The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

by David Graeber, David Wengrow


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David Graeber and David Wengrow, an anthropologist and an archaelologist, join forces to dig deep and long through 30,000 years of human history, looking to explain anew who we are and how we got from there to here. Immersive, commanding and incendiary, Dawn of Everything brings to mind the works of Jared Diamond, Yuval Noah Harari and Stephen Pinker, and then “takes them on.” Get yourself a seat at the showdown, and tuck into an extraordinary work of discovery.

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, 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 conservative reaction to powerful critiques of European society posed by Indigenous observers and intellectuals. Revisiting this encounter has startling implications for how we make sense of human history today, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery, and civilization itself.

Drawing on pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what’s really there. If humans did not spend 95 percent 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 human history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful, hopeful 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 a faith in the power of direct action.

Includes Black-and-White Illustrations

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374157357
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 11/09/2021
Pages: 704
Sales rank: 41
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.20(d)

About the Author

David Graeber was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, and was a contributor to Harper’s Magazine, The Guardian, and The Baffler. An iconic thinker and renowned activist, his early efforts in Zuccotti Park made Occupy Wall Street an era-defining movement. He died on September 2, 2020.

David Wengrow is a professor of comparative archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and has been a visiting professor at New York University. He is the author of several books, including What Makes Civilization?. Wengrow conducts archaeological fieldwork in various parts of Africa and the Middle East.

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Figures vii

Foreword and Dedication ix

Acknowledgements xi

1 Farewell to Humanity's Childhood Or, why this is not a hook about the origins of inequality 1

2 Wicked Liberty The indigenous critique and the myth of progress 27

3 Unfreezing the Ice Age In and out of chains: the protean possibilities of human politics 78

4 Free People, the Origin of Cultures, and the Advent of Private Property (Not necessarily in that order) 120

5 Many Seasons Ago Why Canadian foragers kept slaves and their Californian neighbours didn't; or, the problem with 'modes of production' 164

6 Gardens of Adonis The revolution that never happened: how Neolithic peoples avoided agriculture 210

7 The Ecology of Freedom How farming first hopped, stumbled and bluffed its way around the world 249

8 Imaginary Cities Eurasia's first urbanites - in Mesopotamia, the Indus valley, Ukraine and China - and how they built cities without kings 276

9 Hiding in Plain Sight The indigenous origins of social bousing and democracy in the Americas 328

10 Why the State Has No Origin The humble beginnings of sovereignty, bureaucracy and politics 359

11 Full Circle On the historical foundations of the indigenous critique 441

12 Conclusion The dawn of everything 493

Notes 527

Bibliography 611

Index 675

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