I just finished The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow. I don’t read much nonfiction, and when I do, I generally read the first third and figure the rest will give examples supporting the thesis. In this case, I read every fascinating page, full of descriptions of the wide array of Neolithic societies. The book challenges the basic assumption of history, archeology, and anthropology for the past couple hundred years: that egalitarian hunter-gathering societies inevitably “evolved” toward hierarchical and exploitative models as they developed agriculture and became more populous and complex.
Graeber and Wengrow argue that the evidence indicates that many early “civilizations” were composed of complex but egalitarian cities like Teotecuatcan in Mexico. The development of classes was a choice that some societies made, but many did not.
What does this new understanding of history mean for leftists? Graeber has identified as an anarchist and has been credited with the concept of the one percent. But the implications go beyond ideological differences. What they imply is consistent with anarchism, but with other possible social models as well. Their thesis strongly implies that change comes from the bottom, that it’s up to us to reclaim the three primordial freedoms: the freedom to move anywhere, the freedom to refuse any commands, and the freedom to restructure society.
We could start with the public, working-class schools. Teachers, parents, and students need to start taking them over and determining our own curriculum based on who is in the building. What do students know? What do they need to know? What do teachers know? What do they need to know? What do parents know? What do they need to know?