The Dawn of Everything

A New History of Humanity

Hardcover, 704 pages

English language

Published Nov. 8, 2021 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

ISBN:
978-0-374-15735-7
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3 stars (4 reviews)

The renowned activist and public intellectual David Graeber teams up with the 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 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, …

6 editions

Another slog to get through.

4 stars

This book suffers from two things in terms of its writing and structure. First, there's Graeber's desire to compress as much information into one space as humanly possible, even to the detriment of his own argument and the discussion he wants to push people to have. The second is that it seems, if I'm reading into both authors' writing styles correctly, Wengrow's desire to flesh out those concepts with more detail to further support them. (I say that because I've checked a few of his articles, and he has a tendency to develop even more focused detail than Graeber.)

I could be wrong about who was doing what, but regardless? The end result is a book that is a slog to get through and frequently leaves me forgetting half of what I've read, going back to skim it and remind myself about what they were discussing, and then trying to …

Frustrating at best

2 stars

I usually find Graeber's work a bit annoying as I agree with the conclusions, but I find his arguments for how to get there lacking. I had high hopes for this book as the premise was interesting. Unfortunately, this book was even more frustrating that his others. I enjoyed the critique of eurocentric views on civilization, and I liked that the book argues against a narrative of progress through feudal lords and then capitalism.

However, a main argument in the book is against the idea that large population governance is not inherently oppressive. I wholly reject this idea. The arguments Graeber and Wengrow make are hundreds of pages long and never get beyond "well there is no evidence of a monarchy so they must have had people's assemblies and been democratic." The city, they infer, is therefore a structure we can have without oppressive relations. There is then much advocating …

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3 stars