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By Erving Goffman

Goffman’s dissertation thesis, collage of Chicago, 1953

Photo-reproduction of the unique record, 372 pages.

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From human and other animal labor, running water, wind and wood, to coal, to whale oil, to petroleum—the march forward of new energy sources seems inexorable. But is it? There are many alternatives to oil in principle, but there may be none in reality that aren’t themselves dependent on oil in many ways not easily apparent to many observers. This is the “net energy” problem: if you don’t get more energy out than you put in, you are in a losing situation. The truth about the present and future potential of oil and its replacements is in grave dispute.

The very first statement—that the cause and effect must be contiguous in space and time—is problematic when dealing with a dynamic system such as “society,” where influences often take so much time to mature that the initial cause may be very difficult to determine to the exclusion of other possible causes. Causes of change in society are seldom like the impact of one billiard ball hitting another, since the impact passes through humans, and often generations of humans, before it is fully manifest as a “change” in society.

Anthropologists overwhelmingly agree that Hobbes’ analysis of the state of nature is completely wrong. Earliest humans did not live alone in miserable conditions. Much was lost as well as gained with the rise of civilizations compared to when humans lived in small, homogenous, nomadic, egalitarian groups of families, called bands. As we will see later, convincing evidence shows that many humans lived peacefully together for tens of thousands of years in small communities amid “subsistence affluence” with plenty to eat, ample materials for shelter and clothing, and abundant time for leisure and communal activities.

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