James C. Scott

Jun 3, 2020

Against the Grain

A Deep History of the Earliest States

Yale University Press 2017

purchase at bookshop.org We are schooled to believe that states formed more or less synchronously with settlement and agriculture. In Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (Yale University Press, 2017), James C. Scott asks us to question this belief. The evidence, he says, is simply not on the side of states. Stratified, taxing, walled towns did not inevitably appear in the wake of crop domestication and sedentary settlement. Only around 3100 BCE, some four millennia after the earliest farming and settling down, did they begin making their presence felt. What happened in these four millennia is the subject of this book: a deep history by “a card-carrying political scientist and an anthropologist and environmentalist by courtesy”, which aims to put the earliest states in their place. James Scott joins us for the fourth episode of New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science to talk about state fragility and state persistence from Mesopotamia to Southeast Asia, the politics of cereal crops, domestication and reproduction, why it was once good to be a barbarian, the art of provocation, the views of critics, and, human and animal species relations and zoonoses in our epidemiological past and pandemic present. To download or stream episodes in this series please subscribe to our host channel: New Books in Political Science.
Nick Cheesman is a fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University, and a committee member of the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods group. He co-hosts the New Books in Southeast Asian Studies channel.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Nick Cheesman

Host, Interpretive Political & Social Science; Co-host, Southeast Asian Studies; for comments or to suggest a book to feature, contact me at nick.cheesman@anu.edu.au
Learn More

Also Hosted By Nick Cheesman