So, since it’s Friday, and I’m takin’ it easy after a rigorous week telling it like it was. Raise your glasses and let’s all drink to Brian Hayden’s health and sensible, human level theories about the development of socioeconomic inequality. The 1% need not attend.
While still a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, I had several conversations with Mickey Dietler about drinking, agriculture, and the rise of socioeconomic inequality. His dissertation ended up titled ‘Driven by Drink.’ It was, if I recall, a treatment of the Roman trade in wine up and down the great rivers of France in the Iron age. At the time I was thinking a lot about how foragers (nimrods, piscators, pluckers and planters) gave up their strong proscriptions against self-aggrandizement and hoarding for the ownership and circumscription of land that followed in places where agriculture was a viable practice. As an undergraduate I’d had many long chats with Brian Hayden regarding the processes responsible, which for him turns on the inflationary economy of competitive feasting (e.g. the Potlatches on the Northwest Coast). I can’t remember if it was he or I who suggested that booze might have figured in the whole process, and that it could easily explain why grains became domesticated long before there’s any evidence of substantial storage facilities, grain economies, and so forth. So, I have to say that I’m genuinely pleased to see that Brian has published on the idea that it was (essentially) beer production that spurred the intensification of agriculture that we see in the early Neolithic of the Near East and elsewhere.