The Evolution of Value Systems: A Review Essay on Ian Morris's Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels
Journal of Economic Literature
no. 3, September 2017
Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve is a large-scale history of the world through the different modes of production humanity has adopted over time and their implications in terms of moral values. Morris argues that the predominant value systems of human societies are cultural adaptations to the organizational structures of the societies themselves, their institutions, and ultimately to their modes of production. In particular, the book contains a careful analysis of how the hunting-gathering mode of production induces egalitarian values and relatively favorable attitudes toward violent resolution of conflicts, while farming induces hierarchical values and less favorable attitudes toward violence, and in turn the fossil fuel (that is, industrial) mode of production induces egalitarian values and nonviolent attitudes. The narrative in the book is rich, diverse, and ultimately entertaining. Morris's analysis is very knowledgeable and informative: arguments and evidence are rooted in history, anthropology, archeology, and social sciences in general. Nonetheless, the analysis falls short of being convincing about the causal nature of the existing relationship between modes of production and moral value systems.
"The Evolution of Value Systems: A Review Essay on Ian Morris's Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels."
Journal of Economic Literature,
Relation of Economics to Social Values
Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: General, International, or Comparative
Economic History: Manufacturing and Construction: General, International, or Comparative
Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification