david on dawn of everything

Book done! (a few words about Franz Steiner) – 8 min video of new book by david and david working on it (dawn of everything) for a decade – comes out nov 2021 – dawn of everything (book)

1 min – (toward end of last chapter).. if there’s a particular story we should be telling a question we should be asking of human history .. instead of the origins of social ineq.. it is precisely that.. how did we find ourselves stuck in just one single social reality..t and how did relations based ultimately on violence and domination come to be normalized w/in us

human history


telling people what to do

2 min – perhaps scholar who most closely approached this question in the last century .. was an anthropologist and poet named franz steiner who died in 1952.. brilliant polymath born to a jewish fam in bohemia.. later lived w an arab fam in jerusalem until expelled by british authorities.. conducted field work in the carpathians .. and was twice forced by the nazis to flee the continent.. ending career in s england


3 min – dissertation on slavery.. stolen on train.. died of heart attack at 43

pre servile institutions.. what happens in diff cultural/historical situations to.. people who become unmoored..t.. expelled from clans, castaways, criminals, runaways.. it can be read as a history of how refugees such as himself were first welcomed.. treated as almost sacred beings.. then gradually degraded/exploited.. much like the women working in the sumarian temple factories

refugees et al

crazywise (doc)

even deeper.. decision making is unmooring us.. et al

4 min – in essence .. the story told by steiner appears to be precisely about the collapse of what we would term the *first basic freedom.. to move away or relocate.. and how this paved the way for the loss of the **second.. the freedom to disobey or ignore orders..t

*freedom to quit **zinn obedience law

free\dom and telling people what to do ness

it also leads us to a point we made earlier.. about the progressive division of the human social universe into smaller and smaller units.. beginning w the appearance of culture areas.. so called

marsh label law et al

a fascination of ethnologist in the central european tradition in which steiner was first trained

what happens.. steiner asked.. when expectations that make freedom of movement possible.. the norms of hospitality and asylum.. civility and shelter.. erode

constant hospitality law.. jensen civilization law

what does there so often appear to be a catalyst for creating the kind of situations where some people can exert arbitrary power over others

people telling other people what to do

graeber violence in care law

5 min – steiner worked his way in careful detail thru cases ranging from the amazonian q/wuitoto (?) and east african sofwa (?) to the tibeto burman lushine (?).. along the journey he suggested one possible answer to the question that had so puzzled robert lowie and later kloster

.. if stateless societies do regularly org themselves in such a way that chiefs have no coercive power.. then how did top down forms of org ever come into the world to begin with.. the reader will recall that lowie and kloster came to the same conclusion.. that they must have been the product of religious revelation

i’d say the earlier societies had the coercion as well.. just gentler.. more subtle.. and i’d say it all started with .. at least one thing that started it.. pursuit of knowledge.. intellect ness.. thinking we know things .. rather than realizing everyone is already enough..

when we start thinking we have (or can have) knowledge.. (which i doubt you would but i’d date back to the garden).. then we intro a pecking order.. we intro the notion that some people will be needing to tell other (lesser) people what to do ..

steiner provided an alt route.. perhaps he suggested.. it all goes back to charity.. in amazonian societies.. not only orphans .. but also widows.. mad.. disabled.. or deformed.. if they had no one else to look after them .. were allowed to take refuge in the chief’s residence.. where they received a share of communal meals.. to these were occasionally added war captives.. esp children.. taken in raiding expeditions

i’d include charity in that pursuit of knowledge power.. ie: thinking others (lessers) need our help.. and so using help\ing as a cover for dominance/violence et al

6 min – among the sofwa or lushine.. runners, debtors, criminals, .. or others needing the same protection held the same status.. as those who had surrendered in battle.. all became members of the chief’s retinue (retinue is a body of persons “retained” in the service of a noble) and the younger males often took on the role of police like enforcers.. how much power the chief actually had over his retainers.. steiner uses the roman law term.. potestas (?) which denotes among other things.. a father’s power or arbitrary command over his dependents and their property.. would vary.. depending on how easy it was for wards to run away and find refuge elsewhere or maintain at least some ties w relatives, clans, or outsiders willing to stand up for them.. how far such henchmen could be relied on to enforce the chief’s will also varied.. but the sheer potential is important

huge.. that notion of some better than others

what we need to get back/to is discrimination as equity.. nationality: human ness.. et al

in all such cases.. the process of *giving refuge did (?) to generally lead to the transformation of basic domestic arrangements.. esp as captured women were incorporated.. further reenforcing the potestas of fathers

*key word – giving ness.. red flag we’re dehumanizing

7 min – it is possible to detect something of this logic in almost all historically documented royal courts.. which invariably attracted those considered freakish or detached.. there seems to be no region in the world from china to the andes where courtly societies did not *host such obviously distinctive individuals of plumarks (?) who did not also claim to be the protectors of widows and orphans..

*another key word – hosting ness

and graeber violence in care law

one could easily imagine something along these lines was already happening in certain hunter gatherer communities during much earlier periods of history.. the physically anomolist individuals recorded lavish burials in the last ice age must have also been the focus of much caring and attention (?) while alive..

yeah (not sure if this is what you’re saying).. but i’d say/agree.. h g’s weren’t legit common\ing (to me that means all people living in equity – everyone getting a go everyday).. weren’t a legit undisturbed ecosystem

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

8 min – steiner’s observations are directly relevant to debates about the origins of patriarchy.. connection between external .. largely male.. violence and transformation of woman’s status in the home.. in archaeological/historical terms.. we’re only just beginning to gather enough material to begin to understand how this process actually worked

perhaps.. (esp now – during rare global pause) let’s focus on how to undo it)


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people



here is me in a Berlin kitchen reporting the book with .@davidwengrow is finished, and sampling a couple paragraphs about the great Franz Steiner


Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1291645201572921345

@davidgraeber: working title is “The Dawn of Everything” but we don’t think they’ll let us use it. The one David and I have been writing since forever.


A little Sunday poem for my absent friend.
It’s called: 

‘You like to think, . . . but you’re wrong’
(or #TheDawnOfEverything in 12 short movements)

For @davidgraeber https://t.co/K1ttpOEw6P

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidwengrow/status/1315225444896043008


graeber readingsgraeber and wengrow freedom law