Blogging Dawn of Everything, Chap 1, pt 2

I’m reading The Dawn of Everything by David Wengrow and David Graeber.

Part 1 here.

This already seems like a terrible idea. But we press on! Last time I got up to the discussion of Malinowski. Dx2 go on to “list just a few” of the ways that what a modern observer might assume to be “trade” can be something else. This is the sort of interesting stuff that anthropology brings to the world, so it’s a shame that its presented as a rebuttal to Adam Smith rather than the lead to the section.


“In this book we will not only be presenting a new history of humankind, but inviting the reader into a new science of history, one that restores our ancestors to their full humanity.”

Looking forward to it.

They cite the book as trying to do as “Gordon Childe did when, back in the 1930s, he invented phrases like ‘the Neolithic Revolution’ or ‘The Urban Revolution’.” I don’t know Gordon Childe and I have wondered who coined those phrases.

“…the real breakthrough moment came when we decided to move away from European thinkers like Rousseau…” Ha ha. As if they’ve moved away.

Thus ends Chapter 1.

So what do I think so far?

  1. Loved the discussion of the weakness of ‘inequality’ as a concept.
  2. Loved the mention of how people who straddle modern and indigenous worlds, when they have a choice, almost always seem to choose the indigenous world. And not because they like the primitive technology, but because they like having someone care about them.
  3. Wanted more citations of authors and research they respect.
  4. Wanted less discussion of authors and perspectives they don’t respect (Other than Malinowski and one other guy, all the names cited are disses.)
  5. Wanted much less discussion of the European philosophers Dx2 claim to have left behind. I don’t think they understand those philosophers very well. Since the Enlightenment was generally a left-wing movement it makes sense that a lot of conservatives work hard to blame contemporary problems on those foundations, but why lefties like Dx2 are so intent on sawing the cartoon branch they (and all of us) are sitting on, deserves more exploration than I can scribble here.
  6. Absolutely HATED the lazy habit of calling people ‘Hobbesian’ and ‘Rousseauian’ when those people are not active and direct students, followers, or advocates of Hobbes or Rousseau. It’s like calling a non-church-going atheist a “Christian” because the superficial pattern of their beliefs seems to resemble ideas first proposed by Christians.

Next: Chapter 2 Wicked Liberty: The indigenous critique and the myth of progress


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