The Dawn of Everything Book Summary - The Dawn of Everything Book explained in key points
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The Dawn of Everything summary

David Graeber & David Wengrow

A New History of Humanity

4.1 (378 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber & David Wengrow explores the origin and evolution of society from ancient civilizations to present times. It challenges traditional assumptions about human history and offers a new perspective on how societies have been formed and organized.

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    The Dawn of Everything
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 9

    Society didn’t develop in a linear fashion.

    When it comes to how human society developed, there are two opposing stories. 

    The first one comes from the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and it goes like this: Once upon a time, we were all hunter-gatherers. We lived in small bands, and everyone was more or less equal. Then came the advent of agriculture. We figured out how to cultivate plants and animals, and we stopped hunting and gathering. This agricultural revolution led to more complex political structures, not to mention advancements in cultural phenomena such as the arts, philosophy, and literature. It also spawned hierarchical phenomena like patriarchy, mass execution, and interminable bureaucracy.

    The other story was developed by a decidedly grumpier thinker, the English writer Thomas Hobbes. His story goes like this: Humans are, at their core, selfish creatures. In the past, life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Hierarchy and domination, he believed, have always been an aspect of human society.

    So which story is true? Most social scientists would anwer: a bit of both. But when you look at the evidence, including an ever-increasing archeological archive, it becomes clear that the bit-of-both answer is also unsatisfactory. You see, both stories posit linearity. That is, they both argue that, from a pre-civilized condition – be it Rousseau’s condition of equality or Hobbes’s condition of hierarchy – we evolved into our current “civilized” state. But when you examine the evidence and think carefully about it, the truth is that human society did not develop linearly. Civilization did not march forward. It marched sideways, it went backward, it stood still. And, anyway, the “marching forward” metaphor is silly and misleading, since it’s not necessarily accurate to think that our society is better than those that preceded it. 

    So why is it so hard for us to imagine alternatives to the stories of Rousseau and Hobbes?

    Early societies were a lot more complex – and interesting – than we’re taught to believe. These blinks seek to restore our ancestors to their full humanity, showing that many more possibilities for political organization and social interaction exist.

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    What is The Dawn of Everything about?

    The Dawn of Everything (2021) is a reimagining of the history of humanity, based on new discoveries in the worlds of anthropology and archeology. According to the authors, new findings challenge what we thought we knew about hierarchies, inequality, property, and the state. 

    The Dawn of Everything Review

    The Dawn of Everything (2021) explores the origins of civilization and challenges long-held narratives about human history. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous research and thought-provoking arguments, it unveils a fresh perspective on how societies developed and highlights the diversity of human experiences.
    • By questioning mainstream assumptions, the book stimulates critical thinking and encourages readers to reevaluate their understanding of the past and its implications for the future.
    • Through compelling storytelling and engaging narratives, it brings ancient cultures to life and immerses readers in a captivating exploration of our shared history.

    Who should read The Dawn of Everything?

    • Anyone who’s ever shaken their fist at bureaucracy
    • History lovers of all stripes
    • Those who want to be Indiana Jones when they grow up

    About the Author

    David Graeber was an American anthropologist and anarchist. He authored several books including Bullshit Jobs and Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

    David Wengrow is a British archeologist who has written extensively about Neolithic societies and the emergence of the first states in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

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    The Dawn of Everything FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Dawn of Everything?

    The Dawn of Everything challenges the idea of human nature and presents a new perspective on our shared history.

    How long does it take to read The Dawn of Everything?

    The reading time for The Dawn of Everything varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Dawn of Everything a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Dawn of Everything is worth reading as it provides fresh insights into human society and challenges common assumptions.

    Who is the author of The Dawn of Everything?

    The authors of The Dawn of Everything are David Graeber and David Wengrow.

    What to read after The Dawn of Everything?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Dawn of Everything, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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