Agricultural Societies

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AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES Agricultural Societies and Religion

Agricultural Societies and Religion

Answer 1

Agricultural empires came into existence about 5,000 years ago in places like Egypt and China (Freyfogle 2001 18). In all, the Roman Empire was one of the most powerful and one of the last to disappear. The years that followed its collapse represented a period of stagnation and decline in world's most advanced places, until they appeared in Europe in the form of feudalism in the Middle Ages.  Roman and Egyptian empires experienced initial periods of greater equality and true democracy. However, they all suffered from a chronic state of war and slavery which seriously impacted their economies. 

The ancient agricultural empires used to have centralized governments with political elites and religious leaders who had a strong political and economic control. Agricultural production kept rising in these complex societies as they had become more efficient in terms of technology. During this period, human societies reached a high level of inequality as well (Rossett 2006 41). At the top of the hierarchy, people with more wealth and power, represented as a small class controlled the large majority.  Inequalities were structured and hierarchical divisions were not always totally rigid. Because agricultural processes were shared, there was the possibility of social mobility. This would mean that agricultural practice was an important subject for religious leaders of that time. Many religious works of Tao Te Ching as well as Laozi speak of how agriculture shaped human life and society as a whole.

 According to Bloch, the European feudal period should be divided into two stages. In the first stage, before d. 1200 C., social stratification was less institutionalized; the power and wealth inequalities were justified by tradition and custom (Kong 2001 211). In a second stage, to 1,200 d. C., inequality had increased and the system of informal social stratification was threatened. 

The clergy itself was highly stratified. The higher clergy used to be recruited from the nobility or the ruling class who enjoyed a lifestyle similar to that of royals. In contrast, the lower clergy were recruited among the common people. The task of the lower clergy was to serve the common people and watch on behalf of the church and nobility (Hervieu 2002 99). The core of wealth and power was in the class representing the nobility. Despite its small size, it was the nobility who owned most of the wealth. Compared with the enormous wealth of the first and second state, the commoners used to live in abject poverty. 

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