About the Talk
Since the earliest Mesopotamian city-states, most histories have been written from the perspective of the ‘civilized’ state centers. Populations outside these centers were, arguably, a majority of the population until early modern times and were stigmatized as “barbarians”, “primatives” or “savages”. They are properly understood as self-governing, autonomous populations and frequently as ‘runaway’ populations that had, over time, fled the taxes, epidemics, corvée labor, and social domination of state centers. I argue that “barbarian” life improved because there were large sedentary centers of wealth and grain nearby which “barbarians” could raid (vis the Berber saying “Raiding is our agriculture”) and with which they could profitably trade. By dominating trade routes, extracting tribute, and providing the connective tissue between large population centers, “barbarian” life was in general freer, more leisurely, healthier, and, contra Hobbes, less violent than life in the centers of civilization.
About the Speaker
James C. Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science, Professor of Anthropology and co-Director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University. His research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism. His publications include Domination and the Arts of Resistance, Yale Press, 1985, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, Yale Press 1980, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale Press, 1998; The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, Yale Press, 2008; Two Cheers for Anarchism, Princeton Press, 2013; Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest Agrarian States, Yale Press, 2017.