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? 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.
A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
What if everything we believed about the development of human civilization was wrong? That’s the provocative case made by anthropologist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow in this groundbreaking book. The established thinking on the history of human societies goes something like this: Agriculture gave rise to cities, and cities necessitated government. Everything after that was inevitable. The two Davids call BS on this entire narrative, using the examples of societies that followed other paths, including ones that played with different forms of organization, agriculture, and technology. The co-authors also upend other popular notions, like the idea that communism is intrinsically opposed to personal freedom, and narrator Mark Williams conveys the appropriate gravitas for such bold claims. Graeber, renowned for his anti-capitalism views, died suddenly just after The Dawn of Everything was completed. He and Wengrow have given us a thought-provoking, revolutionary—and sure to be controversial—survey that could create a seismic shift in our view of human history.