Andrew Anthony at The Guardian:
Of course, few modern scholars accept either Hobbes’s bleak caricature or Rousseau’s romantic musings. Nonetheless, Graeber and Wengrow argue, these antithetical conceptions of human nature feed into the consensus that has been popularised by figures such as Diamond and Harari.
That is to say that for most of human history our ancestors lived an egalitarian and leisure-filled life in small bands of hunter-gatherers. Then, as Diamond put it, we made the “worst mistake in human history”, which was to increase population numbers through agricultural production. This, so the story goes, led to hierarchies, subordination, wars, disease, famines and just about every other social ill – thus did we plunge from Rousseau’s heaven into Hobbes’s hell.
According to Graeber and Wengrow’s reading of up-to-date archeological and anthropological research, that story, too, is nonsense.