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Publisher's Summary

A trailblazing account of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution - from the development of agriculture and cities to the emergence of "the state", political violence, and social inequality - and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike - either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the 18th century as a conservative reaction to powerful critiques of European society posed by Indigenous observers and intellectuals. Revisiting this encounter has startling implications for how we make sense of human history today, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery, and civilization itself.

Drawing on pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what’s really there. If humans did not spend 95 percent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture and cities did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? What was really happening during the periods that we usually describe as the emergence of "the state"? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of human history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful, hopeful possibilities, than we tend to assume.

The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision, and a faith in the power of direct action.

A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

©2021 David Graeber and David Wengrow (P)2021 Macmillan Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

2021, Barnes and Noble Best New Books of the Year

2021, NPR Best Book of the Year

2021, Amazon.com Best Books of the Year

What listeners say about The Dawn of Everything

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Embarrassingly Bad

David Graeber may have been a genius, but this posthumous work is an embarrassment to his intellectual legacy. One can only imagine that it’s David Wengrow doing the actual writing. In chapter 1, the authors criticize that other scholars aren’t willing to speculate on the topic of inequality; thus implying some unknown proportion of this book is speculative instead of say, scholarship.

In chapter 3, the authors go after Yuval Harari for comparing humans to apes (they appear unaware that hominids and by extension humans are a form of ape; this impression of ignorance is reinforced with an interchangeable use of the words monkey and ape a few sentences later). They use this comparison to liken Harari to avowed white supremacists, something so absurd and shameful I want to smack both Davids in response.

The tone of this work is strident, arrogant and very young, and they found the narrator that conveys these qualities. I found his higher pitch painful to my ears. It’s like listening to a college freshman home for winter break, filled to the brim with wokeness of his professor and eager to tell his family how wrong they all are for every opinion they’ve ever held. The rhetoric and fallacious logic are expressed, but the nuance and maturity of the person who actually held the views is absent.

112 people found this helpful

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exactly what I've been looking for

Great book, reader is solid. not sure what the other reviewer's problem was. the reader is British, but has clear English and a varied jovial reading voice. Almost every other book he has narrated has near 5 starts. Just wanted to get in early and let potential listeners that the coast is all clear and it is not a waste of a credit.

The information is golden. I also like the writing style of the authors. Lots of light humor and a bit of sarcasm. Well laid out theories.

91 people found this helpful

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TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON THE INEQUALITIES IN HISTORY

~ This book is not about the history or evolution of humankind as a factual reference.
~ It is a story cloaked as an objective & comparative narration of evolution with human history, whereas inequality values is the main subjective focus.
~ It is all about inequality throughout history, focusing on recanting, retorting, & reprosing upon it thru an Egalitarian point of view.
~ Egalitarians believe all people should be treated equal & have equal opportunities.
~ The whole story emotionally compares evolution to history on an extreme polar inequality basis, mainly as an objective differentiation of rich vs poor, intelligent vs innocent, strong vs weak, etc. thru the eyes of egalitarians.
~ It is basically a toned down complaint about humankind history's inequalities.

66 people found this helpful

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I was an Anthropology Major

When studying the 'foraging' tribes, it is NEVER from the tribes' point of view in any textbook I got as a student. This book is opening my eyes to a truth that I hope will become the norm in Social Science, and the mainstream public.

64 people found this helpful

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Arrogant and full of grievance politics

This book was not at all what I was expecting. I love books that challenge conventional wisdom and generate new intellectual inquiry as food for thought. Pre-history is ripe for this sort of exploration. Instead the authors just attack other philosophers and academics for being wrong… Often using straw man set ups to make their arguments look stronger. But rarely are they backing up the own assertions with much substance. Too often the criticisms are just falling back on tropes of being of a narrow minded Western European perspective. And in using, for example, indigenous perspective you become inherently wiser.

I just didn’t get what the authors were trying to do. So often I wanted to yell at them “Just because others are wrong doesn’t make your views right! Back it up!”

31 people found this helpful

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Performance!!!

After seeing the only other review, I was pleasantly surprised. I'm partially through and cannot wait to hear the rest.

30 people found this helpful

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Excellent

This paired with Graeber's Debt is a fantastic one-two punch to the common narrative of how society functions. Both lay bare the arrogance and paternalism of the the so called modern West.

If you are an American, adding Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, will further drive home the key points raised in the other two books.

The Dawn of Everything is a huge breath of fresh air in these dark times and just the boost I needed to keep going in this crazy world.

29 people found this helpful

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Worth reading with a pinch of salt

This is not a search for truth, but a search for, and examination of, egalitarian societies throughout history. This is interesting and, even if you are very well read in history, you will learn some interesting facts about historical egalitarian societies. Nevertheless the authors have a clear point of view that the current level of inequality in society is clearly "bad" and more egalitarian societies are clearly better. At one level, this is hard to argue with, yet at another level, the current level of inequality can be considered neither bad not good, but simply the result of evolution.

The book attacks several straw-men positions. They basically take over-generalized theories and conclusions and successfully demonstrate those are over-generalizations. One has to agree that agriculture (on its own) does not inevitably lead to non-egalitarian power structures. Instead, accumulation of stored resources does (and accumulation of stored resources tends to be highly correlated with agriculture).

The authors don't really address the related point of why the numerous egalitarian societies ceased to exist (other then they were destroyed by bad non-egalitarians). The authors point out that more egalitarian societies can exist for many hundreds or even thousands of years. They seem to imply this is just as good as existing until the present....but of course it is not.

Perhaps instead there is a strong overall, very long term, survival benefit in accumulating stored resources. Egalitarian societies can survive for centuries but eventually the environment will change (or there will just be a long string of bad years) leading to internal failure or weakness and being conquered by a group who stored resources.

Some reviewers did not like the narration. I found the narration clear and clean if slightly uninspired.

28 people found this helpful

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Crap

The book starts out by condemning Steven Pinker for basing his work on anecdotes. It then proceeds to use anecdotes for its theories. Worse still is expanding small examples into universal explanations. These authors are not up to Pinker at all. I will be getting a refund.

22 people found this helpful

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Tiresome and biased

This book badly needs editing. The tone is contemptuous and sarcastic throughout. The important anthropological research gets lost in a strained political argument. I was deeply disappointed.

19 people found this helpful