"The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity" by David Graeber and David Wengrow

By David Graeber and David Wengrow

Reviewed by Heidi

ISBN 9780374157357

David Graeber – anthropologist, activist, and arguably one of the greatest anarchist intellectuals of our time – passed away unexpectedly in 2020. He leaves us with one last gift of a book: The Dawn of Everything. Written along with archaeologist David Wengrow, this book is a well-researched masterpiece that flips the conventional story of human history on its head. The popular theory goes that human cultures generally evolve in a linear fashion from generalist hunter-gatherers, to settled bands that practice agriculture; in time, they produce a surplus of food, which allows groups to specialize and acquire wealth and status; and later on down the line, cities spring up, followed by industry, empire, and the creation of the modern state. First advanced by Hobbes and Rousseau, championed today by authors such as Yuval Noah Harari, this theory is almost universally accepted.
Almost.
Graeber and Wengrow counter this notion with a stunningly well-researched and wildly different perspective on the last 30,000 years of human history. They present a compelling body of evidence that refutes the idea that cultures evolve along a fixed and linear trajectory; and what’s more, they do so in a way that celebrates and affirms the autonomy, intelligence, and creativity of our species. Humans are not passive objects tossed around by environmental and material forces, they argue. We have – and have always had – the power to choose how to live our lives. And in many cases, our ancestors actively chose not to adopt technologies and lifestyles that would have lead them along the linear path to hierarchy and statehood.
The Dawn of Everything is a beacon of light in dark and uncertain times, and an uplifting reminder that the trajectory of humanity is not set in stone.

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