Wengrow & Graeber, Large-Scale Societies Don’t Need Massive Inequalities

A wonderful Jacobin Magazine interview with David Wengrow, co-author with the late David Graeber of “The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity”, which describes their work based on indigenous “new world” archaeology and anthropology


He reviews how their consideration of new archaeological records puts to bed the myth that human history followed an evolutionary arc from simple and egalitarian to complex and hierarchical, challenging the assumption that democracy can work in small groups while scaling up requires domination and hierarchy. All of the big history books contained a completely artificial and out-of-date portrayal of what most of human history was like and what it means to live in a hunter-gatherer nonagricultural society. But the archaeological record completely confounds those assumptions. He describes huge Ukrainian, Moldovan and Aztec settlements of tens of thousands of people, which began about six thousand years ago where there was also no obvious evidence of wealth inequalities, and how in Teotihuacan they stopped building pyramids and embarked on an extraordinary project of social housing. He describes the Wendat leader Kondiaronk’s seventeenth century critique of French society which seeded Europe’s century of Enlightenment.

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