Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Book: David Graeber And David Wengrow's "The Dawn Of Everything: A New History Of Humanity"

I am a fan of science.  My latest read was in a field of science that I wasn't too familiar with, anthropology.  I never realized there was so much tension in what I thought was a rather sedate branch of inquiry.

David Graeber and David Wengrow's "The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity" starts off like the authors are ready to pick a fight.  The book goes on to call out many experts in the field by name for errors or erroneous assumptions on the way to trying to upend all the accepted principles of the field.

I am not knowledgeable enough to come down on either side of the arguments included in the book.  Is the path hunter/gatherers - farmers - cities - states the correct one or is that an overgeneralization?  Are there multiple paths to modern civilization?  Were early pre-agriculture groups egalitarian or are there other options?  I have no idea but the authors definitely do.

One thing I liked about this book were all the cultures used as examples.  Native American, Aztec, Maya, Inca, Mesopotamian, Far-Eastern Europe, Egyptian, and many more.   I learned enough that I now know I have a lot to learn about past cultures.

One interesting take away I had was how prehistoric civilizations, despite being physically adjacent, were often so different.  Some of these pairs - one male dominated, slavery practising, warfare worshipping, competition driven culture, the other a pacifistic, egalitarian, gender equal, freedom promoting, almost democratic culture - remind me of the current American Republican/Democratic Split.  It was a bit disconcerting since it implies the current schisms in our political system have been around in some form for at least the past seven or eight millennia.  Makes the possibility of progress look a lot less likely.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I would have gotten more out of it if I were more current on the field of Anthropology but I still managed to get some benefit from it and it opened up directions for future explorations.

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