In The Dawn of Everything David Graeber and David Wengrow search for historical examples of nonhierarchical societies to justify their anarchist vision of human freedom. But must we find our future in the past?
Social evolution, from Ice Age hunter-gatherer networks to ancient Egypt’s pyramid-building dynasties and beyond, gets reinterpreted in a new book as a series of flexible systems that didn’t inevitably produce rampant inequality.
“This sweeping and novel synthesis exploring the arc of the human condition— its highly diverse forms of political organizing, and the future that lays in store for us—may well prove to be the most important book of the decade. For it explodes deeply held myths about the inevitability of our social lives dominated by the state.”
A fascinating inquiry, which leads us to rethink the nature of human capacities, as well as the proudest moments of our own history, and our interactions with and indebtedness to the cultures and forgotten intellectuals of indigenous societies. Challenging and illuminating. -- Noam Chomsky
For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike – either free and equal, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a reaction to indigenous critiques of European society, and why they are wrong. In doing so, they overturn our view of human history, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery and civilization itself.
Drawing on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we begin to see what’s really there. If humans did not spend 95 per cent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful possibilities than we tend to assume.
The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision and faith in the power of direct action.
‘Fascinating, thought-provoking, groundbreaking.A book that will generate debate for years to come’ Rutger Bregman
‘Graeber and Wengrow have effectively overturned everything I ever thought about the history of the world. The most profound and exciting book I’ve read in thirty years’ Robin D. G. Kelley