanagement
ofland,andthebiologicallyisolatedbreedingofdomesticates,resultedinthecreationofnew
symbioticcommunitiesofhumans,plantsandanimals(cf.Rindos1984).Thelabourofhuman
agencybroughtintoviewalandscapeinwaysthatsecuredthemaintenanceofdelineatedareasof
fertility.ThesewereworkedasgardenplotsadjacenttosettlementareasincentralEurope(Bogaard
2004),butmayhavebeenworkedacrossmoredispersedareasintheconditionsaffordedby
differentecologieselsewhere.Eitherway,theperceptionoflandscapemustnecessarilyhave
developedoverthisperiodasmanifestinglongtermtenurialbondsbetweenhumansandplaces,
partlyastheresultofthevegetationalchangesthatarosefromthelongtermandseasonally
structuredbehaviouralpatternsofhuntergatherersandanimals.Indeed,wemightgosofarasto
suggestthatatransformationindiscursivepracticeswillhavecontributedtothewaytheworldwas
seenafresh,withverydifferentlinguisticcategoriesoflandscape,tasksandtemporality
accompanyingthedevelopmentofagriculture(cf.Renfrew1989).Allthesechangeswillhave
facilitatedtheinheritedrightsandobligationsofworkingadefinedportionofthelandscapeoverthe
seasons,ratherthannegotiatingaccesstoamoregeneralizedandseasonallydispersedlandscapeof
resources.Thepracticesthatmadethelandintoaresourcetobemanagedalsobroughtintoview
thehumanhistoriesthatsuchlandscapesnowseemedtocontain,andwhichweremademanifestin
thelonglivedsettlementarchitectureandassociatedcemeteriesinsoutheasternandcentral
Europe,andinthedevelopmentofmortuarymonumentsinnorthernandwesternEurope.

11

Theevolutionofapopulationscomplexityarosethroughthedevelopmentofitsmembers
biographiesandtheBronzeAgeevolvedfromtwobroadbiographicalthemes.Onecopedwithan
increaseinfacetofaceencountersandtheabilitytoliveinthemoredenselyclusteredsettlement
sitesthatemergedinmanypartsofEurope(EarleandKristiansen2010:218ff.).Thestabilityofthese
levelsofoccupationaldensitydependeduponthepreservationoflevelsofindividualintegrityand
thesuppressionoflikelyconflict,whichwouldhavebeenpossiblebyadoptingamoreformalized
discoursethatmappedtherelationshipsbetweenincreasinglyclearlydefinedcategoriesofpeople
establishedasvariouscombinationsofage,gender,statusandtask.Inthiswaytheincreasein
populationdensitiesmusthaveharmonisedwithdevelopmentsinagrarianpracticesandcraft
specialization.Thesepractices,whilstcertainlyfacilitatedbytheincreasedreservesoflabour,also
createdamorediverseandseasonallydefinedpalimpsestofenvironmentalresourceswhichgained
theirrealitybythelabourofawelldefinedheterarchyoftasks.Theconstitutionofthese
taskscapeswouldhavebeentakenastheimplicitdemonstrationofcertainkindsofmoralorder.
Butitwouldalsoappearthat,insomepartsofEuropeatleast,theseordersbecameobjectified
throughdevelopingsystemsofrepresentation.Totakeasingleexample:thephallicrepresentation
ofploughmanandaccompanyingploughteamontherockcarvingfromStenbacken,inBohusln,
northernSwedenconflatesmalenesswithfertilityandtheseasonaltaskofploughing(cf.Goody
1976).ThroughthedevelopingimageryontherockcarvingsofnorthernandsouthernEuropethe
qualityofmalenessalsoappearstohaveelidedwiththetakingoflife(warriors)andthe
maintenanceofdistantexchange(ships)(Fig.1).
Thesecondbiographicalthemeoftheperiodwasdefinedbythelivesofsomemembersofthe
populationthatcutacrossthemorelocaldevelopmentoftaskscapestosituatethemeanings
revealedinthosemoreintimateecologieswithinacosmologywhosecentralelementsappearto
havebeensharedfromcentralandnorthernEuropetowesternAsia.TheimportanceofKristiansen
andLarssonsTheRiseofBronzeAgeSociety(2005)isthatitestablishesthecasethatacommon
discourseonthesupernaturalforcesgoverningthecontextoflifeexistedonsuchascale.Thistoo
wasanecologyofmeanings:itenabledtheoccupancyofthatecologybythosewhocouldtravelbut
stillfindtheirplaceinthediscursiveandritualizedpracticesofdistantlands.

Conclusion
BysettingissuesofbiologicalandsocialevolutionalongsideoneanotherIhopetohavemadethe
casethattheseprocessesaresymmetricalaboutthemechanismsthatenableselforganizingorganic
systemstodevelop.ByputtingasidetheDarwinianclaimthatnaturalselectiondirectsthehistorical
process,itbecomespossibletograspthatbiologicalsystems,atvariouslevelsoforganization,
developbytheworkofagenciesthatareorientatedtowardsreadingthemeaningstheyfindina
structuredarrangementof,forexample,geneticmaterialsorenvironmentalresources,andare
sustainedbytheimportationofenergyacrosstheboundaryofthesystem.Thetheoreticalgapthat
KristiansenhasidentifiedbetweenthetraditionsofDarwinianarchaeologyandthearchaeological
developmentofagencytheory(Kristiansen2004)andwhichhasbeenmorefullyexploredinthe
recentlyeditedvolumefromCochraneandGardner(2011)isnotclosedbyreducingonelevelof
complexity(humansociety)toanother(geneticreproduction),butbyrecognizingthatlifeisa
processofdiscoveringthesignificanceoftheconditionsthatitinhabits.

12


Acknowledgements
Iamgratefultotheeditorsfortheirinvitationtocontributetothisvolumeandfortheirguidanceon
thetext.Theerrorsare,asever,myownbutthetexthasbeenmuchimprovedbythecomments
andguidanceofAlissaBalfort,KathrynBarrettandAlexandraIon.

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