The dominant narrative of human social evolution tells how our ancestors advanced from hunter gatherer clans to larger settlements, made possible by agriculture, and on to cities and modern nation states. With this growth in scale and complexity, leaders, bureaucracies and standing armies became necessary to maintain order and ensure security. Moreover, this linear path to ‘modern society’ has enabled greater levels of wealth and wellbeing than our ancestors could ever have dreamed of. As a result, we are living today in the best of all possible worlds.
The Dawn of Everything questions this comforting narrative and tells a very different story. It tells of how we lived for most of our time on Earth without presidents, kings, and pharaohs. It tells how our ancestors were acutely aware of the dangers of authoritarianism and were able to design and maintain, for thousands of years, social structures to guard against it. And it asks what went wrong? How did we come to live in this ‘best of all possible worlds’ in which so many a-holes – the Trumps and Putins and Xis – are in charge?Continue reading