The participants in the event are critically concerned with avoiding conflict. The equal production of the sign and the subsequent equal division of the central object are the necessary means to this end. The appropriative acts of the participants are deferred and, when actually performed, constrained by communal pressure. Hence, although they are the first acts of creatures freed from the dominance of instinct, they are constituted as free actions only on the participants’ internal scene of representation. In contrast, the ‘liberty’ that permits the ‘pursuit of happiness’ is not the moral freedom that binds individuals to the community of reciprocal exchange, but their potential to act outside the communal sphere. The pioneers on the prairie are free because they are individual laws, and economies, to themselves. (Eric Gans, Originary Thinking, 56)
Another fascinating post. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before in response to your posts on techniques. One question I have never been able to answer for myself is how it was, in the long pre-axial age, that techniques, for which we have evidence in the archaeological record, changed so slowly, e.g. the same design of arrowheads found in the same area over thousands of years. Obviously, as you note, the hunt, or warfare, had to be in some respects a ritualised activity. Yet they are also the domains which presumably allowed some possibility for winning an unforeseen status through individual skill and accomplishments, making one's marks. An arrowhead might be at times a centralized object of attention but there are also pedagogical and performative aspects to making them that might lead us to think that somewhere along the line someone would make significantly new changes in leading, or attempting to, the other hunters. But why would that only happen slowly over the course of millennia?
The largest of the Gulf Islands between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island is Texada, home today to large numbers of deer, and in the fall, their hunters. There is an archaeological site there, at the water's edge (one is never far from the water even on this relatively long but thin island), and from what I remember of the signage memorializing the dig, they discovered that over millennia this site, as evidenced by the middens, was almost exclusively a place of deer consumption. In a region where (almost) all tribes specialized in exploiting the rich marine resources of the North Pacific, which allowed for a fairly hierarchical culture which culminated in the institution of the potlatch, there was one group, which must have known how its neighbours lived, that, at least for part of the year, specialized exclusively in deer, and it, or its successors, did this for millennia, in a world of warfare and some minimal amount of slavery. They must have had deer ancestors they worshiped but why would centrifugal signifying not compromise or supplement this? Obviously the pre-axial is not your focus but do you have any thoughts on how we might think of, or make idioms of, this sort of thing?