deresiewicz on doe and graeber
William Deresiewicz (/dəˈrɛzəwɪts/də-REZ-ə-wits; born 1964) is an American author, essayist, and literary critic, who taught English at Yale University from 1998 to 2008. He is the author of A Jane Austen Education (2011), Excellent Sheep (2014), and The Death of the Artist (2020).
via david wengrow:
Just out: this in-depth review in @TheAtlantic is both very moving and also gets right to the heart of the matter about #TheDawnOfEverything – what this book of mine and @davidgraeber is truly about. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/11/graeber-wengrow-dawn-of-everything-history-humanity/620177/
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidwengrow/status/1450088189931270150
notes/quotes from article:
A brilliant account of 30,000 years of change upends the bedrock assumptions about human history.
Many years ago, when I was a junior professor at Yale, I cold-called a colleague in the anthropology department for assistance with a project I was working on. I didn’t know anything about the guy; I just selected him because he was young, and therefore, I figured, more likely to agree to talk.
Five minutes into our lunch, I realized that I was in the presence of a genius. Not an extremely intelligent person—a genius. There’s a qualitative difference. The individual across the table seemed to belong to a different order of being from me, .. t.. like a visitor from a higher dimension. I had never experienced anything like it before. I quickly went from trying to keep up with him, to hanging on for dear life, to simply sitting there in wonder.. that person was david graeber
On September 2, 2020, at the age of 59, David Graeber died of necrotizing pancreatitis while on vacation in Venice. The news hit me like a blow. How many books have we lost, I thought, that will never get written now? How many insights, how much wisdom, will remain forever unexpressed? The appearance of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity is thus bittersweet, at once a final, unexpected gift and a reminder of what might have been. In his foreword, Graeber’s co-author, David Wengrow, an archaeologist at University College London, mentions that the two had planned no fewer than three sequels.
All of these scenarios are unthinkable within the conventional narrative.
The overriding point is that hunter-gatherers made choices—conscious, deliberate, collective—about the ways that they wanted to organize their societies: to apportion work, dispose of wealth, distribute power. In other words, they practiced politics.. None of these groups, as far as we have reason to believe, resembled the simple savages of popular imagination, unselfconscious innocents who dwelt within a kind of eternal present or cyclical dreamtime, waiting for the Western hand to wake them up and fling them into history.
Early farming embodied what Graeber and Wengrow call “the ecology of freedom”: the freedom to move in and out of farming, to avoid getting trapped by its demands or endangered by the ecological fragility that it entails.
The authors write their chapters on cities against the idea that large populations need layers of bureaucracy to govern them—that scale leads inevitably to political inequality.
What is the state? the authors ask. Not a single stable package that’s persisted all the way from pharaonic Egypt to today, but a shifting combination of, as they enumerate them, the three elementary forms of domination: control of violence (sovereignty), control of information (bureaucracy), and personal charisma (manifested, for example, in electoral politics). . t.. Some states have displayed just two, some only one—which means the union of all three, as in the modern state, is not inevitable (and may indeed, with the rise of planetary bureaucracies like the World Trade Organization, be already decomposing). More to the point, the state itself may not be inevitable.
Is “civilization” worth it, the authors want to know, if civilization—ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, imperial Rome, the modern regime of bureaucratic capitalism enforced by state violence—means the loss of what they see as our three basic freedoms: the freedom to disobey, the freedom to go somewhere else, and the freedom to create new social arrangements? .. t.. Or does civilization rather mean “mutual aid, social co-operation, civic activism, hospitality [and] simply caring for others”?
These are questions that Graeber, a committed anarchist—an exponent not of anarchy but of anarchism, the idea that people can get along perfectly well without governments—asked throughout his career. The Dawn of Everything is framed by an account of what the authors call the “indigenous critique.”
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b legit free people
The Indigenous critique, as articulated by these figures in conversation with their French interlocutors, amounted to a wholesale condemnation of French—and, by extension, European—society: its incessant competition, its paucity of kindness and mutual care, its religious dogmatism and irrationalism, and most of all, its horrific inequality and lack of freedom. The authors persuasively argue that Indigenous ideas, carried back and publicized in Europe, went on to inspire the Enlightenment (the ideals of freedom, equality, and *democracy, they note, had theretofore been all but absent from the Western philosophical tradition). They go further, making the case that the conventional account of human history as a saga of material progress was developed in reaction to the Indigenous critique in order to salvage the honor of the West... t.. We’re richer, went the logic, so we’re better. The authors ask us to **rethink what better might actually mean.
*we need to let go of any form of democratic admin
The Dawn of Everything is not a brief for anarchism, though anarchist values—antiauthoritarianism, participatory democracy, small-c communism—are everywhere implicit in it. Above all, it is a brief for possibility, which was, for Graeber, perhaps the highest value of all. The book is something of a glorious mess, full of fascinating digressions, open questions, and missing pieces. . t.. It aims to replace the dominant grand narrative of history not with another of its own devising, but with the outline of a picture, only just becoming visible, of a human past replete with political experiment and creativity.
How did we get stuck?” the authors ask—stuck, that is, in a world of “war, greed, exploitation [and] systematic indifference to others’ suffering”? It’s a pretty good question. “If something did go terribly wrong in human history,” they write, “then perhaps it began to go wrong precisely when people started losing that freedom to imagine and enact other forms of social existence.” .. t.. It isn’t clear to me *how many possibilities are left us now,..t.. in a world of polities whose populations number in the tens or hundreds of millions. But stuck we certainly are.
*enough.. ie: there is a nother way .. could say it’s one for all.. or could say it’s all of them.. either way.. enough