Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 909–910 | Cite as

James C. Scott: Against the grain: a deep history of the earliest states

Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2017, 312 pp., ISBN 978-0-300-18291-0
  • Johann StrubeEmail author

We have been taught that Homo sapiens domesticated the natural world to settle down and free labor for cultural achievements beyond survival. The resulting division of labor inevitably led to the emergence of the first states. According to James Scott’s latest work, Against the Grain, it is time for us to seriously question this textbook narrative. In this book, Scott reviews the latest literature on domestication and early state formation and connects the findings to tell a thoroughly different story. He suggests that in areas of high ecological productivity, humans became sedentary three millennia before they began to domesticate plants and animals, and after that, it was not until another three millennia later that something like an organized agrarian society around fixed fields appeared (Chaps. 1 and 2). For most but the elites, these proto-states were unattractive places. Trying to avoid disease, drudgery and oppression, mobile peoples such as hunter–gatherers, pastoralists and...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and EducationThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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