doe at lse

dawn of everything with david wengrow and soul of david graeber at lse (part of lse graeber series)

Talking about #TheDawnOfEverything means confronting my friend’s death and celebrating the life of his ideas. Not sure how one does this when all’s so fresh but seems nowhere better to start than here w. @alpashah001 – come join us @LSEInequalities Oct.13

Original Tweet:

from lse site:

Join us for this event in which David Wengrow will be in conversation with Alpa Shah about his new book co-authored with the late David Graeber, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity.

A new science of history, it overturns our ideas of social evolution, and reveals new possibilities for human emancipation. Drawing on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, Graeber and Wengrow question our fundamental assumptions about the origins of inequality, showing how history contains many more hopeful moments than we’ve been led to believe, once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what’s really there.

David Graeber’s parting gift, this is his last book which he completed just before he died. We honour David Graeber in this event.

Alpa Shah (@alpashah001) is Professor of Anthropology at LSE, convenes a research theme at the LSE International Inequalities Institute and is author of the award-winning Nightmarch: Among India’s Revolutionary Guerrillas.

Francisco Ferreira (@fhgferreira) is the Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies and Director of the International Inequalities Institute at LSE.

An LSE Anthropology Research Seminar series will take place from October to December 2021 in honour of David Graeber and his work.

The International Inequalities Institute (@LSEInequalities) at LSE brings together experts from many LSE departments and centres to lead cutting-edge research focused on understanding why inequalities are escalating in numerous arenas across the world, and to develop critical tools to address these challenges.

This event forms part of LSE’s Shaping the Post-COVID World initiative, a series imagining what the world could look like after the crisis, and how we get there

to (virus) leap.. ie: org around legit needs

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEPostCOVID


notes/quotes for zoom (90 min):

alpa: so many things that could have derailed the doe .. on david being so sick.. soapy taste in mouth.. pins/needles.. i wonder if he knew what was to come.. so characteristic of david.. he made sure he would leave us w this.. a partying gift.. a gift he has been gestating w wengrow over last decade.. i remember when david intro’d me to wengrow.. d: ‘you’ve got to meet him’.. it was david’s bday.. he’d found the perfect partner to rethink the past.. and offer opps for future.. persevere you did.. both of you in diff ways.. i know it’s difficult for you wendgrow.. w/o david.. as the two of you draw out magic that has been hidden in our sight.. exploding such myths and giving us new ones.. t kept for the reader to discover in 700 pages.. who’s magic we’ll only be able to elude to today.. all those yrs ago when you began you were going to write a book about ineq

d: you are one of the very few people who have been w this from the beginning.. in beginning were planning to write small book on origins of ineq.. and decade later.. big book explicitly not about social origins of ineq.. t.. in first ch.. we ask why anyone would think that was a good question in the first place.. because it assumes so much..

d: what spurred us to write it.. other works out there.. basically wrong.. and some political.. worrying.. on (the myth).. ie: the origin of cities inevitably leads to the state.. et al

a: on tearing down these great men.. rousseau and hobbes et al

d: yeah.. we did have a bit a fun at beginning of book.. but even rousseau said.. i’m making these up.. but fate in hands of modern socialists.. quite opposite.. taken as fact.. actually r’s is much weirder than we realize.. ie: isolated individuals wandering thru forest eating berries.. very happy.. then farming.. then labor.. all a parable to illustrate his point that man is born free but everywhere he is in chains..

d: whichever of these myths you go for end up in same place.. small means simple.. big means complex/hierarchical.. so end is that we’re stuck as side effect of living big societies.. structurally not much to be done.. fortunately though.. not true.. t

a: another man crucial to your story.. cangarough (?)

d: david’s not the first to say it.. indigenous historians have been writing about this for yrs.. but quite telling what does/doesn’t get air time in the academy.. so we’re standing on shoulders of others.. getting at.. what are the origins of the question of ineq/freedom

d: problem of historography.. debate.. can’t/can be true that indigenous had such impact.. wise savage.. et al.. became central to enlightened thought.. (used as scapegoat).. not only was savage a real person but we can say who he was.. cangarough (?).. invited to the table of the governor..

d: on obsession w money.. but lack of generosity.. (and then on more details)

d: in other words.. what we now think of social evolution was a direct reaction of indigenous critique of society

a: why is this oscillation so important

d: this happened right at beginning of project.. first thing that alerted us to break out of trap where it’s assume that before invention of agri people were void of imagination .. (then gave flavor of ie’s they present in book).. the whole idea that h&g are single mode of prodcution (is off).. many have altered seasonally between entirely diff (ways of living).. key is they apply same logic to political system.. about as far away as you could imagine from everyone living in h/g bants

graeber/wengrow back & forth law et al

a: and diff social structures living side by side

d: on anthros dividing culture areas.. question was almost never asked how these polar socieites ended up living next to each other.. in book.. we try to put together oral histories and archaeologist findings.. we’re not seeing complex h/g.. but societies very consciously constructing own futures.. in order to make sure things do/don’t happen.. in this place.. slavery.. kind of same point w seasonality.. stepping in/out social skin.. can reflect back on or imagine other.. and choose not to do that.. and on how much that potential for self conscious transformation has been written out of human history

david & david on stupid savage

d: once you make this step you can do away w all those silly this .. are we innately ___? et al.. no.. what makes us sapiens is our ability to navigate.. no longer asking origins of ineq.. but how did we get stuck

a: what are the issues of scale.. been thinking had so be h/g small groups.. in book you make opp argument.. larger societies living in smaller scale

d: fav of those read so far.. is that we pick apart this idea of scale.. on needing props/judges/hierarchy.. just to keep it all together.. key point .. members of smaller societies are holding in their minds larger networks.. grand coalitions of societies.. held together by norms of ritual/hospitality

a: you show us egalitarian cities in mesopotamia.. how do you do that

d: that’s what it’s like working w david.. poking questions.. (and i’m telling him the details).. that no evidence for ineq’s.. so he pokes on.. finding the circular thing (when you keep asking questions)

a: let’s move on to gender.. neolithic matriarchy

d: actually we don’t make the case for neolithic matriarchy.. (then goes into that).. how didi we get stuck .. it’s not agri/cities these are all silly/simple stories.. but gender relations are really fundamental to how we got stuck in hierarchical patterns.. ie: taken patriarchal household as basic form.. question is how/when did that happen.. but partly because gender topic so tabooed.. hard to find (info)..

d: that’s not to say we’re dealing w matriarchal society.. but doesn’t look like patriarchal either.. on question of matriarchal dying w cities.. yeah.. but rather.. the way you make freedoms visible..

a: on people self consciously thinking about ways we leave.. then things change and we can’t really move back and forth.. if no wealth et al

d: the other major element aside form gender is violence.. first we have to rule out pre historic societies were innately violent. just doesn’t hold up.. yes.. warfard.. but then long periods of peace.. so both deeply rooted..

d: so why sometimes does violence have large effects on society and when not: when they get mixed up w systems of care.. t

d: bloch: where extraordinary violence part of performance and actually performance e is to care for someone.. (ie: funeral ritual).. as david said.. stop being play kinds and become real sovereignty.. and how violence in care leads to loss of social freedoms..t

will hall.. crazywise (doc).. et al

need: org around legit needs

a: as you say in book.. this has nothing to do w modes of production.. what about capitalism.. can we produce more egal models under capitalism

d: depends on how you define capitalism.. david said not in c but in managerial feudalism

a: what does freedom mean

d: a lot of egalitarians weren’t’ egal in that sense.. didn’t care about how much people had.. but about freedoms.. esp women’s..

d: most people wouldn’t say today we don’t go strictly thru these phases.. but it still holds.. and we think because there’s no alt.. so we do go thru this i book

d: carangrough.. not trained in obedience as we have been.. so.. does seem helpful to look at basic freedoms.. and we’ve suggested 3

graeber and wengrow freedom law


1\ freedom to move away from conditions

2\ freedom to disobey arbitrary commands knowing you own’t be ostracized

3\ freedom to create entirely new/diff forms of society that move between alts t

d: we have basic forms of domination too .. but no time to go into them

q&a begins

f: q: 1\ historical emergence of domination in intimate spaces – household 2\ do stories have relations between humans and animals

d: 1\ pre servile .. this is the kind of question that could shed light on patriarchy origins.. we develop it a bit.. but hopefully other people will take that on

2\ something fundamentally weird about our concept of civilization.. congeal et al.. but when look at history very brutal.. so strange and paradoxical.. so we tried to change use of civilization.. instead of chains.. coalition that hold things together.. which is also a point about gender.. ie: woman often responsible for hospitality.. men responsible for monuments.. so whole concept of civ not going to go away.. but we can do better than we currently do

jensen civilization law

q: 1\ how does david seen decolonization of curic.. 2\ and ie’s from africa

a: 1\ we’d hoped to write more sequels.. w more i’es.. decolonization is something i see happening up close on my own campus.. i see it as basic/fundamental.. the idea that indigenous don’t have much to tell us is colonization.. ie: concepts of ownerships.. full ownership is from word much like abuse.. and opposite in indigenous .. rather.. based on caretaking.. colonialism (got us here) so decolonizing curric can correct that

decolonizing methodologies et al

a: the irony of it taking 2 white men to write this book (doe) to decolonize

d: what we’re trying to do in book is trying to undo (the damage/assumptions/colonization)

q: 1\ on covid changing structures 2\ how to cultivate/nurture collective comfort after your book of destroying myths

d: 2\ already have had this.. usually not reader that get depressed.. but academics who say.. ‘you’ve taken away our stories.. and haven’t given us another’.. but that’s the point.. ie: no sensible account of history could fit into a tweet.. but the old one does.. the kind of myths we’ve been relying on 1\ boring 2\ we face challenges about the 3rd freedom.. can we remake society that could make it diff.. to something like earth system, poverty, et al.. if you keep drumming into head that future is predetermined/preordained.. not helpful/true.. so important to stop these myths..t

graeber make it diff law

ie: a nother way

f: perfect segue into question i wanted to ask.. on not giving an alt.. is that true.. what is there to suggest that we would be able to overcome the bad parts.. that we can bring ourselves together in ways we’ve never done before.. utopia

d: i don’t think utopia is the point..

depends on defn.. ie: revolution: instigating utopia everyday

d: f – what do you mean that we have been trying for millennia

f: to order social lives..

d: history is difficult to see as trying to order society.. (rather destroying)

carhart-harris entropy law

d: the notion of order

f: there’s something about human nature where we oscillate between good/bad.. is there something that’s not a myth that can tell us we can do it diff

d: the book is the evidence tells us precisely that.. question i often get.. if you’re right why covered w nation states.. easiest answer.. at point of gun.. hard to explain as thousands of years of evolution.. that itself gives diff perspective of where we find ourselves

q: scott thompson.. graeber always trusts emergence thru dialogue.. how important is dialogue to structure of book and alt

2 conversations ness

d: david held.. if try to hold idea in head.. lose it.. but if in dialogue.. can hold it.. certainly my privilege was to have this dialogue w david.. he would do that w anyone.. so enriching.. we do in the book try to effect the whole (dialogue ness).. not something i’ve thought about much before.. but really is an essential theme




lse graeber series