“The early state strives to create a legible, measured, and fairly uniform landscape of taxable grain crops and to hold on this land a large population available for corvée labor, conscription, and, of course, grain production. For dozens of reasons, ecological, epidemiological, and political, the state often fails to achieve this aim, but this is, as it were, the steady glint in its eye.” —James C Scott, “Against the Grain”
This is a very succinct summary of this book and it's predecessor. 🔥
“This has included repairing silted channels, digging new feeder canals, settling war captives on arable land, penalizing subjects who are not cultivating, clearing new fields, forbidding nontaxable subsistence activities such as swiddening and foraging, and trying to prevent the flight of its subjects.” —James C Scott, ibid.
“Contrary to some earlier assumptions, the state did not invent irrigation as a way of concentrating population, let alone crop domestication; both were the achievements of prestate peoples. What the state has often done, once established, however, is to maintain, amplify, and expand the agro-ecological setting that is the basis of its power by what we might call state landscaping …” —James C Scott
“the life of farming is comparatively far narrower experientially and, in both a cultural and a ritual sense, more impoverished.” —James C. Scott, “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States”
This is in the first chapter, and I look forward to seeing all of Scott's argumentation for this. Even I, super-into the Hadza and Zomia, et al., will need a lot of convincing.
“What… what the shit is this? Now there’s public slots, void? Son of a…” —coworker figuring out C++ (Qt).
“Grad students, you know, we’re pond scum right.” —a PhD I know. Steer clear.
“sedentism is actually quite common in ecologically rich and varied, preagricultural settings—especially wetlands bordering the seasonal migration routes of fish, birds, and larger game. There, in ancient southern Mesopotamia (Greek for “between the rivers”), one encounters sedentary populations, even towns, of up to five thousand inhabitants with little or no agriculture.” —James C Scott. “Against the Grain”. Can’t wait for historical fiction that embraces this unveiling understanding. So ❤️⚡️🔥💥
Even as a college student, <15 years ago, the narrative Scott is demolishing, of fixed-location farming the immediate precursor to states, was unquestioned and it was really hard to get people to discuss Jane Jacobs’ theories seriously. Happy to see that we've made a lot of progres, at least in asking many more hard questions about just how necessary the state really was/is.
“the very first small, stratified, tax-collecting, walled states pop up in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley only around 3,100 BCE, more than four millennia *after* the first crop domestications and sedentism. This massive lag is a problem for those theorists who would naturalize the state form and assume that once crops and sedentism … were established, states/empires would immediately arise as the logical and most efficient units of political order.” —James C Scott, “Against the grain” (2017)
“In his autobiography Eshin noted that he himself relied solely upon the Nembutsu.” —Mosher, ibid.
That Enshin, some real skin in the game right there.
“Kyoto … is embedded with an air of sadness which penetrated into the homes of humblest and highest alike—no one group has a greater share of dismal tales behind it than the long line of emperors themselves.” —Gouverneur Mosher, in “Kyoto: a contemplative guide” (1964), dramatically demonstrating the first noble truth.
I asked my local public library if I could buy them a copy of James C Scott’s “Against the grain” but they said, in a nutshell, that the public library wants popular, introductory material but Scott’s book is “a bit too academic” for their collection 😵. They rely on their interlibrary networks, that connects them to Ohio’s university libraries & other public libraries, to get locals books like this.
Not sure what to feel about this… Guess I’ll donate it to Wright State University Library?
Everyone, big news: my favorite deep historian, James C Scott, published a new book: “Against the grain: a deep history of the earliest state” and it promises to be as juicy as his earlier “The art of not being governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia”. The blurb makes me think of Jane Jacobs’ “The economy of cities”, as does this New Yorker profile https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-case-against-civilization
I forgot to note that this recent speculative fiction (SF) reading and reflection series was kicked off by https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/anthropology/21a-270-anthropology-through-speculative-fiction-fall-2009/syllabus/ “Anthropology Through Speculative Fiction”
“As part of my mid-life crisis, I'd been reflecting on what I was really doing with my life, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should pay a visit to Enma, the Lord of Hell.” —Alex Kerr, never stop 🤣. Kerr is discussing Senbon Enma-do, his (Enma’s) main shrine.
Kerr makes an interesting point: Zen might be so popular out here because Esoteric Buddhism (i.e., vajrayana, or tantric Buddhism) just takes so much damn *time* to start grokking.
“I remember years ago seeing the abbot of one of the #Zen temples, while giving a talk to some visitors, suddenly jump into the flawless sand garden, leaving everyone gaping in astonishment. It was a painting of Zen eccentricity come to life.” —Alex Kerr, ibid. If I see something like this, a real-life enactment of a Zen painting, it will likely become the highlight of my trip and I'll also talk about it for the rest of my life.
‘#Zen too comes to us from an old time. Those who feel that they've found in Zen a pure escape from bizarre old superstitions are deluding themselves. The Zen “look” as we find it in gardens may seem simple enough, but Zen literature and calligraphy, with their zany humor and mocking paradoxes, are as weird as anything the ancient Hindus ever dreamed up. Zen has its own taste for the outlandish…’ —Alex Kerr, drawing parallels between Esoteric Buddhism and Zen, in “Another #Kyoto”.
Reading (audiobooking) Neuromancer for the first time. I forget that there was life before the Japan Bubble popped. It must have been an amazing time, before we realized that catastrophic collapses were a thing.