The Parable of the Tribes

The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, Second Edition

By Andrew Bard Schmookler

Subjects: History
Paperback : 9780791424209, 426 pages, December 1994
Hardcover : 9780791424193, 426 pages, December 1994

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Table of contents

Book I. The Parable of the Tribes

The Parable of the Tribes

1. Introduction

2. Understanding Change

3. The Common Sense: Selection by Human Choice

4. The Rube Goldberg Problem: A Critique of the Commonsense Theory

5. Toward A Bigger Vision

6. The Way of Life

7. The Emergence of Culture

8. The Breakthrough to Civilization

9. The Struggle for Power

10. The Selection for Power: The Parable of the Tribes

11. The Reign of Power

12. Power versus Choice in Social Evolution

13. A Tragic View of Human Destiny

14. Hope

The Theft of Human Choice

1. Unfree Choices

2. Two Great Waves of Change

A. The Spread of Civilization

B. The Modernization of Archaic Civilization

3. Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The Non-Alternatives of the Parable of the Tribes

A. Withdrawal

B. Destruction

C. Transformation

D. Imitation

4. Qualifications: Limits on the Transformative Effects of Conquest

5. Choosing the Choosers: The Historymakers

6. The Mother of Invention

A. Introduction: Beyond Selection

B. Leaving the Primitive State

C. The Escalator of Civilization

D. Conclusion: Innovation as Directed by Human Purpose

Shaped by Power


1. Red Sky at Morning: The Dawn of Civilization and the Rise of Warfare

2. The Evolution Toward Larger Societies

3. The Evolution Toward More Complex Societies

4. The Evolution Toward More Effective Central Control

A. Unity of Purpose

B. Coordination

C. Sacrifice

5. Reflections on the Disadvantages of Centralization

A. Ignorance

B. Lack of Motivation

C. Stagnation

6. The Adrenalin Society

7. The Common Denominator

Epilogue to Book I. Power and Choice in Our Times

Book II. The Natural and the Unnatural

Introduction: The Natural and the Unnatural

PART I. A House Divided: The Human Condition in Civilization

Prologue. A Zoo Story

Human Nature and the Evaluation of Civilization

1. Out of the Cold: Beyond Value Neutrality

2. A Theory of Natural Values

3. The Question of Human Nature

4. Eden: The Natural Environment

5. The Fatal Mismatch

6. The Original Sinner: Evaluating Human Nature

Power and the Psychological Evolution of Civilized Man

1. The Re-creation of Man

2. Fighting Mad

The Seeds of Rage

Channeling Destructive Energies

The Faces of Human Aggression in the Evolving Reign of Power

3. Hierarchy and the Lust for Power

4. Under the York: Harnessing Human Energies

The Displacement of Pleasure by Work

The Displacement of the Present by the Future

The Human Costs of Production

Afterword: The Fighting Machine

5. The War Within: Moral Internalization and the Social Order

6. Unreasonable Reason

The Powers of Reason

Is It Progress?

The Loss of Meaning and Value


7. Conclusion: Possibilities

PART II. Power and the Loss of Wholeness

Systems of Nature and of Civilization

1. Synergy and Viability: Dimensions of Wholeness

2. Nature and Civilization Contrasted

A. Natural Systems

(1) The Body

(2) The Species, Especially Natural Societies

(3) The Ecological System

B. The Systems of Civilization

(1) Overarching Systems: Ecological and Intersocietal

(2) Social Systems: Governmental and Market

(3) The Civilized Human Being

3. The Turning Point: Biological Evolution versus Social Evolution

Introduction: The Problem of Discontinuity

Different Mechanisms of Change

Evolving Different Kinds of Structure

The Agony of the Torn

4. Artificial Wholeness: Justice as the Antidote for Power

The Restraint of Power

Justice as Synergy

Limits to the Scope of Justice

Justice and the Future

The Parable of the Tribes and the Loss of Wholeness

1. Man's Dominion: Power and the Degradation of the Ecosystem

A. Paradise Lost

A New and Dangerous Regime

The Unbound One

Corruption as Suicide

Sinning Freely

The Justification of Injustice

B. The Evolution of Technology and the Parable of the Tribes

Technology and the Growth of Civilization

The Selection for Power and the Evolution of Technology

The Serpent's Tooth (The Selection for Attitudes Toward Nature)

Beyond the Question of Master and Servant

Beyond Hubris

2. The State of Unnature: The Problems of the Intersocietal System

Horseman of the Apocalypse

Everybody Loses

Evil and Beyond

3. Men Are Not Ants: The Problem of Power in the Body Politic

A. Intrasocietal Analogue of the Parable of the Tribes

B. The Roots of Injustice: A Critique of the Marxist View

C. Modern Reversal of Trends?

D. Wheels within Wheels: The Class Struggle and the Evolution of Civilization

4. The Market as a Power System: A Critique of the Capitalist Economy

A. Introduction

B. Market Justice: Questions of Class Exploitation

The Market's Case Presented

Critique of the Marxist Critique

The Market Power of the Rich

The Problem of Economic Inequalities and Political Equality

C. Market Atomism and the Loss of Social Synergy


Other Dimensions of Market Inattention

D. Moral Confusion and Choice in the Market Economy

E. Conclusion

5. A House Divided Revisited

6. The Death of the Unnatural

The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

Apocalpse Now?

Conclusion: Therefore Choose Life

Afterword to the Second Edition. The Challenge of World Order

1. Unstuck

2. The Crisis in the Gulf

3. The Stakes in Yugoslavia

4. Reasons and Excuses

5. Enlightened Cost/Benefit Analysis




This is a new view of the role of power in social evolution. It shows how, as human societies evolved, intersocietal conflicts necessarily developed, and how humanity can choose peace over war.


"Imagine a group of tribes living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace, then all may live in peace. But what if all but one choose peace?" From this basic premise, Andrew Bard Schmookler has built a towering work of intellectual and spiritual insight, a book that will shatter many preconceived notions about how civilization has developed and why human history has been so filled with torment. In this new edition, Schmookler shows how, with the end of the Cold War, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to solve the problem of power that has plagued civilization.

The Parable of the Tribes is a new vision of the story of humankind. It presents a radiant new synthesis of history, evolutionary biology, political theory, and psychology.

Andrew Bard Schmookler is the author of a number of books, including Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds That Drive Us to War; Sowings and Reapings: The Cycling of Good and Evil in the Human System; Fool's Gold: The Fate of Values in a World of Goods; and The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny. His cultural and political commentaries appear frequently in newspapers, magazines, and journals and on the radio. The original edition of The Parable of the Tribes was winner of the 1984 Erik Erikson Prize.


"Goes far beyond our common folk knowledge about power. " -- New York Times Book Review

The Parable of the Tribes provides a new way of analyzing the human condition. This panoramic work, which incorporates history, philosophy, anthropology, and psychoanalytic theory within its sweep, is troubling and difficult; nevertheless, it is surprisingly readable and, in the end, hopeful. " -- Esquire

"In an age of intellectual timidity, Andrew Bard Schmookler's Parable of the Tribes is a work of immense scope and boldness. It makes a serious contribution to our understanding of war, peace, and civilization in a world spinning out of control. " -- Daniel Yankelovitch