Sexual Selection Under Parental Choice in Agropastoral Societies

In the previous chapter, I examined sexual selection under parental choice in pre-industrial societies which base their subsistence on hunting and gathering. In this chapter, I am going to examine sexual selection under parental choice in preindustrial societies which base their subsistence on agriculture and animal husbandry. These societies range from the ones which base their subsistence predominantly on agriculture to those which base their subsistence predominantly on animal husbandry. Despite such variation, for simplicity, these societies will be treated as a single category, but some space will be devoted in discussing the differences between societies which base their subsistence predominantly on agriculture and societies which base their subsistence predominantly on animal husbandry.

A Typical Agropastoral Way of Life

Despite their considerable differences, agropastoral societies have several patterns in common. To begin with, they have sophisticated technology for producing food, for instance, to plow the land, plant grain, process grain into flour, and use flour to make bread. Complex technology requires specialization, for example, people who specialize in plowing the land, people who specialize in manufacturing the machinery required for doing so, people who specialize in processing grain into flour, and people who specialize in processing flour into bread. Such specialization means that individuals cannot themselves produce what they need for their subsistence, and they have to rely on other people’s output. For instance, the farmer supplies grain to the miller who supplies flour to the baker who provides the former two with bread.

Specialization leads to the problem of exchange, because the farmer who wants bread cannot provide grain to the baker in exchange for it, since unprocessed grain is not useful to him. This problem is solved with the use of money, so that the farmer can sell its product to the miller and use the money to buy bread from the baker. Consequently, these societies are characterized by the use of money, which is further employed to store wealth.

The sophisticated technology allows high food production, which in turn allows a higher population density. As a consequence, agropastoral societies are generally numerous, ranging from a few hundreds to several thousands or even millions. Their population is sedentary, as it pays to find fertile land and build permanent settlements to exploit it. A sedentary way of life is also mandated by the fact that the facilities required for food production, such as a mill, are not readily portable.

The sophisticated technology demands specialization and allows large group numbers to be maintained and wealth to be produced and guarded. In turn, these factors give rise to sophisticated social institutions which are necessary for coordinating the different aspects of the production process, for regulating the living of a large number of people in close distance, and for regulating the distribution and safekeeping of the produced wealth. Thus, agropastoral societies are characterized by having sophisticated social institutions such as the church, the law, and the army (Apostolou, 2013). For instance, a sophisticated judicial system is necessary for protecting people’s wealth from internal threats, while a well-trained army is necessary for protecting wealth from external threats. To use another example, a religious institution, such as the church, can spread and enforce a sophisticated religious dogma that can enable the harmonious coexistence of a large number of people in close proximity.

 
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