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For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike - either free and equal, 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 reaction to indigenous critiques of European society, and why they are wrong. In doing so, they overturn our view of human history, 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 begin to see what's really there. If humans did not spend 95 per cent 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 history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful 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 faith in the power of direct action.
'Pacey and potentially revolutionary' Sunday Times
'Iconoclastic and irreverent ... an exhilarating read' The Guardian
'Boldly ambitious, entertaining and thought-provoking' Observer
'This is not a book. This is an intellectual feast' Nassim Nicholas Taleb
© David Graeber, David Wengrow 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
A boldly ambitious work ... entertaining and thought-provoking ... an impressively large undertaking that succeeds in making us reconsider not just the remote past but also the too-close-to-see present, as well as the common thread that is our shifting and elusive nature.
What a gift ... 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.
Iconoclastic and irreverent ... an exhilarating read ... As we seek new, sustainable ways to organise our world, we need to understand the full range of ways our ancestors thought and lived. And we must certainly question conventional versions of our history which we have accepted, unexamined, for far too long.
Pacey and potentially revolutionary ... This is more than an argument about the past, it is about the human condition in the present.
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.
A timely, intriguing, original and provocative take on the most recent thirty thousand years of human history ... consistently thought-provoking ... In forcing us to re-examine some of the cosy assumptions about our deep past, Graeber and Wengrow remind us very clearly of the perils of holding ourselves captive to a deterministic vision of human history as we try to shape our future.
Fascinating, thought-provoking, groundbreaking. A book that will generate debate for years to come.
The Dawn of Everything is also the radical revision of everything, liberating us from the familiar stories about humanity's past that are too often deployed to impose limitations on how we imagine humanity's future. Instead they tell us that what human beings are most of all is creative, from the beginning, so that there is no one way we were or should or could be. Another of the powerful currents running through this book is a reclaiming of Indigenous perspectives as a colossal influence on European thought, a valuable contribution to decolonizing global histories.
Synthesizing much recent scholarship, The Dawn of Everything briskly overthrows old and obsolete assumptions about the past, renews our intellectual and spiritual resources, and reveals, miraculously, the future as open-ended. It is the most bracing book I have read in recent years.
This is not a book. This is an intellectual feast. There is not a single chapter that does not (playfully) disrupt well seated intellectual beliefs. It is deep, effortlessly iconoclastic, factually rigorous, and pleasurable to read.
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Graeber, who was a leading figure of the Occupy Wall Street movement, was 59.