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Political Myths and Political Realities: Lessons learned from Indigenous and Pre-historic Practice



What truths do we take to be self-evident in politics and society, and are we correct to do so? What alternative social arrangements might we imagine, if we have a clearer understanding of the myths and realities in our political thinking?
Recent research in archeology and anthropology suggests that many well-worn truths about the ad-vance of social and political organization over time and around the world are in need of revision. Is the progression from hunter-gatherers through farming and industry to modern states as natural as it is made out to be? Is inequality indeed a regrettable, yet necessary accompaniment to the social hierarchies made ne-cessary by large-scale civilization? How historically inevitable are the types of government we have today, with their particular fusion of territorial sovereignty, intense administration and competitive politics?
In this seminar, we will critically engage with these and other questions by reading and discussing The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, a ground-braking new book by anthropologist David Graeber and archeologist David Wengrow. Doing so will not only open our eyes to the many ways in which myths, both large and small, function in our political thought, but it will also enhance our understan-ding of many ideas and institutions that are central to modern-day politics and political philosophy, such as liberty, equality, and political obligation, to name but a few. Crucially, doing so also promises to expand the conceptual toolkit with which we approach politics and society, thereby helping us to reimagine our political world, possibly even to change it for the better.


Two essays (together 80% of final grade)
Participation (20% of final grade)


Graeber, D., & Wengrow, D. (2021). The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. Lon-don: Allen Lane.


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