Episode

11/30 A Dramatic New Understanding of Human History w/ David Wengrow

November 30, 2021

Sam and Emma host David Wengrow, Professor of Comparative Archaeology at University College London, to discuss his recent book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity that he co-authored with David Graeber. They begin by clarifying what the old history was, which Professor Wengrow describes the “broad sweep of human history” that we see starting all the way back in the Enlightenment, with Hobbes and Rousseau theorizing on the “state of nature” which was the origin of all humanity, and how the nature of inequality in civilization developed from there. He discusses how deep these theories, which were simply parables for their own time, have ingrained themselves into historical perspectives, structuring them into a constantly linear mold, and why the discussion of the “origin” of social concepts inherently implies this model. Emma, Sam, and he briefly touch on the massive impact of indigenous philosophies on French Enlightenment thinking, and how European elites worked to undermine this inspiration, making out their views of social and wealth equality to be a “romanticization,” and, in fact, a reflection of being on a lower tier of civilized society. Next, Professor Wengrow is able to dive into the narrative of the book, looking as far back as possible with cohesive archeological and anthropological evidence for social organization, and how we see – rather than a line from basic, equal, and free, to complex, stratified, and structured civilization – examples of societies that are experimental and fluid, changing political, religious, and legal systems as they migrate and the seasons shift their needs. After giving brief overviews of these examples, Sam, Emma, and David wrap up the interview by diving into the question of “how we got stuck” in a cycle of reinforcing and naturalizing the existence of inequality, debt, and other elements of our society. Sam and Emma also cover some updates on the Omicron variant, and the contrast with that and Biden’s consistently noncommittal responses to COVID.

And in the Fun Half: Nomiki joins Sam and Emma as they cover her bout with Dan Bongino, Dana Loesch’s fable of Bongo the gorilla’s righteous segregation hyenas, and discuss Omicron. Lara Logan compares Fauci to Mengele in Fox’s conspiracy zone, the crew covers Chris Cuomo’s conflict of interest, and what the fallout will be, if there is any. Enes Kanter reminds Americans to appreciate their freedom… by not exercising it, plus, your IMs!

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Emma hosts Rachel Greenwald Smith, professor of English at St. Louis University, to discuss her recent book On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of An American Ideal, on compromise in art and politics, and as an American ideal. Professor Greenwald-Smith and Emma first back up and look at ...
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