The Dawn of Woke Propaganda: Prologue Hallpike
A Real Anthropologist shows how the field should pursue truth and not politics
I was given the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow as a gift. Said book promises to show us a
dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.
Given that one of the authors was an anthropologist—the most Left-wing occupation in the world—I assumed I was stepping into a Left-leaning, nonetheless revisionist view of history. I was optimistic that the book might read along the lines of an anthropological trilogy I’d just finished reading—in other words, it would present a fascinating picture of the world that I might disagree with, but could nevertheless find compelling. How wrong I was.
What I began reading was so drenched in Neo-Marxist propaganda that I decided to dedicate a chapter-by-chapter review of the book. Reading the authors’ thinly-veiled agitprop brought to mind a passage from J. Stuart Mill’s Autobiography describing his writing of the book Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy. Chiefly this line:
As I advanced in my task the damage to Sir W. Hamilton's reputation became greater than I at first expected, through the almost incredible multitude of inconsistencies which showed themselves on comparing different passages with one another.
But I shall return to that task in future posts. For now, I would like to turn my attention to an anthropologist that I think you ought to read. One who really does overturn much modern thinking about everything from God to Neo-Darwinian Evolution. (And from whom modern Anthropologists could learn much.)
The first of these books is concerned with the development of religion, particularly from early, primitive polytheism to monotheism and its relationship with morality and ethics. Hallpike overturns many modern ideas about the origin of religion and is very condescending towards the field of Evolutionary Psychology, which he regards with a contemptuous disdain.
The second book, Fools, is far and away the most entertaining book of the trilogy. It is a series of essays he has written against many a well-known intellectual. Hallpike is on his game in every chapter, and I must say I will never look at Noam Chompsky or Steven Pinker with any respect again after Hallpike skewers their theories. But the most hilarious and fascinating chapter is on Yuval Noah Harari—it’s worth the price of the book!
The third, and probably most controversial of the trilogy is a fascinating, though dense look into primitive human society. (One the authors of The Dawn of Everything should have read.) Here, Hallpike shows a number of false assumptions and ideas that are commonplace throughout anthropology, Evolutionary Psychology, Linguistics, History and other fields. It is broad and fascinating and relies on Hallpike’s own fieldwork in Ethiopia and Paupa New Guinea.
One criticism I have of Hallpike is that he seems obsessed with debunking the idea of “individual Selection” in Neo-Darwinian theory. I agree with this assessment, but was disappointed he did not look at “Group Selection” that is emerging as a new, viable way to explain some of the issues he addresses. (Well, he does look at it—for one paragraph in the final volume!) Hallpike also ignores the revolution in Behavior Genetics that shows how much impact genes can play in a person or civilization.
Nevertheless, Hallpike’s work is exactly what an anthropologist seeking to overturn settled ideas in his field should look to do—and not what Graeber and Wengrow did in Dawn of Everything. I’ll look more at Hallpike’s work and compare it to the Woke researchers in future posts.