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...Read More
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.
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.
"Graeber and Wengrow offer a history of the past 30,000 years that is not only wildly different from anything we're used to, but also far more interesting: textured, surprising, paradoxical, inspiring . . . It aims to replace the dominant grand narrative of history not with another of its own devising, but with the outline of a picture, only just becoming visible, of a human past replete with political experiment and creativity." - William Deresiewicz, The Atlantic
"The Dawn of Everything is a lively, and often very funny, anarchist project that aspires to enlarge our political imagination by revitalizing the possibilities of the distant past . . . It disavows the intellectual trappings of a knowable arc, a linear structure, and internal necessity. As a stab at grandeur stripped of grandiosity, the book rejects the logic of technological or ecological determinism, structuring its narrative around our ancestors' improvisatory responses to the challenges of happenstance." - Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker
"[The Dawn of Everything] took as its immodest goal nothing less than upending everything we think we know about the origins and evolution of human societies . . . [the book] aims to synthesize new archaeological discoveries of recent decades that haven't made it out of specialist journals and into public consciousness." - Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
"A fascinating, radical, and playful entry into a seemingly exhaustively well-trodden genre, the grand evolutionary history of humanity. It seeks nothing less than to completely upend the terms on which the Standard Narrative rests . . . erudite, compelling, generative, and frequently remarkably funny . . . once you start thinking like Graeber and Wengrow, it's difficult to stop." - Emily M. Kern, Boston Review
"An engrossing series of insights into how 'the conventional narrative of human history is not only wrong, but quite needlessly dull'." - Anthony Doerr, The Guardian
"[A] sense of revelation animates this provocative take on humankind's social journey." - Bruce Bower, Science News
"Graeber and Wengrow hope to show that human imagination and possibility is broader and more hopeful than we let ourselves believe." - Noah Berlatsky, NBC News
"With vivid narrative prose and rich detail... [ The Dawn of Everything] take[s] readers on a myth-busting journey through the inner workings of prehistoric and historic societies around the world, showcasing the remarkable intelligence and agency of ancient peoples and the diverse societal solutions that they helped shape . . . Like Graeber, The Dawn of Everything is a rabble-rouser--a great book that will stimulate discussions, change minds, and drive new lines of research." - Erle C. Ellis, Science
"An ingenious new look at 'the broad sweep of human history' and many of its 'foundational' stories . . . [Graeber and Wengrow] take a dim view of conventional accounts of the rise of civilizations, emphasize contributions from Indigenous cultures and the missteps of the great Enlightenment thinkers, and draw countless thought-provoking conclusions . . . A fascinating, intellectually challenging big book about big ideas." - Kirkus Reviews