A New World Imagined Order ▲

Harari claims that the cognitive and agricultural revolutions pushed Homo Sapiens to the highest echelons of life. 70,000 to 30,000 years ago the cognitive revolution birthed a new human way of thinking and communicating (Harari, 21). These mental enhancements gave Sapiens a “dual reality” where both objective nature and myth connected thereby laying the framework for cooperation through imagined orders (Harari, 32). Likewise crucial to human development was the agricultural revolution. 10,000 years ago, humans systematically domesticated plant and animal species to provide for their basic needs (Harari, 77). Agricultural and pastoral communities created early settlements. Unprecedented concentrations of humans arose because giving up a nomadic lifestyle meant less risk in having frequent offspring (Harari, 86). This rapid shift in lifestyle and populace brought forth violence, disease, long term future considerations, and a means of keeping records through the first partial written scripts (Harari, 122).

Harari explains Sapiens domination through their ability to cooperate in massive groups greater than seen in previous humans. However, to successfully coexist in large populations, Harari proposes that imagined orders must be necessary. These “imagined orders” are a compelling argument. Their inter-subjective storytelling has immense uniting power. In the modern and historical world, we can directly observe how imagined realities and hierarchies tie together millions and remain immune to the opposition of individuals (Harari, 112). I appreciate Harari’s more cerebral approach to human society and wonder how it fits among the likes of Darwin’s “struggle for existence” and Kropotkin’s “mutual aid”. If Harari is correct, then human society has been constructed on lies. Perhaps we need to emphasize that even though orders may be false, belief in something greater and unifying may be necessary for progress. Harari was right when he said, “cynics don’t build empires” (Harari 112). Were everyone a cynic, there’d be no innovation.

26 thoughts on “A New World Imagined Order ▲”

  1. Your analysis of the power of the “imagined order” is quite interesting, as well as your comment about human society being “built on lies.” I agree that the imagined order seems to be one of the most powerful uniting bonds for humans. Some of the biggest foundations of modern societies, such as government and religion, are nothing more than imagined orders. Yet these orders bring together millions or even billions of people. I also agree that, while these orders are not “real”, they are necessary for progress. We would not be here writing blog posts about imagined orders if our ancestors had not believed in imagined orders and come together to form the first Sapiens societies. It’s quite fascinating to think about how these orders are essential to our progress, yet none of them actually “exist”. Overall a very thought-provoking piece Ben, I enjoyed reading it.

  2. I think your sentiment is summed up nicely in the last line you wrote. Cynics certainly don’t build empires, even though they are quite capable of fear mongering their way to leadership within en empire. It’s a powerful conclusion that you and Harari agree upon, and it has wider reaching implications, which are that the seemingly counter intuitive things people do, like sacrifice their own life in battle, because of our malleable brains. Into the valley of death rode the 600, because they believed their sacrifice would save lives. they will never be able to prove the idea true or false but they believe non the less. Even out neurological need to conform to group pressure as well as to conform to authority. No cynic indeed.

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