Read Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States Online Free - An account of all the new and surprising evidence now available for the beginnings of the earliest civilizations that contradict the standard narrative
Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today’s states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical evidence challenges this narrative. The first agrarian states, says James C. Scott, were born of accumulations of domestications: first fire, then plants, livestock, subjects of the state, captives, and finally women in the patriarchal family—all of which can be viewed as a way of gaining control over reproduction.
Scott explores why we avoided sedentism and plow agriculture, the advantages of mobile subsistence, the unforeseeable disease epidemics arising from crowding plants, animals, and grain, and why all early states are based on millets and cereal grains and unfree labor. He also discusses the “barbarians” who long evaded state control, as a way of understanding continuing tension between states and nonsubject peoples.
|Title||:||Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States|
|Number of Pages||:||336 pages|
August 05, 2017
This outstanding book, by the anarchist-tending academic James C. Scott, might be (but isn’t) subtitled “Barbarians Are Happier, Fatter and Better Looking.” The author does not believe the myth of the noble savage—but he thinks the savage is, on average, a lot better off than the peasant. Scott’s...
July 03, 2017
Can't stress enough how important it is for progressives/leftists to engage with James C. Scott's work. He's done more than probably anyone to shift my understanding of how states operate and their effects on their subjects, on ecosystems, and on nonstate peoples—the three of his books I've read...
August 13, 2017
Interesting counterpoint to the "ascent of man" kind of story we tell about ourselves when we think about history. The major point Scott is arguing is:
The shift from hunting and foraging to agriculture—a shift that was slow, halting, reversible, and sometimes incomplete—carried at lea...
September 24, 2017
James C. Scott teaches political science and anthropology at Yale. He’s a smooth writer and a deep thinker. A while back, he decided to update two lectures on agrarian societies that he had been giving for 20 years. He began studying recent research and — gasp! — realized that significant portion...
November 07, 2017
Historians of the ancient world have been telling us for centuries that from about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago larger and larger human communities formed in places like the Fertile Crescent, South China, the Indus River Valley of today’s western India and Pakistan, and Central America. To secure en...
November 14, 2017
Against the Grain is a popular science summary of the now substantial case that agriculture was not the products of innovation but rather ecological circumstance, that the state was not the beginning of the end of deprivation, savagery, and oppression, but the start of the worst examples in human...
October 22, 2017
I'm not in love with the modern world.
November 05, 2017
I won't go into a lot of summary in my review of Professor Scott's latest work, "Against the Grain." Other reviewers have done so here and far more ably than I ever could.
The question that arose in my mind is when did the idea of private property arise that would enable the elites t...
November 14, 2017
“I leave it to the reader to imagine how a precocious, all-knowing goat might narrate the history of disease transmission in the Neolithic.”
That’s a sentence I never expected to read. It’s of the sort that will give a thrill to certain readers and send others running for the exit. But I’m in the...
November 18, 2017
An outstanding history of the earliest states that introduced me to some new ideas I'll be thinking about for years to come. One significant idea is that literacy began and developed as a tool of the state. The first writing wasn't literature, it was accounting. I begin to see that the hostility...