Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott

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Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States Read Online Free - An account of all the new and surprising evidence now available for the beginnings of the earliest civilizations that contradict the standard narrative

Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today’s states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical evidence challenges this narrative. The first agrarian states, says James C. Scott, were born of accumulations of domestications: first fire, then plants, livestock, subjects of the state, captives, and finally women in the patriarchal family—all of which can be viewed as a way of gaining control over reproduction.

Scott explores why we avoided sedentism and plow agriculture, the advantages of mobile subsistence, the unforeseeable disease epidemics arising from crowding plants, animals, and grain, and why all early states are based on millets and cereal grains and unfree labor. He also discusses the “barbarians” who long evaded state control, as a way of understanding continuing tension between states and nonsubject peoples.

Title : Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0300182910
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 pages


Hadrian rated it ★★★☆☆

December 10, 2017

Curious study about the long process of the development of agriculture and state-building, through the process of manipulating the environment, or becoming dependent on agriculture. I'd become familiar with Scott's work through his novel and innovative studies of Southeast Asia, his studies on pe...

Charles rated it ★★★★★

August 05, 2017

This outstanding book, by the anarchist-tending academic James C. Scott, might be (but isn’t) subtitled “Barbarians Are Happier, Fatter and Better Looking.” The author does not believe the myth of the noble savage—but he thinks the savage is, on average, a lot better off than the peasant. Scott’s...

Dayton rated it ★★★★☆

July 03, 2017

Can't stress enough how important it is for progressives/leftists to engage with James C. Scott's work. He's done more than probably anyone to shift my understanding of how states operate and their effects on their subjects, on ecosystems, and on nonstate peoples—the three of his books I've read...

Richard rated it ★★★★★

September 24, 2017

James C. Scott teaches political science and anthropology at Yale. He’s a smooth writer and a deep thinker. A while back, he decided to update two lectures on agrarian societies that he had been giving for 20 years. He began studying recent research and — gasp! — realized that significant portion...

Jayesh rated it ★★★★☆

August 13, 2017

Too short... Interesting counterpoint to the "ascent of man" kind of story we tell about ourselves when we think about history. The major point Scott is arguing is: The shift from hunting and foraging to agriculture—a shift that was slow, halting, reversible, and sometimes incomplete—carried at lea...

Mal rated it ★★★★☆

November 07, 2017

Historians of the ancient world have been telling us for centuries that from about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago larger and larger human communities formed in places like the Fertile Crescent, South China, the Indus River Valley of today’s western India and Pakistan, and Central America. To secure en...

Adam rated it ★★★★☆

November 14, 2017

Against the Grain is a popular science summary of the now substantial case that agriculture was not the products of innovation but rather ecological circumstance, that the state was not the beginning of the end of deprivation, savagery, and oppression, but the start of the worst examples in human...

Ed rated it ★★★★★

January 16, 2018

This book takes a long look--very long, mainly from 12.000 BCE to 1600 CE at an area that begins in the alluvial basin of modern day Iraq and broadens out to include the Nile valley, Southeast Asia, the Yellow River valley and modern day Central America. Scott examines the effect of grain farming...

Nick rated it ★★★★☆

February 26, 2018

This is sort of the academic version of Daniel Quinn's _Ishmael_. It's an exploration of the current state of knowledge about the emergence of agriculture and the first states, mostly focusing on Mesopotamia but with occasional mentions of early civilizations in China and the Americas. Scott writ...

Benjamin rated it ★★★★☆

December 08, 2017

“Beyond the morphological and physiological consequences of domestication for man and beast lie changes in behavior and sensibility that are more difficult to codify. The physical and cultural realms are closely connected. Is it the case, for example, that like their domesticates, sedentary, grai...

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