Reviewing James Scott’s “Against the Grain”

It so happened that the subject of my second published book review, like my first, might be categorized as contemporary anarchist scholarship. Good to see that there is a space for this kind of work in the academy. This time, I like to introduce James Scott’s “Against the Grain”, published by Yale University Press. The book’s core message, that the integration of hunters, gatherers, pastoralists, and other mobile peoples into sedentary, agrarian society has been a deeply political process of an elite trying to force peoples into a social structure that served the formers’ personal interests against the letters’ will is an assault on conventional narratives about unilateral civilizational progress and the inevitability of a hierarchical, agrarian society. Provocative, and – given the presented evidence – convincing stuff. Anyway, I loved this piece. Check out my review in the Journal of Agriculture and Human Values.

When blogging about my first book review, I thanked the author Alex Barnard to encourage fellow grad students like me to stay true to our values and conviction to pursue radical scholarship. Now, James Scott doesn’t need more recognition and life-time achievement awards, but I still like to acknowledge that your scholarship – and success as a professor despite unpopular, “against-the-grain”-type of arguments – encouraged me to even enter academia and stick to it to this day. I will do my best to carry on that legacy!


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