I'm thinking of reading it, although from the cover there seems some overlap with Against the grain by James C. Scott that I already read.
Thanks for this! I didn't know there was a last Graeber book out. Devouring it now.
Def worth replicating this blob on cypherspace:
The Dawn of Everything.mobi
I'm 2/3 into the book, and it's as a must read as Debt: 5000 Years. It's been proving that many of my previous ideas about civilisation were completely wrong, which is awesome.
I finished the book a few days ago, using the audio book during some long drives. It's super powerful and i'm amazed at how broadly i'm seeing it talked about. My nephew who works as a machinist and isn't particularly intellectual or political is reading it.
I feel the book did a few things for me. First and foremost it highlights the importance of culture for defining how we identify and organize society, governance, and the economy. This is a powerful reframing because it means that we can change things by changing culture and that the same material and historical circumstances can lead to different societies based on what cultural values we construct.
I loved the stuff on how humans have tried a million different ways of organizing society and it's not technologically deterministic. That cities didn't have to have hierarchy and exploitation. Agriculture wasn't adopted as an all or nothing process but was woven in to societies all along the spectrum from fully domesticated cultivation of all food to wild harvesting and hunting.
Their stuff on revolution is amazing, it shows how many times in history societies have shifted back and forth from authoritarian to egalitarian. And sometimes the big differences are not along the lines we consider politics at the moment at all, like the difference between Californian tribes and those of the pacific northwest.
I loved the attack on the European intellectual tradition, how European enlightenment was in large part Europeans discovering other intellectual traditions and having it transform everything about culture, politics, political world. Yet at the same time, despite tons of evidence, reusing to acknowledge that any ideas came from non-white people at all. Not surprising, some of it knew, but a lot of it was new to me.
The last bit it felt like was reaching a bit in making assumptions about some societies which it doesn't feel like there's enough evidence but in general i think it's a fantastic rethinking.
The last bit which is really making me think is all the stuff about esoteric knowledge being used to demarcate class and define who's included and excluded. It feels like we do that all the time in our societies today. Think about who gets hired at a high salary tech job doing software development. We judge them based what university they went to, which is mostly defined by their parent's class and also their ability to create a high school resume and university entrance exams which allow entry to elite institutions. There we teach them ton of stuff about what it means to be educated, and in the case of computer science, a ton about the field's intellectual background, which is completely irrelevant as a working engineer. Then when we look at hiring we make applicants go through exams on algorithmic theory, answer puzzle questions, and then do whiteboard coding. None of this is related to the job. Instead once somebody joins a team, we actually teach them using mentorship so they learn how to write tickets, structure code, create a PR, document their work, collaborate with others, read code, setup development and server environments.
In essence we use this esoteric limited knowledge to decide who's privileged enough to be included in an apprentice program where the actual skills of the trade are taught.
We're just repeating the same patterns which people have used for tens of thousands of years!
I've finished the book about a week ago, and have been digesting it. Some takeaways:
Three elementary forms of domination
- control of violence
- control of knowledge
- charismatic power
Three primordial freedoms
- freedom to move
- freedom to disobey
- freedom to create or transform social relationships
- bureaucracies that work on a community scale
- cities governed by neighbourhood councils
- systems of government where women hold a preponderance of formal positions
- forms of land management based on care-taking rather than ownership and extraction
These will seem like the really significant breakthroughs, and great stone pyramids or statues more like historical curiosities. What if we were to take that approach now and look at, say, Minoan Crete or Hopewell not as random bumps on a road that leads inexorably to states and empires, but as alternative possibilities: roads not taken?
I believe #communitynetworks and #community-first services are a way to achieve "bureaucracies that work on a community scale". My personal #omega-project, #undomination, is in a way trying to achieve "forms of land management based on care-taking rather than ownership and extraction". Feel very aligned with the authors's conclusions, which in someways validates our efforts.
I like Michael Albert's stuff on strategy too, he co-wrote books with Robin Hahnel. And Murray Bookchin's work on social ecology is fantastic.
This passage from the book (which is quoting Kondiaronk):
Lahontan: (...) the wicked need to be punished, and the good need to be rewarded. Otherwise, murder, robbery, and defamation would spread everywhere (...)
Kondiaronk: For my own part, I find it hard to see how you could be much more miserable than you already are. What kind of human, what species of creature, must Europeans be, that they have to be forced to do good, and only refrain from evil because of fear of punishment?
You have observed that we lack judges. What is the reason for that? Well, we never bring lawsuits against one another. And why do we never bring lawsuits? Well, because we made a decision neither to accept or make use of money. And why do we refuse to allow money into our communities? The reason is this: we are determined not to have laws – because, since the world was a world, our ancestors have been able to live contentedly without them.
Wow. Just wow.