Chris Knight: Senior research fellow in anthropology at University College London, where he forms part of a team researching the origins of our species in Africa.
The Dawn of Everything’s central idea is challenging. We are told that humans are politically adventurous and experimental – so much so that after a spell of freedom and equality, people are inclined to choose oppression just to make a change. History takes a rhythmic form, oscillating between one extreme and the next. In recent times, however, we’ve all got stuck in just one system and we must try to understand why.
All this is new and refreshing but hardly credible. I prefer the standard anthropological view that the political instincts and social emotions that define our humanity were shaped under conditions of egalitarianism.