The author is an anarchist, but he doesn't do much to push his views. Though you can definitely tell that he would approve of the assumptions behind the "gzt political quiz" (which asks aspirants to political power which people they are planning on killing to achieve the sort of society they want).
He goes deeply into anthropological arguments, but, quite fortunately, does not get bogged down in, "Levi-Strauss says... but Levi-Strauss is wrong because...", instead writing in a readable way. There are extensive footnotes, so it remains academic even without extensive explicit reference to and discussion of the boring prior literature. As mentioned previously, the thorough discussion of the context also allows a reasonably intelligent person who is unfamiliar with the background material to follow the argument without getting lost, though, really, knowing this stuff is very helpful.
List of things that it is helpful to know about:
- Economic history, particularly the history of money (which is apparently all wrong)
- Particularly Adam Smith
- Western history from Greece and Rome through modern day, including the oft-neglected "Dark Ages"
- Western political theory, from Roman law through Rousseau/the rest of the Enlightenment, or at least Rousseau and the Enlightenment
- African history - bonus for Madagascar, Ranavalona, etc.
- Chinese history, particularly from 600BC to 1400AD
- Indian history, same time period as above
- Sumerian history
- Religions of all the above
- Obscure anthropology stuff
- All of the above with particular reference to slavery and slave trade - mentioned separately because slavery is oddly not covered in detail in most general introductions to history
Of these, I really only claim knowledge of European history, religion, and political theory, a little bit of Indian religion and history, and what knowledge of Madagascar I got from the Flashman book and subsequent reading of the wikipedia articles. I found this knowledge all very helpful, but my profound ignorance of viz. China (outside of my knowledge of Buddhism) was in no way a barrier to understanding his arguments.
Side note: what's a good way of overcoming my profound ignorance of China?
I'm already a reactionary theocrat, I have to be careful not to turn into an anarchist. I suppose in a sense I might be described as one. I don't want government to be abolished, and I see the practicality, generally, of having one. I would generally vote for things that most people would describe as leading to "more government". But I don't have any romantic notions about the role of government: God is my only king, as it were, and everybody else is just a bunch of people with guns willing to shoot you if you don't do what they say. As long as they're there, I'll vote for them to do things I like and which seem to benefit people, but at the end of the day it's a social order founded on violence and the threat of violence. I'm not going to pretend that the State is somehow deriving moral authority from the consent of the governed or whatever our founding myths say. It derives its "moral authority" from guns, and typically guns wielded by those doing the bidding of the rich and powerful at the expense of poor.
If you're looking for a quick read, though, I think you can get by with reading the first and maybe the last chapter. The first is sort of a quick intro, the last is about the last 40 years of debt. The first chapter is pretty much the only place where he editorializes, and it makes sense there, the rest is scholarly.
Anyway, my favorite relevant line of Scripture is, "He hath filled the poor with good things and the rich He hath sent empty away." Yea, verily.
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