doe – room for happenstance

Making Room for Happenstance – By Phil Christman @phil_christman – nov 2021

on david graeber and david wengrow‘s dawn of everything (book)


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notes/quotes from article:

The writers know more than I ever will about everything, but they speak to the reader as Kondiaronk might have spoken to Lahontan: one rational creature to another, asking Why must things be this way?.. t

The authors’ main claim, anyway, is not that early human beings were simply “more equal” or, as in the opposing myth, “more stupid and violent.” It’s that they were more everything.. t

christman on doe

And anthropological, historical, and archeological evidence alike suggest the possibility that many other seemingly inevitable parts of human history originated, too, from happenstance: as play, as ritual, as simple human dinking around..t

in the city.. as the day ness – via deep dive

As ancient peoples experimented with a variety of social arrangements we can only begin to guess at, often varying their lifeways with the season, they were encouraged in various directions by “schismogenesis,” the anthropologist’s term for the tendency of human groups to define themselves against each other.


These are ultimately quibbles about a great book. (after section on critiques) The authors have organized a profusion of ideas, details, and explanatory paradigms into a vast but comprehensible design, while never ceasing to delight and instruct. Most of all, the book’s moral argument—which, again, the authors make quite openly, even if they feint at the kind of relativism that would invalidate the whole enterprise—could hardly be more pertinent. So many people feel caught up in some inevitable, terminal historical logic or other: decline, decadence, the surveillance state, the capitalist death drive. We all feel the ecological screws tightening upon us—tightened, in a roundabout way, by us, or by some of us. But humanity has lived more lives than anyone has written down. We need to end the burning of carbon for profit, and we need to prepare for a hotter, more crowded planet. But we also need to remember that we can and will surprise ourselves..t

graeber unpredictability/surprise law