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The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

by David Graeber, David Wengrow

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9732218,094 (4.16)23
NATIONAL BESTSELLER NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   Renowned activist and public intellectual David Graeber teams up with professor of comparative archaeology David Wengrow to deliver a trailblazing account of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution--from the development of agriculture and cities to the emergence of "the state," political violence, and social 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 only be achieved by sacrificing those original freedoms, or alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. Graeber and 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 path-breaking 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% 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? What was really happening during the periods that we usually describe as the emergence of "the state"? 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.… (more)
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» See also 23 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
This is a history book unlike any other. Honestly, it focuses much more on anthropology and archaeology than it does history but so what?! Graeber and Wengrow provide a completely new vision of the origins of human society. Definitely worth reading. ( )
  RoeschLeisure | Aug 19, 2022 |
This book challenges the standard narrative of how human civilization developed, which means that it also challenges the standard view of where we are now, and where we may go. It does this by looking at evidence -- the mass of new archeological and anthropological discoveries over the past forty years . It also (and simultaneously) shifts points of view, from Euro-centrism to a worldwide view with emphasis on the Western Hemisphere. And it proposes alternative views of what happened. This is an awful lot for one book, and can seem too much in the "could have been, was probably, was" vein, or too harshly critical of other scholars. But even so it really changed my views of the past. In the language of my youth, I would describe it as "mind blowing". In the language of today, I'll use the tamer "mind opening". ( )
  annbury | Jun 25, 2022 |
It is impossible to summarize an almost 700 page book in a sentence or two. The authors observe that many recent discussions of human history attempt to explain the origins of inequality. There is also a strong belief that original human societies, bands of foragers, did not display inequality. The growth of inequality is usually seen as the result of the development of agriculture which was believed necessary for the development of specialists, rise of armies and autocratic leaders, either political, religious or both. The authors postulate three basic freedoms: freedom to move (I.e. relocate), freedom to disobey, and freedom to create or transform social relationships. They describe recent archaeological evidence that suggests that peoples in the past have deliberately retreated from and rebelled against oppressive societies such as the slave owning tribes of the Pacific Northwest, and the urban center of Cahokia, among others. They emphasize the idea that humans are active participants in the formation of culture, not helpless pawns of technological change. I really recommend this book.
  ritaer | Jun 17, 2022 |
Another big book of information, ideas, and conjectures, well organized, with a readable first chapter that clearly tells what it is about, and a final chapter, "Conclusion," that a gives the gist of its thought.
We humans have developed multiple kinds of cultures and societies. Our history and pre-history is complex. There is no simple explanation as to how we got where we are today, but it is all fascinating.
  mykl-s | Jun 7, 2022 |
The authors challenge the conventional wisdom of the early history of humankind, how agriculture began, how cities were formed and organized, and the formation of states. It provides numerous examples from recent, within the last 30 years, archaeological finds as well as overlooked historical sources.

Particularly interesting were the views of European society expressed by early Native American thinkers who visited Europe soon after it was rediscovered. The authors make a very good case that these indigenous Americans had a profound effect on Enlightenment thinking.

The conventional wisdom is that the first efforts with agriculture kicked off an agricultural revolution and, from that point on, society was on an inevitable road to create cities and kingdoms. The authors refute this view with numerous examples from around the world of societies that did some agriculture but preferred to continue with their hunter-gatherer lifestyles since it was more efficient than agriculture.

The conventional wisdom is that large cities and major projects could only have been developed with the help of a hierarchical society with strong leaders. The authors provide several interesting examples of large cities that had no evidence of a strong central leadership.

The book is not a light read as a result of the number of references to early archeological sites. Nevertheless, the book is very readable and enjoyable. The book has extensive footnotes, often discursive, that are also important to read. ( )
  M_Clark | May 29, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Graeberprimary authorall editionscalculated
David Wengrowmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Most of human history is irreparably lost to us.
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   Renowned activist and public intellectual David Graeber teams up with professor of comparative archaeology David Wengrow to deliver a trailblazing account of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution--from the development of agriculture and cities to the emergence of "the state," political violence, and social 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 only be achieved by sacrificing those original freedoms, or alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. Graeber and 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 path-breaking 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% 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? What was really happening during the periods that we usually describe as the emergence of "the state"? 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.

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