Support the GITP forums on Patreon
Help support GITP's forums (and ongoing server maintenance) via Patreon
Results 1 to 13 of 13
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2019

    Default Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    So as we know, in the medieval/ classical age, it takes 10 farmers to feed someone who isn't. Someone plows the fields, sows seeds, harvests the food, and then the surplus is used to feed someone like a Blacksmith, poet, Artisan, or scholar.

    What if this changed? Maybe a reform of the agricultural system, a technological uplift, the Harvest Goddess finally grabbing some power, or a wash of Wood Essence throughout the land. The ratio is now reversed to be more like modern day, with 1 person being able to feed 10 people.

    What happens next? So far, I have:

    Bigger armies
    Far far more labour being used for building projects and other forms of construction, since now it's so much cheaper to feed all those people
    There's a hell of a lot more difficulty in managing populations, with laborers and farmers having more free time
    Rapid conversion of food crops into cash crops


    Setting is somewhat like Ancient Greece or Persia or the Americas, and far less like the medieval Europe.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2008

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Urbanization becomes huge.

    So we should probably break this down as a chain of events to see what ripples out.

    Everything is going as normal. You see large swaths of farmland that surround urban centers as that's where their food is going. Then suddenly BOOM crops grow by 1000% overnight.

    You now only need 1/10 of the population of those farms to do the work (maybe a little more because you will still need people to handle this much crop. But I'm placing my money on seeing more exploitation of a smaller work force). What happens to the other 9/10? They will go looking for jobs elsewhere, which means the urban centers are going to get packed. Far faster than they can grow. In only a few generations we'll see a huge change from the world having a relatively small fraction of the population in cities to having the majority of the population in cities.

    Many, many will die by disease and deprivation as they go looking for jobs.

    As these cities fail to meet the needs of this huge population of former farmers with no training in any task suitable for urban living, you will probably see a rise of a roving population of workers. And in any society where an unusual amount of people are going through roads many of which without jobs you'll see a nice big uptick of banditry.

    Out in the farms, those who remained will see a drastic change up of the balance of power. Those who had even a small advantage over their neighbors will see that advantage grow a lot. The smaller farmers will be eaten up by the bigger farmers and you'll start seeing some big plantation deals going down. There will be some success stories of guys who started small, but switched to a cash crop and got rich enough to buy their neighbors instead of being bought out themselves. But these will be the exception. Far more likely those big plantations will make the transition themselves.

    Governments of the city-states will attempt to figure out to do with this unusual windfall of supply of crops and now available labor. You'll get some group of people claiming that these wandering workers are dumb/sinful/evil for not being able to make it big in farming since clearly farming is so lucrative right now. You will probably see a fair few massacres, with these people coming into the city with no penny to their name get presented as some sort of "other." And you'll probably hear about them trying to take the jobs that are in the city from the city dwellers. Riots. Fighting. Poor people turning to thievery to survive. All that good stuff.

    Others may realize that these roaming beggars are also bringing disease with them. And their gates will be closed to them. Expect soldiers to be called in to run them off.

    The more forward thinking political leaders among them will try to find ways to marshal this workforce into something productive to the city-state. War being the obvious one. The place that figures out these people can be used for war the fastest will have a nice big advantage here. We'll probably see the city-state that figures this out first dominate the political climate for awhile. They could gain control of the entire area. Or if several different major city-states all figured this out at roughly the same time we can see a cold war-esque situation brewing. Where the dominant powers are too powerful to confront each other directly.

    In this situation, it may take centuries but the winner of this conflict will probably be the one that has the easiest chance expanding elsewhere, letting themselves get even bigger so they can eventually come back and crush their rivals.

    Now there is a limit on how all this goes down. The obvious problem is total food has increased, but the ability to move and store it has not also increased. This means roughly the maximum size we'll be seeing any single controlling government can ever get is about the Roman Empire give or take. You might see under a particularly skilled commander the ruler of one of these empires conquer several other empires at the same time making a really big empire. But this will usually fall apart in 100 years or so. Because of the difficulty in communication and travel and everything.

    How the military changes will also be interesting. The warrior-elite will dramatically decrease in importance, replaced with a bunch of people with whatever equipment the wealthy benefactor gave them. This could cause a lot of problems actually. It's possible that this will give rise to a complete upset of whatever social structure these people live in with the poor taking power and a more egalitarian hand on governance as they realize their own importance in military campaigns. But it's far more likely that they'll just be used as a tool by whoever is the king/most important leader in the city to beat back all rivals and impose his or her will more firmly on the aristocracy as that group slides into irrelevance over a serious of centuries.

    Now let's go back to in the cities. With the farmers all looking for jobs in unskilled labor, all fighting themselves for the chance to work to earn a living. You'll see the amount of money that this unskilled labor actually gets for their work will drop dramatically. Thankfully food prices will do the same, though a good rule of supply and demand is that the truly have nots will still be starved even in a time of prosperity. They will form ghettos with all the fun poor living conditions, mistreatment, and crime that word implies. Without education readily available post printing press and the like we will probably not see a huge growing of public knowledge outside of the children of those now very powerful agricultural titans.

    There's an interesting thought experiment. How much power can these plantation owners exert on the government? Actually there's a distinct possibility that these people would become the government supplanting any earlier warrior-elite. Yes, that seems likely. With lower cost farm workers to start, eventually replaced by slaves taken from the conquest of these new massive armies it's very likely that the "kings" would side with them over the others in the warrior-elite rank and we'll see a consolidation of power between them, and a pushing of everyone else down. This will of course not really change the pressures on the king for more than a generation as this new plantation nobility will have a lot of the same issues with the domination of government by the king that the warrior-elite had. But that's just how government works in general.

    But you will see public works start going on the rise. Roads constructed to allow better trade through these new bustling cities. Whole new cities might pop up, or more accurately grow out of smaller civilian centers. But there will be a bit of a limit here. Again food has increased and labor is now much cheaper. But we're still not in industrialization and explosives time. This puts a bit of a limit on how much can be quarried, moved, and built at a time. Which isn't to say that great huge monuments won't be built, they will (expect a good portion of leaders who just happened to be leading during this agricultural boom to start making statues of themselves as a deity or something equally ego-stroking). But you can only have so many people working on a single project before they start getting into each others way. And you can only have the treasury big enough to work on a few projects at a time.

    I'd expect to see the following focused on in no particular order: Ego-stroking monuments, sanitation, temples (especially to this agricultural god initially, though over time things will go back to the usual high gods of war/sky/etc.), grain storage facilities, roads, defensive structures, barracks, housing.

    Eventually, this will all even out. The cities will increase, an equilibrium will be made with the populations of the farms and the cities, the military and social structures will solidify into their new normal. But you're looking at a very exciting couple hundred years here.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    So as we know, in the medieval/ classical age, it takes 10 farmers to feed someone who isn't. Someone plows the fields, sows seeds, harvests the food, and then the surplus is used to feed someone like a Blacksmith, poet, Artisan, or scholar.
    This isn't quite right. 90% of the population lived in primarily agricultural areas, but that didn't mean they were all farmers, and it also didn't mean that farmers didn't perform significant amounts of off-farm work during months when farm demands were low. This included corvee labor under many regimes, meaning the agricultural labor force was also the primary construction labor force. And of course there were huge variations due to climate, the available crops, soil quality, and other factors.

    What if this changed? Maybe a reform of the agricultural system, a technological uplift, the Harvest Goddess finally grabbing some power, or a wash of Wood Essence throughout the land. The ratio is now reversed to be more like modern day, with 1 person being able to feed 10 people.
    The trick here is that agricultural systems are highly integrated. Unless you create some sort of magical super crop specialized to drastically reduce labor needs (which in a fantasy scenario you can) you can't dramatically shift agricultural output with one huge change because instead you need a lot of little ones, otherwise you'll just end up hitting a bottleneck somewhere along the chain.

    What happens next?
    It really depends. Perhaps the most important question is whether or not this change is limited to one culture/polity or if it suddenly manifests everywhere at once. The former scenario simply creates an all-conquering superpower. The latter scenario means suddenly every state suddenly has vastly more labor available. However, labor was already abundant in pre-modern states and a vast surplus of labor can only be utilized to adjust for limitations on available materials which may not be possible to increase in the same way. You can only stuff so many stonecutters in a quarry at once and so on.

    War, of course, is a classical output for surplus labor. History shows that in East Asian states that had higher agricultural output than European ones in otherwise roughly equal conditions because wet rice agriculture is superior to the cereal grain rotation armies were indeed larger. You also got larger public works produced using common materials - like the original mud brick Great Wall of China.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    So as we know, in the medieval/ classical age, it takes 10 farmers to feed someone who isn't. Someone plows the fields, sows seeds, harvests the food, and then the surplus is used to feed someone like a Blacksmith, poet, Artisan, or scholar.

    What if this changed? Maybe a reform of the agricultural system, a technological uplift, the Harvest Goddess finally grabbing some power, or a wash of Wood Essence throughout the land. The ratio is now reversed to be more like modern day, with 1 person being able to feed 10 people.

    What happens next? So far, I have:

    Bigger armies
    Far far more labour being used for building projects and other forms of construction, since now it's so much cheaper to feed all those people
    There's a hell of a lot more difficulty in managing populations, with laborers and farmers having more free time
    Rapid conversion of food crops into cash crops


    Setting is somewhat like Ancient Greece or Persia or the Americas, and far less like the medieval Europe.
    The population skyrockets, and then collapses every 50 years as pandemics roll back and forth across the world. The population finds an average level and bumps up and down along it from die offs and repopulating, with evolution pushing better immunity and new viruses simultaneously.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Behavioral sink. Praise Slaanesh.

    EDIT:
    But seriously what would happen is quality of life would go up and technological progress would increase as more people would able to be involved in the production of goods and academic study. Or else, conversely, advancement would slow because people would just slack off since they don't have the possibility of starvation motivating them to work. Or, people could wind up spending their extra time devising and following more and more byzantine and impractical social rules and customs, as has been the case in many real world cultures during eras of extended peace and prosperity. Though, of course, that takes us back to the behavioral sink.
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2020-12-06 at 05:18 AM.
    Omegaupdate Forum

    WoTC Forums Archive + Indexing Projext

    PostImage, a free and sensible alternative to Photobucket

    Temple+ Modding Project for Atari's Temple of Elemental Evil

    Morrus' RPG Forum (EN World v2)

    If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear, and this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream. -Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Behavioral sink. Praise Slaanesh.

    EDIT:
    But seriously what would happen is quality of life would go up and technological progress would increase as more people would able to be involved in the production of goods and academic study. Or else, conversely, advancement would slow because people would just slack off since they don't have the possibility of starvation motivating them to work. Or, people could wind up spending their extra time devising and following more and more byzantine and impractical social rules and customs, as has been the case in many real world cultures during eras of extended peace and prosperity. Though, of course, that takes us back to the behavioral sink.
    Also wars would become enormous as the population can afford to be drafted and individuals need to find value in something.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    In Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight series, there's a neat form of food production that causes some stuff like this. I'll spoiler it just in case, but I'm trying to avoid any spoilers for the plot (just for the setting).
    Though this might not be 100% applicable as the Big Change also negates the need for supply chains to move/store food.

    Spoiler
    Show

    Although they do grow food, armies and major cities produce a lot of food via magic. Basically, some ancient artifacts exist; people don't know how to make them anymore, but enough exist at least for major cities and armies to have enough. One type is geared to transmute stuff into food. It's not great tasting food, but it's food. (One type can make meat, one type can make grain, and I think there's one that can make water.)

    The logistic impact we see in the books that armies can be larger and move faster, as supply chains are basically a non-issue. Just move somewhere and transmute rocks or whatever into food.
    It might also (purposefully) factor into the size of some cities, but I don't recall if that was a cause-effect thing mentioned in his worldbuilding.

    Note that real farmed/butchered food does exist. Most small villages farm their own food (as they don't have magic), and some is shipped to the cities. But cities can't be starved by siege. It's just lower morale as you eat the bland stuff that is made by magic instead of 'real' food, but an army or a city in difficulties can almost always have enough food to stay well-fed.


    Anyway, if any of that sounds similar, you can probably find an article somewhere on the agriculture and city logistics of that setting.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Accidents like in the folktale Sweet Porridge
    Omegaupdate Forum

    WoTC Forums Archive + Indexing Projext

    PostImage, a free and sensible alternative to Photobucket

    Temple+ Modding Project for Atari's Temple of Elemental Evil

    Morrus' RPG Forum (EN World v2)

    If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear, and this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream. -Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

  9. - Top - End - #9

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    One big question is how magic works in the setting, both in terms of how impressive its effects are, and how it is distributed. For example, in a model where you can teach people magic, and magic is as effective as it is in a game like D&D or Shadowrun, you'd see something a lot like an industrial revolution kick off as people who were previously subsistence farmers gained access to powerful magic. Conversely, if magic doesn't scale with respect to population (perhaps there are naturally-occurring Mana Wells that you channel power out of or something), this change might result in power shifting away from magic-users.

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    Bigger armies
    To a degree, yes. But AIUI, not as much as you might think. The limit on pre-modern armies is more about transporting food that producing it. As long as your food is moved by animals that themselves need food, you have stark limits on how far your logistics can reach, no matter how much food you actually have.

    Far far more labour being used for building projects and other forms of construction, since now it's so much cheaper to feed all those people
    Sure. But just increasing food supplies doesn't allow that. Pre-modern societies were usually well below their nominal productive capacity (e.g. the local blacksmith was not constant producing new plows, horseshoes, and tools). That means that just increasing the labor supply wouldn't have much effect on output. If the local village wasn't saturating the output of one blacksmith, they're not going to saturate the output of ten of them.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    To a degree, yes. But AIUI, not as much as you might think. The limit on pre-modern armies is more about transporting food that producing it. As long as your food is moved by animals that themselves need food, you have stark limits on how far your logistics can reach, no matter how much food you actually have.
    It depends on geography though. If you can transport food by ship, including river barges, then you can have quite massive armies.

    Sure. But just increasing food supplies doesn't allow that. Pre-modern societies were usually well below their nominal productive capacity (e.g. the local blacksmith was not constant producing new plows, horseshoes, and tools). That means that just increasing the labor supply wouldn't have much effect on output. If the local village wasn't saturating the output of one blacksmith, they're not going to saturate the output of ten of them.
    It depends on what you're trying to make. The supplies of earth and mud are nearly limitless, which means that if you have endless labor you can build massive structures of rammed earth or mud brick. China, which had much higher labor availability compared to Europe because of more efficient agriculture, built massive walls around every city as early as the Warring States period. The Pharonic Egyptians, likewise blessed with a highly efficient agricultural base, built massive monumental structures as well.

    There are certain things you can do with hordes of unskilled laborers and certain things you can't. A society with a surplus of unskilled laborers will find them something to do - because having them just sit around is massively destabilizing. Construction is a logical direction for such effort if there's some reason - probably geographic - that you can't turn them into armies. But it's not necessary that such construction accomplish any real purpose. Gigantic pyramids and massive walls are very impressive, but not very beneficial to society.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2019

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    It depends on what you're trying to make. The supplies of earth and mud are nearly limitless, which means that if you have endless labor you can build massive structures of rammed earth or mud brick. China, which had much higher labor availability compared to Europe because of more efficient agriculture, built massive walls around every city as early as the Warring States period. The Pharonic Egyptians, likewise blessed with a highly efficient agricultural base, built massive monumental structures as well.

    There are certain things you can do with hordes of unskilled laborers and certain things you can't. A society with a surplus of unskilled laborers will find them something to do - because having them just sit around is massively destabilizing. Construction is a logical direction for such effort if there's some reason - probably geographic - that you can't turn them into armies. But it's not necessary that such construction accomplish any real purpose. Gigantic pyramids and massive walls are very impressive, but not very beneficial to society.
    Yeah. Let's not forget that China had a habit of using masive labor forces and irrigation works to craft the world's first dams. Several of their legends, myths, and saints (the closest equivalent) are people who were in charge of figuring out just how to control the floods that come due to the rivers in their civilization. One of their documents (very old) is about how a man took several thousand laborers, and using fire and water, managed to crack stone and constructed an entire dam.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    What if this changed? Maybe a reform of the agricultural system, a technological uplift, the Harvest Goddess finally grabbing some power, or a wash of Wood Essence throughout the land. The ratio is now reversed to be more like modern day, with 1 person being able to feed 10 people.
    It is very important to know why it changed.
    Because the question is: Do this person able to feed 10 other peoples need to have a reasonable level of education?
    Technological progress usually require some level of education of the citizens to be efficient (literacy to read the notices of the new products, or an oral tradition about how to use every method, etc), while a magic blessing doesn't.

    When you have wealth increase, if the additional wealth come from high-skill works, then the society will naturally grow to have a middle class that lives comfortably from this work, and ask more and more right in exchange of their work. However, if the additional wealth come from low-skill work, you should expect slavery and other sort of exploitation to be rampant (why would the powerful ones bother about having well-fed educated co-citizens when you can replace them by random slaves that can do the same with similar productivity?). Obviously, exceptions might apply, as there is a lot of other factors to consider.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Default Re: Differences in culture and social structure when food production is increased?

    If it helps any, I have heard that the end of feudalism in Britain was brought about by three consecutive years of exceptional weather producing exceptionally large crops.

    Just three years of abundant food and enough people travelled to find work despite that being illegal that the entire structure of society started to unravel (and be replaced with a new one).
    Last edited by SpyOne; 2020-12-16 at 01:39 AM.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •