Orderly Anarchy delivers a provocative and innovative reexamination of sociopolitical evolution among Native American groups in California, a region known for its wealth of prehistoric languages, populations, and cultural adaptations. Scholars have tended to emphasize the development of social complexity and inequality to explain this diversity. Robert L. Bettinger argues instead that "orderly anarchy," the emergence of small, autonomous groups, provided a crucial strategy in social organization. Drawing on ethnographic and archaeological data and evolutionary, economic, and anthropological theory, he shows that these small groups devised diverse solutions to environmental, technological, and social obstacles to the intensified use of resources. This book revises our understanding of how California became the most densely populated landscape in aboriginal North America.