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Technology vs. Institutions in Prehistory


  • Joseph Pluta


A comprehensive survey of the professional literature in the fields of archaeology and anthropology documents the usefulness of the Veblen-Ayres dichotomy in analyzing early human progress and forces that opposed it. Specifically, technological advance during prehistory was slow because of institutional resistance to change rooted in custom, tradition, myth, superstition, ritual, and belief in the power of dubious deities. Cases examined include early use of fire, flood control, pottery, diet, birthing, and others. In addition, the institution of organized belligerence has been shown by archaeologists to have severely restrained betterment of the human condition. Recent archaeological digs provide indisputable proof that a propensity toward violence has been present among the earliest members of the human species and throughout much of prehistory. Therefore, it is highly likely that Veblen's era of peaceable savagery was itself merely a myth.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Pluta, 2012. "Technology vs. Institutions in Prehistory," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(1), pages 209-226.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:46:y:2012:i:1:p:209-226 DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624460109

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