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Visions of the FutureThe Distant Past, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow$
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Robert Heilbroner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195102864

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195102864.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 November 2019

The Distant Past

The Distant Past

(p.17) 2 The Distant Past
Visions of the Future

Robert Heilbroner

Oxford University Press

This chapter conveys a sense of the historical immediacy of the Distant Past, not only to give substance to what has until now been only an appeal to our intuitive understandings, but because there are lessons to be learned that will have relevance for our condition in the present. It argues that the chroniclers of the literate past were utterly unaware of the prehistoric condition of humankind until little more than a hundred years ago. The chapter also discusses the birth of civilization. As Marshall Sahlins suggests, the paradoxical consequence of the advent of civilization was to introduce into society a new social condition of poverty. The chapter also analyzes the ancient religions and their practices. It states that primitive religious life is characterized by participation, rather than by worship or sacrifice.

Keywords:   Distant Past, prehistoric humankind, civilization, Marshall Sahlins, poverty, primitive religions

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