Kate Griffiths reviews 'Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States' by James C. Scott

Kate Griffiths reviews 'Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States' by James C. Scott

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

by James C. Scott

Yale University Press (Footprint), $44.99 hb, 329 pp, 9780300182910

Kate Griffiths

Kate Griffiths

Kate Griffiths is a scientist and analyst, with experience in strategy consulting and public policy development. Prior to joining

...

The old narrative goes that first we were hunter–gatherers, then we discovered farming, then agricultural communities ‘progressed’ to states and, eventually, industrial cities. This ‘progression’ is supposedly how humans became ‘civilised’. This old narrative has been debunked by many. In Against the Grain: A deep history of the earliest states, James C. Scott explores why the ideas of progression and superiority of civilisation don’t make sense. He examines the key characteristics that made early states possible, the risks and rewards of sedentary life, and the two-way street between hunter–gatherer and farmer.

Against the Grain focuses on the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia, in the years 6,500 to 1,600 BCE. Australian readers seeking a better understanding of our own deep history and context in the world will be disappointed. The whole Southern Hemisphere barely rates a mention.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in March 2018, no. 399

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.