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How the rise of the agricultural states made them pay a high price

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Against The Grain - The Rise Of Agricultural States Came At A Big Cost

A book titled ‘Against the Grain’, by James C. Scott, the author comments on how the rise of the agricultural states made them pay a high price. The mobile hunters and gatherers communities had to settle for societies in exchange for traded happiness and poor health. In his new book, James Scott comments that the agricultural states that were newly formed in countries like Egypt were very delicate and fragile. The reason wasn’t the epidemics or droughts or crowding or even taxation. The reason wasn’t the even forceful entry into the army or any resistance shown towards payment of taxes. The main reason was the trading of health and happiness in order to get settled up in a society.


Against the popular strain of thought, the earliest humans didn’t live a harsh existence by farming or acting as hunters. Throughout the year, the people tended to meet and exchange their cultural lifestyle and understood about each other’s lifestyle. They understood the exposure towards the infectious diseases, taxes, cultivation of crops, insufficient diet patterns and even entry into armies.

The author compares past and present archaeological surveys and studies which showed that there was a cultural step backwards in the case of the societies on the state level. Despite existing 6000 years prior, the roots of the state formation weren’t based on agriculture or large settlements.

The large settlements had occurred in Mesopotamia long before the agricultural state could be formed. The author comments that the state building began with people finding fertile soil. They the people were forced to share that space and had to form an order of establishment to coexist.

The states were not permanent and could fall off easily. There have been incidents of collapses recorded in the historical records. The archaeological record investigators failed to realise that the collapse could have been a result of people being frustrated with epidemics, war, crop failures and taxes.


The book concludes by giving a view of how the herding group entered the agricultural states in Asia. The nomads were the people who stole a lot of food from neighbours in exchange for maintaining peace and not ensuring an attack. The book is free from any scientific language or false imagery. The book is straightforward and hits at the core.