Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott

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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
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0300182910
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 pages


Charles rated it ★★★★★

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...

Jayesh rated it ★★★★☆

August 13, 2017

Too short... 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...

Dayton rated it ★★★★☆

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...

Richard rated it ★★★★★

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...

Stephen rated it ★★★★★

September 24, 2017

Scott's provocative look at the formation of early states could easily have been subtitled "Civilization and its Discontents." Scott's sympathies are clear: as between states and non-state peoples, he views the latter groups as healthier and leading lives of less drudgery. States, he argues, coer...

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