Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

by James C. Scott

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300240214
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 07/24/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 122,495
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author


James C. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science and codirector of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction. A Narrative in Tatters: What I Didn't Know 1

1 The Domestication of Fire, Plants, Animals, and … Us 37

2 Landscaping the World: The Domus Complex 68

3 Zoonoses: A Perfect Epidemiological Storm 93

4 Agro-ecology of the Early State 116

5 Population Control: Bondage and War 150

6 Fragility of the Early State: Collapse as Disassembly 183

7 The Golden Age of the Barbarians 219

Notes 257

Bibliography 279

Index 301

Interviews


Why did you select Mesopotamia eight thousand years ago as your focal point for Against the Grain?
 
That our cumulative activities as a species now threaten all life on the planet is obvious enough. Only a deep history of the very earliest states in Mesopotamia can illuminate how we got here. I wanted to understand how Homo sapiens—now nearly eight billion strong—became the world’s most successful invasive species. My aim is to show how the novel ecological module known as “agrarian society” came to dominate the world until the Industrial Revolution.
 
Why are grains and farming so important to the civilization story?
 
Because they are the basis of state formation. Only grain farming on permanent fields can pack enough people and food into a small enough space to allow a state to tax and control them. No cereal grains, no states! Wheat, barley, rice, maize, and millet, the starches that still dominate the world’s diet, were indispensable to state making. I show why other potential staples such as potatoes, cassava, and lentils have never become the basis of state making.
 
What is the significance of domestication in this story?
 
Civilization and state making can be seen as the result of a series of “domestications,” all of which require control over reproduction. The domestication of plants and animals, the control over the reproduction of women and slaves, and, one might say, control over the labor and reproduction of the subject population.
 
The early states had a population problem. It was caused by the infectious diseases of crowding, crop failure, flight from taxes and toil, raids from outside peoples, and environmental damage. States tried to make good these losses by wars of capture, slavery, and control over women’s reproduction.

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