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For two thousand years the disparate groups that now reside in Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries) have fled the projects of the organized state societies that surround them—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare. This book, essentially an “anarchist history,” is the first-ever exami For two thousand years the disparate groups that now reside in Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries) have fled the projects of the organized state societies that surround them—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare. This book, essentially an “anarchist history,” is the first-ever examination of the huge literature on state-making whose author evaluates why people would deliberately and reactively remain stateless. Among the strategies employed by the people of Zomia to remain stateless are physical dispersion in rugged terrain; agricultural practices that enhance mobility; pliable ethnic identities; devotion to prophetic, millenarian leaders; and maintenance of a largely oral culture that allows them to reinvent their histories and genealogies as they move between and around states.In accessible language, James Scott, recognized worldwide as an eminent authority in Southeast Asian, peasant, and agrarian studies, tells the story of the peoples of Zomia and their unlikely odyssey in search of self-determination. He redefines our views on Asian politics, history, demographics, and even our fundamental ideas about what constitutes civilization, and challenges us with a radically different approach to history that presents events from the perspective of stateless peoples and redefines state-making as a form of “internal colonialism.” This new perspective requires a radical reevaluation of the civilizational narratives of the lowland states. Scott’s work on Zomia represents a new way to think of area studies that will be applicable to other runaway, fugitive, and marooned communities, be they Gypsies, Cossacks, tribes fleeing slave raiders, Marsh Arabs, or San-Bushmen.


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For two thousand years the disparate groups that now reside in Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries) have fled the projects of the organized state societies that surround them—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare. This book, essentially an “anarchist history,” is the first-ever exami For two thousand years the disparate groups that now reside in Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries) have fled the projects of the organized state societies that surround them—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare. This book, essentially an “anarchist history,” is the first-ever examination of the huge literature on state-making whose author evaluates why people would deliberately and reactively remain stateless. Among the strategies employed by the people of Zomia to remain stateless are physical dispersion in rugged terrain; agricultural practices that enhance mobility; pliable ethnic identities; devotion to prophetic, millenarian leaders; and maintenance of a largely oral culture that allows them to reinvent their histories and genealogies as they move between and around states.In accessible language, James Scott, recognized worldwide as an eminent authority in Southeast Asian, peasant, and agrarian studies, tells the story of the peoples of Zomia and their unlikely odyssey in search of self-determination. He redefines our views on Asian politics, history, demographics, and even our fundamental ideas about what constitutes civilization, and challenges us with a radically different approach to history that presents events from the perspective of stateless peoples and redefines state-making as a form of “internal colonialism.” This new perspective requires a radical reevaluation of the civilizational narratives of the lowland states. Scott’s work on Zomia represents a new way to think of area studies that will be applicable to other runaway, fugitive, and marooned communities, be they Gypsies, Cossacks, tribes fleeing slave raiders, Marsh Arabs, or San-Bushmen.

30 review for The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia

  1. 5 out of 5

    James

    Masterful, and even though I've been studying many aspects of history for forty years, for me it lives up to the front cover blurb by one reviewer who said it would "change the way readers think about human history - and about themselves." It's dry in places, and it took me a while to get into it, but once I did it kept me up at night reading it. The author's theme is that in many places, peoples who have historically eked out subsistence livings in isolated and rugged environments have not been Masterful, and even though I've been studying many aspects of history for forty years, for me it lives up to the front cover blurb by one reviewer who said it would "change the way readers think about human history - and about themselves." It's dry in places, and it took me a while to get into it, but once I did it kept me up at night reading it. The author's theme is that in many places, peoples who have historically eked out subsistence livings in isolated and rugged environments have not been unfortunate, backward, uncivilized semi-savages, as they've been portrayed by neighboring civilizations in terms like 'our living ancestors', but rather people who've chosen to make themselves hard-to-reach and unappealing targets for control, taxation, involuntary military service, slave raiders, and so on; that they've more often than not lived contentedly and lived longer, healthier, freer lives than most people - typically poor farmers - in the 'civilized' lands they've avoided or fled; and that despite the scorn with which the farming societies in the valleys below their mountains have written about them, the two have almost always been trading partners, with the hill peoples having the upper hand in those trading relationships. Scott focuses on highland Southeast Asia, but notes parallels in many other places. He makes his case with an incredible amount of supporting data from cultural history to linguistics to botany to trade records. He concludes, sadly, with the fact that this kind of life is rapidly becoming impossible as technology has made the hard-to-reach places accessible and population growth has kept pushing more people into areas that had always been thinly settled. This book has been an eye-opener for me, and I'm very glad the title caught my eye. I enthusiastically recommend it for anyone interested in history, sociology, economics, and/or anthropology.

  2. 4 out of 5

    André

    Just as promised, the book changed my understanding of human history indeed. At least of the history of "Zomia", the mountainous region stretching all over continental Southeast Asia. And also other commentators here were right: The author *is* very repetitive. So repetitive in fact, that I now wish I hadn't spend all that time reading through every chapter. The introduction and the conclusion chapters might have been sufficient to get the general idea Scott wanted to bring across: namely that t Just as promised, the book changed my understanding of human history indeed. At least of the history of "Zomia", the mountainous region stretching all over continental Southeast Asia. And also other commentators here were right: The author *is* very repetitive. So repetitive in fact, that I now wish I hadn't spend all that time reading through every chapter. The introduction and the conclusion chapters might have been sufficient to get the general idea Scott wanted to bring across: namely that the people living in the hilly areas in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Yunnan aren't actually pre-civilized and not as highly developed (agri-)culturally and politically as the large and relatively rich lowland states, but in fact chose to live in this way - far away from the reach of the states with their taxes, slave raids, military services etc. They fled there or stayedin the region voluntarily, escaping thus the power the state has on them. James C. Scott describes why this is the case, how it came about, and what measures the inhabitant of Zomia (Kachin, Chin, Karen, Akha, Lisu, Kinh and many more) took to be able to live off the radar. He also references Leach's work and describes in what ways the peoples in that area shift their ethnicity, culture, affiliations with smaller "statelets" and sometimes language (although I wished he would have mentioned more on language). It's a very interesting perspective and sounds very convincing to me, however, I prefer books with more inner structure, perhaps some more conclusions inbetween and less repetition of the same facts.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I'd read Scott's Seeing Like a State and had absolutely loved it - in my review, I'd described my experience reading it "as if someone's opened a window to let the light in". I wanted to love The Art of Not Being Governed and ten pages in, I had high hopes for the book - just as Seeing Like a State sought to provide a new lens with which to understand how our landscape/operating context is shaped and managed, The Art of Not Being Governed seeks to provide a new lens with which to view the relati I'd read Scott's Seeing Like a State and had absolutely loved it - in my review, I'd described my experience reading it "as if someone's opened a window to let the light in". I wanted to love The Art of Not Being Governed and ten pages in, I had high hopes for the book - just as Seeing Like a State sought to provide a new lens with which to understand how our landscape/operating context is shaped and managed, The Art of Not Being Governed seeks to provide a new lens with which to view the relationship between the "civilised" and the "uncivilised", through the example of Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries). Scott argues that the conventional view - that those who live in the rice-growing valleys are the civilised, while those who live in the higher altitudes, who subsist by foraging and growing crops in swiddens, have yet to be touched by civilising influences - is misguided. It is inaccurate to view the two groups as opposite ends of an evolutionary spectrum that dovetails nicely with "social Dawinism". Rather, the latter are those who have chosen to live beyond the controlling grip of the state and their social organisation (small, highly mobile groups that were highly egalitarian), agricultural practices (which emphasised mobility e.g. swiddens and crops that were easy to grow but hard for the state to appropriate e.g. root vegetables), and use of oral traditions rather than writing as a medium for transmitting knowledge are designed to evade state detection and capture. To regard the "civilised" e.g. the Hans, the Shan, the Tai, etc and the "uncivilised" e.g. the Karen, the Cossacks, the Hmong, the Miao, as monolithic entities is also misguided; both the civilised and the uncivilised were amalgamations of many different ethnic groups that were either captured or absorbed to swell the ranks, or who had chosen one side or the other for political or economic reasons. Indeed, terms for such "ethnic" groups e.g. the Miao, was often less meaningful as a term to designate a group of people who shared some common genealogy, culture or language, than it was as a term to designate "the other", in this case "not under Han control". So while we might regard the Great Wall(s) and the anti-Miao walls of Hunan as barriers to barbarism, Scott points out that "they were built just as surely to hold a taxpaying, sedentary cultivating population within the ambit of state power". So far so brilliant? The problem was that in many ways, The Art of Not Being Governed felt like a rehash of Seeing Like a State. The context might be slightly different - Scott argues that in the European context, it is the size of a ruler's dominions that gives a sense of his power and importance. But in the Asian context, it is the manpower one could summon, than the sovereignty over land that had no value in terms of labour - that determined a ruler's effective power. But how the tension between the civilised and uncivilised was framed - the state's preference for padi, which had a predictable growing cycle and was easily valued, taxable and appropriable vs the preference of fugitive communities for swidden agriculture; the use of writing in states to shape and control the narrative and hence conception of the state, vs the pre/post-literacy of fugitive communities that preferred to use the more flexible and mutable oral tradition - was very much in the same vein as the arguments and examples in Seeing Like a State. Moreover, I felt that that in the first few chapters of the book, Scott was essentially making the same point ad nauseum. Things picked up slightly in chapters 6 and 61/2 on "State Evasion, State Prevention: The Culture and Agriculture of Escape" and "Orality, Writing and Texts" respectively. In Chapter 6, Scott explains how "a society that cultivates roots and tubers can disperse more widely and cooperate less than grain growers, thereby encouraging a social structure more resistant to incorporation, and perhaps to hierarchy and subordination". What was interesting was his comment that it is not necessarily the case that it is in the valleys that the "civilised" dwell, while those seeking to escape the reach of the state had to flee to higher altitudes. This really depends on the characteristics of the crops that support/hinder resistance to incorporation and the altitudes at which they flourish best. The Incans for instance, lived at high altitudes while those seeking to escape their control fled to the lowlands. In Chapter 61/2, Scott argues that the lack of literacy in fugitive communities should not be seen as an indictment of their "uncivilised state"; literacy simply had no role in such societies, unlike in a state where literacy was used to codify law, for record keeping, for taxes and other economic transactions and to document the "official narrative" of the state. (Indeed, Scott reminds us that we should be wary of the version of history that we receive from the historical records, since this represents only one version, and not necessarily the most authentic version, of history). "There is no place in any of the standard civilisational narratives for the loss or abandonment of literacy. The acquisition of literacy is envisaged as a one-way trip in just the same fashion as is the transition from shifting agriculture to wet-rice cultivation and from forest bands to villages, towns, and cities. And yet lieracy in pre-modern societies was, under the best of circumstances, confined to a minuscule portion of the population...It was the social property of scribes, accomplished religious figures, and a very thin stratum of scholar gentry in the case of the Han. To assert, in this context, that a whole society or people is literate is incorrect; in all pre-modern societies the vast majority of the population was illiterate and lived in an oral culture, inflected though it was by texts. To say that, demographically speaking, literacy hung by a thread would in many cases be no exaggeration. Not only was it confined to a tiny elite, but the social value of literacy, in turn, depended on a state bureaucracy, an organised clergy, and a social pyramid, where literacy was was a means of advancement and a mark of status. Any event that threatened these institutional structures threatened literacy itself. Overall, there were some lovely bits in the book but these mainly came early on in the book as Scott was framing his thesis and as I mentioned, in Chapters 6 and 61/2. Perhaps if I'd have liked this book better had this been the first book of Scott's that I'd read. But coming after Seeing Like a State, it was a bit of a disappointment.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    So. I've always been an anarchist in principle (didn't Merlin say in The Once and Future King, every decent person is?) and I come to this, not with a special interest in upland SE Asia, but after this on hunter-gatherers Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior and after this on pastoral nomads Pastoralists: Equality, Hierarchy, And The State, and after a brave foray into the classic Pierre Clastres too. Wherein I've learnt statelessness is common, and clung to stubbornly, So. I've always been an anarchist in principle (didn't Merlin say in The Once and Future King, every decent person is?) and I come to this, not with a special interest in upland SE Asia, but after this on hunter-gatherers Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior and after this on pastoral nomads Pastoralists: Equality, Hierarchy, And The State, and after a brave foray into the classic Pierre Clastres too. Wherein I've learnt statelessness is common, and clung to stubbornly, which gives me hope for the species. This one is about defections from civilization, that are much more common than our ‘civilizational discourse’ has allowed us to see. As such, its relevance is far wider than SE Asia. He draws in others' work from other areas, ethnographers' examinations of cultures wherever they have found these political strategies. At the close he says: “I have come to see this study of Zomia, or the massif, not so much as a study of hill peoples per se but as a fragment of what might properly be considered a global history of populations trying to avoid, or having been extruded by, the state.” My own area of study is steppe history, for which I have found this of the most fantastic use. I'll declare it a need-to-read, in another geography altogether. It covers far too much to try to sum up. I found the most thought-provoking chapters to be the three last. Though in fact he calls one of them chapter 6 ½, because he's just feeling his way: it's on 'Orality, Writing and Texts', and talks about possible attitudes to writing that go dead against civilized assumptions. Might a people reject writing, the orthodoxy of a text, that is a foundation-stone of states, and feel they are better off with oral history? That was fascinating, and the next chapter is 'Ethnogenesis: A Radical Constructionist Case' on the artificiality or fictionality of tribes. He comes at this from two sides. Administrators have to order populations into tribes that weren't there beforehand; but the peoples themselves have uses for a fictional ethnicity – several uses that Scott explores. This chapter includes the why of state mimicry, or what he calls 'cosmological bluster' – where tribal peoples take on the trappings of states, in ways that may be more subversive than subservient. Lastly, 'Prophets of Renewal', on the question of how and why (and what type of) religion has served in revolts of the marginal and the dispossessed. This is a terrific chapter, that does begin on explanations, and those might not be what you thought. In the end, even though my eye was caught by that title, I wonder whether we have to call this an anarchist history? It’s a history – a neglected history, one we have been blind to, exciting to discover.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laszlo Szerdahelyi

    Do not cultivate the vineyard, you'll be bound Do not cultivate grains, you'll be ground Pull the camel, herd the sheep A day will come, you'll be crowned Much of our histories is narratives, stories that have been spun together from the works of historians, archeologists, anthropologists and so on. Much of that history, is the history of kings and nobles, of states, kingdoms and grand rulers, of civilizations against barbarians and so on. Scott offers a radical look at how we perceive the notion of Do not cultivate the vineyard, you'll be bound Do not cultivate grains, you'll be ground Pull the camel, herd the sheep A day will come, you'll be crowned Much of our histories is narratives, stories that have been spun together from the works of historians, archeologists, anthropologists and so on. Much of that history, is the history of kings and nobles, of states, kingdoms and grand rulers, of civilizations against barbarians and so on. Scott offers a radical look at how we perceive the notion of civilized, what that means and how much of that is simply the assimilation or lack thereof into state structures. Basing his studies in the area of S-E Asia, in a vast area designated as Zomia, Scott explores through the economic, social and political lives and relations of an extremely varied peoples ,ranging from the Naga in India to the Hmong in Vietnam, of the hills and mountains with their valley dwelling counterparts, the type of relations and dynamics that have led to such a varied people's who have lived historically outside the grasp of the ancient(and modern) states. Scott essentially offers a 'people's history' of a vast ethnic tapestry of people without a written history, whom, he eloquently argues, have chosen to actively live outside of the grasp of the state, have organized themselves and their lifestyles so as to escape said grasp and have actively resisted assimilation. Exploring facets ranging from economic life such as choice of agricultural practices like slash and burn as opposed to wet-field rice growing, trade, raiding, dispersal and mobility, fluidity of ethnic and religious identities, he constructs a history of an intricate system of resistance, that has consistently thwarted the incorporation into the role of tax-paying subjects of states and all the coercive and destructive outcomes of this: war, epidemics and exploitation. Furthermore, Scott outlines the limitations of state projects in the area in their ability to both extend their rule above a certain altitude or geographical terrain, their inherent fragility and dependence on low land rice cultivation and attraction of populations, the vicious infighting between said states and the complex relationship between these entities and their hill counterparts in terms of cultural, economic and political relations, exchange and mutual dependency. The book is extremely well researched and although Scott presents hypotheses that can be debated or critiqued by virtue of taking leaps of faith in for example presenting the vast tapestry of resistance to hierarchical entities, one cannot disagree with the inherent logic of these fluctuations over time and in opposition to states, that, have historically been extremely coercive and hegemonic and against whom various peoples, not limited to Zomia, i.e Cossacks, Rroma etc. have fought to maintain their freedom and autonomy and which said struggle against state entities and their coercive institutions, continues both from the liminal spaces such as the Zapatistas all the way to the cores of the most tightly wound Western countries.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    An honest attempt at an anarchist history, well-written, and full of detail about the highlands of Southeast Asia, a place I love deeply. It presents any number of radical theories about how supposedly “primitive” peoples came to be through intention rather than any kind of putative underdevelopment. Is this an interesting theory, and one with serious potential? Absolutely. Is it something that merits further, data-driven research? Totally. Is there much in the way of data? Not so much. For a se An honest attempt at an anarchist history, well-written, and full of detail about the highlands of Southeast Asia, a place I love deeply. It presents any number of radical theories about how supposedly “primitive” peoples came to be through intention rather than any kind of putative underdevelopment. Is this an interesting theory, and one with serious potential? Absolutely. Is it something that merits further, data-driven research? Totally. Is there much in the way of data? Not so much. For a series of claims this bold, Scott plays it awfully fast-and-loose, and while a lot of the information is necessarily going to be qualitative, there's a lot that could be backed up by more quantitative information. Furthermore, he seems bogged down in a rather romantic vision of these mountain peoples as idealized, indigenous anarchist formations. Readable, engrossing, should be taken with a grain of salt (or a drop of fish sauce).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dorsey Bass

    A fairly interesting read on a region I knew little about, but this book has several problems. It feels pretty repetitive—Scott tends to make the same points over and over again. He also relies on a concept of political "choice" that is never really defined, but allows him to view pretty much all aspects of SE Asian hill societies as aligning with his own anarchist politics. Although (because?) I'm an anarchist myself, it doesn't make for a convincing or enlightening read. In many ways this book A fairly interesting read on a region I knew little about, but this book has several problems. It feels pretty repetitive—Scott tends to make the same points over and over again. He also relies on a concept of political "choice" that is never really defined, but allows him to view pretty much all aspects of SE Asian hill societies as aligning with his own anarchist politics. Although (because?) I'm an anarchist myself, it doesn't make for a convincing or enlightening read. In many ways this book belongs to a long history of leftist idealization of societies outside civilization's reach. Oh, and don't expect a nuanced analysis of gender. However, the sections on ethnogenesis and the historical relationship between hill and valley societies were fascinating.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Babak Fakhamzadeh

    An extensive description of ‘Zomia’, the highlands of South East Asia, spread across countries like Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, India and China. On the fringe, ungoverned, considered barbaric, but, as the author successfully argues, purposefully so. The hills of South East Asia, like fringe societies everywhere, are regions of political resistance and cultural refusal. Not being remnants of the past, nor a homogenous ethnicity or tribe, they consist of individuals who actively avoided being taken in An extensive description of ‘Zomia’, the highlands of South East Asia, spread across countries like Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, India and China. On the fringe, ungoverned, considered barbaric, but, as the author successfully argues, purposefully so. The hills of South East Asia, like fringe societies everywhere, are regions of political resistance and cultural refusal. Not being remnants of the past, nor a homogenous ethnicity or tribe, they consist of individuals who actively avoided being taken in by state control, leaving the governed lowlands for the ungoverned highlands. Then, the author keeps on reiterating his central point until he’s beaten the reader to near-death with it. Thankfully, there are several interesting little tidbits to keep turning the pages, most of the time. + “Ethnicity and tribe begin exactly where taxes and sovereignty end." + Rice farming is efficient for its yield and the concentrated populations it requires, and that the hills of South East Asia make travel difficult, and that land empires trump sea empires, essentially for the manpower they are able to muster. + Where in Europe wealth begat power, in South East Asia, manpower begat power, hence, South East Asia's poorer modern states were based on both rice farming and slavery. + "Far more egalitarian settlements were founded by runaways then by revolutionaries." + Cassava is an easy crop to maintain, requiring virtually no attention, while it can be left to grow for years, underground, and while its leaves can also be consumed. Perfect to grow in many little plots over a large area, when you’re forced to move around a lot. + The interesting point that the lack of writing and the shorter scope of history (of hill tribes), maintained through oral traditions, are possibly a coping mechanism to fight hierarchy and to facilitate societal fluidity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    He has some really interesting things to say but basically just keeps repeating himself over and over. If this was something like a hundred pages it would be a lot easier for me to recommend it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Teng

    “what, after all, is the history bearing social unit? [...] The relationship of a people, a kinship group, and a community to its history is diagnostic of its relationship to stateness.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

    Scott presents to us a history of Zomia: a contiguous region in southeast Asia, spanning Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, northern Myanmar, and southwest China (Yunnan, etc) whose topography and climate has made largely ungovernable. Only the book isn't really a history -- it's an anthropology. And Scott is not just talking about Zomia, but really lots of different places like the Tigris-Euphrates marshes, the American west, the Teutoburg Forest, the Darien Gap, the metaphorical woods in A Midsummer Nig Scott presents to us a history of Zomia: a contiguous region in southeast Asia, spanning Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, northern Myanmar, and southwest China (Yunnan, etc) whose topography and climate has made largely ungovernable. Only the book isn't really a history -- it's an anthropology. And Scott is not just talking about Zomia, but really lots of different places like the Tigris-Euphrates marshes, the American west, the Teutoburg Forest, the Darien Gap, the metaphorical woods in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the internet... OK, probably went too far on those last two but you get the idea. The argument Scott is making is something like this: - There has historically been a notion of state space and non-state space. State spaces are defined by a monopoly on coercive force within a geographic region (11). - As time has gone the state space to non-state space ratio approaches infinity (Bir Tawil is still up for grabs!!!) - The non-state to state transition is viewed as a sort of natural step on a continuum of human evolution. The Romans absorb the barbarians. Miao join the Han state. Etc. - But -- and here's the real crux of the book -- this view of non-state people as pre-state people is totally wrong (337). It is an easy criticism to level given that many prefer oral to written history, practice swiddening agriculture if not hunting and gathering, lack dense cities, etc. But many of these humans are reacting to the state, forming a "purposeful statelessness". It's a choice. There is nothing that says humans have to organize into these weird, artificial state things and grow wheat in these nice rows and so forth. Civilization VI is a story written by the victors. The correct way to see these tribes is as in dialogue with the state, not suboordinate to it or andecedent on the Great Timeline of Man. Scott talks a lot about the features of these "hill peoples" (c.f. the civilized "valley peoples"). They tend to be more egalitarian (157) -- acephalous groups are harder to co-opt into some state corvee scheme (208). Common property is the norm vs. enclosures. They prefer oral to written histories. They forage for a varied diet and practice polycropping vs. the predictable cereals of civilization. Etc. I think this goes on in a bit too much detail at a bit too much length. The important take away was that these features are so frequently cast as primitive or barbaric or pre-civilized. But what is inherently "barbaric" about oral history? What's wrong with anarchism? Enslaving ourselves to grain (Yuval Harari has a good passage about this) is arguably one of the worst things that humanity has ever done. This point becomes even clearer when we consider that most of the non-state tribes are really just ... ethnic majorities who have fled the state. Not some long-separate and genetically distinct people. The Great Wall to some degree was in some part a program of the state to keep tax-paying citizens in the state so that their property could be more easily appropriated (173). The frontier is actually a sort of check on state power and a place for experimentation. It should probably be a bit worrying that states have carved up the entire world. This is definitely a historical anomaly.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aj

    Interesting book, interesting premise. several hundred pages longer than it needed to be.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, a history book about how a number of nonstate peoples in upland southeast asia have limited the influence of various configurations of state power on their autonomy. Has a fair amount of details about agriculture and terrain, which I appreciate -- I like an eye to those kind of material conditions. I particularly got into the bit about the kinds of social structures fostered by different staple foods, I've been telling everybody that sweet potato is t pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, a history book about how a number of nonstate peoples in upland southeast asia have limited the influence of various configurations of state power on their autonomy. Has a fair amount of details about agriculture and terrain, which I appreciate -- I like an eye to those kind of material conditions. I particularly got into the bit about the kinds of social structures fostered by different staple foods, I've been telling everybody that sweet potato is the food of a free people. more broadly, scott makes the case that we should look at the religious, social, ethnic, economic etc organisation of these societies not just as givens, but as adaptive responses that have allowed them to evade state power. it's a provocative point that challenges a lot of things I thought I knew, and definitely deserves further thought. this was a really good thing to read after walled states, waning sovereignty. I mean, that's a great book. but I think wendy brown is wrong that national sovereignty has been eroded in recent years. there's this fairly prevalent idea in the Anglophone leftish theory world that all certainties, all sovereignties, all state powers are being eroded in this postmodern, post-communist age. scott's historically and materially grounded work is a pretty great reality check here. one caveat: this is definitely a bit of a slog to read. it's quite dry, plus scott is very attached to his rather laboured metaphors, and misuses the phrase "the exception that proves the rule" (a hanging offence) at least three times. it's also not what you'd call an inspirational read; at times, it's downright depressing. the societies Scott looks at were far from utopian; in fact, a lot of them were economically reliant on the slave trade. moreover, the kind of fragmentation and flexibility that's allowed these societies to maintain their autonomy is not well adapted for direct confrontation with the state. with the technologically expanded capacity of state powers to actually exert their powers to the limits of their borders, nonstate peoples can't run or hide anymore, and it's not pretty.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael W.

    I reviewed this in 2011 elsewhere: "Scholars, with the exception and vision of a few such as Jared Diamond and David Christian, do not usually cut such a huge swathe of territory and time as James C. Scott does in The Art of Not Being Governed. The present book though represents the latest installment of a series of studies by Scott that speak at least at some level to anyone interested in the relationship that society has with the state. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale I reviewed this in 2011 elsewhere: "Scholars, with the exception and vision of a few such as Jared Diamond and David Christian, do not usually cut such a huge swathe of territory and time as James C. Scott does in The Art of Not Being Governed. The present book though represents the latest installment of a series of studies by Scott that speak at least at some level to anyone interested in the relationship that society has with the state. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, although he admits that research for the current volume has rendered him a historian in a sense. Certainly, his ideas and conclusions are as relevant to historians as much as to anyone else. Histories with lens wrought wide are popular both because they are accessible and because they are relevant. Anyone who reads this volume will find themselves frequently pausing to reflect on their own society and their relationship with state institutions. This is, in a more limited sense of the term grand history, although it is mainly limited to the historical period. It follows that there is little attention to individuals (King Bodaw-hpaya of Burma is one among several exceptions)– one will find few personalities here. The focus here is one huge generalizations, some of which will surely evaporate upon close scrutiny, but many that are truly – if not absolutely convincing – thought provoking. Scott admits as much in the introduction but argues that even if some of his assumptions are wrong, the basic ideas he has offered, he is convinced, will hold to be true. In seeking to escape the state’s stamp on history and on the register by which we interpret (and have interpreted) the world around us, Scott is unable to escape it himself in his analysis. This is, after all, not a history outside of the state but, as Scott has aptly subtitled his book, An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. The state as leviathan captures free, mobile populations, and makes them sedentary, controllable, and taxable and the survivors, those not dragged heel before head by state administrators and armies, have sought refuge in topographies ever more distant from and difficult to the state, until we arrive at the last major remaining bastion of non-state space, the Southeast Asian massif (elsewhere more broadly defined by Willem van Schendel as Zomia). It follows from such a broad handling of societies, states, and geography, on such a large terrestrial canvass that the reading has been relatively broad. One cannot, perhaps, hold one seeking to write an anarchist history to the task of dealing substantially with the general literature focused on the lowland states whose reach Scott’s highland refugees have thus far skirted. There are weighty volumes of documentation of highland groups that raided the lowlands for people and things and dragged both up into the hills despite the best efforts of lowland states to secure their frontiers. For Scott, this story is an illusion, the product of state-centred historical narratives to use Prasenjit Duara’s (a scholar who is clearly influential here) terminology or “standard civilisational narrative” to use Scott’s, that obscures and warps the story of people versus the state. That narrative, Scott argues, ignores two chief facts—many (and perhaps most) people in early states were only there “under duress” and that state subjects frequently ran away. In the untold (until now) story, nearly all people lived outside of the early states (classical Greece or Republican Rome, for example). States were mere blips on the map whose existence would have been indiscernible to the untrained eye a 1 millennium ago: “To an eye not yet hypnotized by archaeological remains and state- centric histories, the landscape would have seemed virtually all periphery and no centers” (5). For the last thousand years and more, state administrations in Southeast Asia have steadily expanded, displacing non-state spaces with state spaces, close on the heels of fleeing populations that wanted to escape control by the state. In this view, what we have thus far seen as lowland political centres securing their frontiers was everywhere really simply an act of enclosure, an attempt not to keep out, but to cement in place, mobile populations. For Scott, then, populations in the highlands are not tribal groupings that push into the lowlands, but aggregates of centuries of escapees who seek and find a new life (and form together with others new ethnic cultures) on the frontiers of lowland states, the Cossacks on the edges of the Russian steppes being a good example (260-261). Scott turns around the discussion of the cultural, ethnic, religious, and social legacy of state formation processes in Southeast Asia (most recently examined elsewhere at length by Victor Lieberman) by suggesting that many of those features of Southeast Asian highland groups that have been viewed as original and barbaric, from the perspective of lowland civilizations, can instead be seen as a reaction to the threat of state expansion and the state-making processes that are brought with it. As Scott asserts, “Most, if not all, the characteristics that appear to stigmatize hill peoples ... far from being the mark of primitives left behind by civilization, are better seen on a long view as political adaptations of non-state peoples to a world of states...” (9). Some of his assertions will certainly, as Scott himself admits, invite controversy. Perhaps the best example, discussed at length by Scott, is his view of orality over literacy as a choice for a society, ensuring for a highly mobile society greater intellectual flexibility than is possible with (permanent and orthodoxy-buttressing) written documentation in rendering histories and constructing genealogies. Less convincing are Scott’s views on the relationship between religious orthodoxy/heterodoxy and upland/lowland distinctions, which is much more complicated and the areas of context located differently (relationally to the center of power) than suggested here. This is overall an erudite book and one that will be relevant and important to anyone working on state and society in Southeast Asia, lowland and highland, premodern and modern. Its importance is not so much in its conclusions, but in the intellectual stimulation of reading the thoughts of an insightful man on a topic not often dealt with at this scale and level of analysis. The prose is so clear and unfettered with the usual social science jargon -- Scott is very self-aware as writer, includes myriad anecdotes, and makes frequent use of contractions -- the mesmerized reader has no choice but to lay down their guard. One has thus to avoid the temptation of replacing too quickly and without sufficient consideration one paradigm with another, however well crafted, once convinced by the latter’s internal logic. We are not at the end of the road here with this topic, but still at the beginning. Certainly, both the lay and the academic reader will find an intellectual engagement with the present volume immensely rewarding."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    This book is impressively multidisciplinary — the closest comparison that comes to mind is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel in the way it sets out to explore interlinked concepts across history, varying political systems, and the physical world. I have to acknowledge that my Southeast Asian history and political knowledge is minimal, one class in undergrad aside, so I’m not in a position to confirm or correct the historiography involved. That said, this book offered me insights relevant to This book is impressively multidisciplinary — the closest comparison that comes to mind is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel in the way it sets out to explore interlinked concepts across history, varying political systems, and the physical world. I have to acknowledge that my Southeast Asian history and political knowledge is minimal, one class in undergrad aside, so I’m not in a position to confirm or correct the historiography involved. That said, this book offered me insights relevant to the study of state-building; how communities at the periphery evade or resist the imposition of state authority; the intersections between ecology, agriculture, and human settlement patterns; the role of the “tribe” as a state-constructed concept; the process of community differentiation and ethno-genesis; the role of millenarian uprisings as a means of overcoming the collective action problems inherent to fractured periphery communities whose structures normally inhibit the consolidation of authority; and more. There is some repetition between chapters of the author’s core themes and references, so if you are in a rush, the introductory chapter gives a decent summary of the argument; but I found the book as a whole to be very readable. Although subtitled an “anarchist history,” the book does not greatly over-romanticize the state-evading peoples that Scott studies, although his sympathies clearly lie with those residing outside the traditional narratives of “civilizing” state-building projects. Even though Scott cautions that the expansion of state authority in the post-World War II era (in part through technologies and new norms that have reduced tolerance for ungoverned spaces generally throughout the world) has eroded many of the social, political, and economic practices he suggests the hill people of Southeast Asia use to evade state incorporation, there are still many useful lessons here, particularly for disputed territories and not-yet-fully consolidated states elsewhere in the world. On the whole, this was a very interesting and provocative read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    "Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion? (How serious people's faces have become) Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly? Everyone's going home lost in thought Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come And some who have just returned from the border say There are no barbarians any longer And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians? They were, those people, a kind of solution." -C. Cavafy An illuminating read about the relationship between "civilization" "Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion? (How serious people's faces have become) Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly? Everyone's going home lost in thought Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come And some who have just returned from the border say There are no barbarians any longer And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians? They were, those people, a kind of solution." -C. Cavafy An illuminating read about the relationship between "civilization" and "barbarism", culture as state-evasion strategy, and the history of [i]zomia[/i], one of the last remaining places on the planet beyond state reach. The book runs though the thousands of years of interrelationship between padi states and highland peoples, and posits that barbarism is not a step on a journey towards civilization but rather a reaction to (or position away from) the poisoned fruits of civilized existence (i.e. forced labor, conscription into the military, taxes, slavery). Scott discusses several features of upland cultures as strategies for opposing state power, and his work is very well researched and annotated. my only gripe is that academics should write less academic versions of their work--this could have been 100 pages shorter and about 100% more engaging with a non-academic editor. It's a shame this will only be picked up by scholars of anarchy or SE Asian history, as it has wonderful lessons about identity, religion and cultural practices as state-resistant strategies.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    A comprehensively argued case for cultural fluidity and “simplification” as a political response of state-evasion. This is enormously helpful in looking at history with fewer state-friendly assumptions, even if it can be a little overwhelming to a reader unfamiliar with Southeast Asia. It doesn't pretend to ring true today, but it's enlightening in creating more complete histories. So good. So good and so needed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    P Sangsuradej

    The author made a very bold claim on his argument over the nature of ethnic minorities of Southeast asia's Zomia. Very interesting read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kapil Yadav

    paradigm-shifting work... i wish the book was less repetitive in its first half.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steven E

    “The geographical distribution of …languages is intricate and difficult to map with precision. In the highly fragmented environment most ethnic groups live in villages interspersed among those of other groups… Height up or down a mountainside is usually the most critical factor in determining where an ethnic group will live... On any given mountain, high above the rice paddies in the valleys, there may be several different villages occupied by as many peoples speaking totally unrelated languages “The geographical distribution of …languages is intricate and difficult to map with precision. In the highly fragmented environment most ethnic groups live in villages interspersed among those of other groups… Height up or down a mountainside is usually the most critical factor in determining where an ethnic group will live... On any given mountain, high above the rice paddies in the valleys, there may be several different villages occupied by as many peoples speaking totally unrelated languages." (S. Robert Ramsey, “The Languages of China”.) These innumerable tiny nations are traditionally regarded as remnants of people who didn’t move down into the more “advanced” valley civilizations. In this book, James C. Scott turns that idea on its head and makes the “bold claim” that they are, rather, populations who in the past 2000 years or so (up until WWII) fled the slavery, taxation, conscripted labor (etc.) of the lowland “civilizations” (as well as the diseases endemic in highly populated areas). There’s also the suggestion that so-called “civilized people” and so-called “barbarians” whom they despise need each other for trade and diversity of products (leading to a more robust economy). Both are fascinating ideas. But are they true? Scott makes a compelling case. (In fact, he makes a compelling case over and over – the book is extremely repetitive.) The chapters on writing and on “ethnogenesis” are particularly interesting and unexpected. However, to me, the theory falls flat when it comes to linguistics. As mentioned in the quote above from another book on roughly the same area (recently named "Zomia"), many of the micro-states have their own language; these languages belong to several families, and many have not been proven to belong to any family. This implies that a greater time-frame is involved than just 2000 years up to about 1940. It takes much longer for languages to diverge so much that their origins are obscured. (For a more familiar example: Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian are still obviously similar to each other, and their evolution from classical Latin has taken about the same amount of time. In order for languages – or language families – to be of obscure relationships, a time frame of at least ten times that is necessary. Still with the familiar example, Indo-European can be easily traced by linguists, but its older connection to other families is more controversial.) Barring the unlikely possibilities of conlangs and deliberately altered languages, for the languages in upland SE Asia to be “unrelated” they would have had to have been separated for longer than the time in Scott’s theory. Or, perhaps they migrated into Zomia from elsewhere on the continent. In either case, the peoples speaking them are not likely to be refugees from lowland civilizations that have only been there for a fraction of the history. Perhaps paradoxically, my own view (after reading this book) is that the theory is partially correct! There is no reason that both the traditional “down into civilization” and this new “escape from civilization” can’t coexist. Indigenous “hill peoples” may have been there for millennia, and some may have been drawn by the lure more “stable” lowland kingdoms; others could just as easily be refugees escaping back “upwards” geologically to join the “hill peoples”. Migration could go in either direction, and all cultures involved would be enriched. Scott admits that in the present day, with the advent of electronic communications and all-weather roads (as well as the elimination of slavery), his theory may be a moot point as the upland and lowland civilizations mix (becoming modern nation-states). It’s still an interesting idea and will spark conversations at least for those interested in origins, cultural studies, and linguistics. --Steven E. Scribner, author of the "Tond" series (fantasy, with invented languages and cultures) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joe Hay

    This book has an amazing thesis that will change your perspective on human history and civilization; it is also terribly written. I am adding my voice to the chorus on this issue. I'm not going to spend much time talking about the content of this book, because, if you've heard of it, you know what it's about. It introduces the reader to the concept of intentionally stateless peoples and does a good job explaining what they are, why they exist, how they exist, and how they've been mislabelled as p This book has an amazing thesis that will change your perspective on human history and civilization; it is also terribly written. I am adding my voice to the chorus on this issue. I'm not going to spend much time talking about the content of this book, because, if you've heard of it, you know what it's about. It introduces the reader to the concept of intentionally stateless peoples and does a good job explaining what they are, why they exist, how they exist, and how they've been mislabelled as primitive or aboriginal by governments. More broadly, It makes a great case for the fluidity of ethnicity and culture and the duality between state enclosures and their frontiers. The author maintains a respectable amount of objectivity throughout, neither lionizing the main subject peoples nor villanizing their antagonists. I know he's an anarchist, and he does indeed portray state formation as a horrible, overgrown slaving expedition - but that's because it was and continues to be, objectively speaking. Sounds interesting? Well, it truly is, for about 60 pages total, scattered throughout the book. Most of it is bloated and repetitive, with the same points being made over and over again from microscopically different points of view, with an incredibly interesting point randomly appearing every 20 to 30 pages. I wish I could tell you to read just the introduction and the conclusion, but the jewels are scattered and hidden - you have to dig through all of it. This book really does not deserve to be called a 'history' - it's a presentation of a general sociopolitical thesis that uses historical facts as evidence. It's clearly based on Upland Southeast Asia, but the book does not discuss the land or the people in great detail. Instead, morsels about the various peoples of this region are cluttered together like appetizers and nibbled and set aside, nibbled and set aside, not giving the reader any substantial flavor. The thesis is the main course. It feels sad and frustrating that the people of the region weren't given the spotlight. The underlying issue is that there is a lack of narrative structure. I would love if what ended up as the entire book had merely been a 50 or 60 page introduction to three or four larger narratives from the perspective of a particular people, say, the Hmong, Akha, and the Karen. It could be I am not the intended audience for this book. It could be described as an academic proof-of-concept. But, even so, I can't see how it wouldn't have benefited from greater coherence and focus. It reads like a series of section headings with a list of examples that came off the top of the author's head. Academics are capable of more than that. In conclusion, I am glad I read it, and I'm glad to be finally done with it. If you are deeply interested in history and the history of politics/society, this is an essential read. I wish I could say it were a better experience, though. Stay focused, and try to get through it quickly.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Ferguson

    I have admittedly not read much anarchist history, and after this book I can say that the lack is to my detriment. While the subject (and much of the analytical meat of the book) is focused on a particular region of Southeast Asia, the identities and realities of the analysis could just as easily be applied (and in some cases very clearly are applied) to the Appalachian mountains of the US, the jungles of DRC, the islands of the Pacific, or the Highlands of Scotland. The refutation of the “barba I have admittedly not read much anarchist history, and after this book I can say that the lack is to my detriment. While the subject (and much of the analytical meat of the book) is focused on a particular region of Southeast Asia, the identities and realities of the analysis could just as easily be applied (and in some cases very clearly are applied) to the Appalachian mountains of the US, the jungles of DRC, the islands of the Pacific, or the Highlands of Scotland. The refutation of the “barbarism” narrative in favor of a more comprehensive and empowered political identity for the so-called “hill societies” of the world is a valuable and valid one, and Scott systematically breaks down our "civilized" assumptions with historical facts and analysis. As an avowed “state-ist”, this book fulfilled it’s promise of “changing the way readers think about human history - and about themselves.” There are one or two shortcomings to be sure, and this book is definitely not for all audiences. This is definitely an academic work, so don’t read it if you’re not ready for chapters and chapters of arguments and factuals. The author also doesn’t address other interesting topics like gender with as much detail as I would have liked, but thats to be expected.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This was a bit of a letdown. The idea behind the book, the content, the new vision are all worthwhile but the style and order of the book are a real challenge to keep on reading. On the plus side. The book brings us a radical new view on what used to be savages, heathens, primitives; scoundrels and are coined ethnic minorities or marginal identities today but always on the fringes of centralizing bureaucratic homogenizing states. These hill people are no living fossils but represent alternative This was a bit of a letdown. The idea behind the book, the content, the new vision are all worthwhile but the style and order of the book are a real challenge to keep on reading. On the plus side. The book brings us a radical new view on what used to be savages, heathens, primitives; scoundrels and are coined ethnic minorities or marginal identities today but always on the fringes of centralizing bureaucratic homogenizing states. These hill people are no living fossils but represent alternative lifestyles that have developed and grown in relationship with valley states with whom they have a troubled connection with up until today. James C. Scott goes to great lengths to point out how every aspect of the hill peoples ranging from their habitation density, social organisation/stratification, occupations, religion, to language, oral history and extremely fluid and multiple identities are all strategic choices to keep the state out. The hill people are shown to be a result of centuries of flight, capture, migration, prophetic ideologies, raids and other events and not some museum piece to be cataloged and studied as a primitive early state of man kept intact by fortune of remote location. There are people with a history; a history of keeping out the state while living on the edge of one or more that are eager to bring your way of living down or to transform it to their utility. So not a clear cut linear history but a wax and wane, tug of war between two opposing lifestyles that interacted trough war, raids, trade (pricey luxury resources are it seems the products off the periphery not the trading states, while I was surprised by the impact of new world crops on the hills such as cassava and potatoes),ideological self presentation/identity based on the other in the valley or the hills. The downside is that the book was often a bore to read. Scott keeps on repeating himself over and over again to a point I skipped parts but this was not my main issue concerning style. My problem was that he used way to many examples. A single paragraph can contain four maybe five hill peoples from any part of Zomia and from different times. The Ming empire, Burma military Junta, French colonizers, Thai kingdoms and the Malay city states and more get mixed in the same chapter and sometimes sentences, it is confusing and boring for you can't place it into context, the names become a blur. The sad thing is, I get what he was trying to do; show us how irrelevant of time and location, hill people faced the same threat by states. Not only that but a huge amount of etnic groups from other places then Zomia are brought in the mix such as Berbers, maya, Gypsies, Cossacks, March Arabs and so on. I get why; to encourage his paradigm in other contexts and for historical research and world history studies but it was to much. I liked the idea behind the book and it does inspire me to look differently on the relation between the state and those who live beyond it's reach, it gave me new arguments to defend those people and their right to live the way they do and identity several traps and mistakes I made myself (the idea of homogenizing "tribal" or ethnic identity as norm instead of political choice or the hill-chief as a inevitable political social norm). I do wish that James Scott would have used a few well detailed examples of hill people identities and their neighboring valley states per chapter, instead of the avalanche of little examples that only confuse and bore the reader. For example he could have shown how the Viet state developed trough time and how their relationship with the hill people changed trough time and how it affected them both. Or how the Hmong experience differed (or not) when analyzing their relationship with different states in different times and locations. He does this, but way to little and ruined in effect by the interchanging of time, place and location. One of the few times he did work out an example in depth was how the Lahu in China dealt with Chinese ming armies passing trough by appointing different "chiefs" to provide the Chinese with the supplies they wanted and appointing a different official translator every time to prevent anyone from gaining power trough their association with the Chinese forces. Now I did understand how and why the Chinese state wanted chiefs to deal with and how the hill people responded to such state attempts to force them into the Chinese paradigm, a style I would have liked to have seen more but did not. I do believe the main message of the author, that there is a more or less universal story behind the people from the hills is a solid story, well proved with evidence and a valid point of view for every period of time in human history. I do disagree however that the time of escaping the state and choose the tougher but freer life is coming to an end. Globally states are beginning to give up on regions due to budget constraints and changing of the economy reoriented towards city connections instead of national economies. The zapatista and Kurdish rebels in Syria are eking out a corner of existence in defiance of states that do not feel threatened by their actions, in the US and Russia both, entire communities live in non recognized towns (moteltowns and siberian villages) that these states no longer have to provide with costly social services. It seems as if the breakdown of the welfare state ideal as socially harmful it may be, might open the window for the return of the hills as the alternative life to living under stricter state rule. In addition to changing perspectives on identity and the right of idegenous people (and their own international connections) mentioned by James C Scott on the side, I do believe that even if the time when the people of hills were the demographic and geographic norm are indeed over, the option itself might be reinvigorated. Even though it does have it's flaws, it is a must read for anyone interested or involved with the plight and lives of people from the hills, be it as a historian, anthropologist , NGO worker or activist.

  24. 5 out of 5

    DowdyGUMP

    I wanted to LOVE this book so much, but it’s all based on the authors personal theories, not necessarily facts. The biggest issue that I have (and you’ll read about early on) is that he generalizes numerous tribes that share no relation to one another, together. Also, he refers to the land(s) they occupy as “Zomia”, which isn’t a real thing; let me clarify, it’s a termed coined by a Dutch Historian in 2002. He doesn’t examine the individual histories nor origins of the peoples he’s writing about. I wanted to LOVE this book so much, but it’s all based on the authors personal theories, not necessarily facts. The biggest issue that I have (and you’ll read about early on) is that he generalizes numerous tribes that share no relation to one another, together. Also, he refers to the land(s) they occupy as “Zomia”, which isn’t a real thing; let me clarify, it’s a termed coined by a Dutch Historian in 2002. He doesn’t examine the individual histories nor origins of the peoples he’s writing about. He only speculates why they are where they are. While tedious, if you’re interested in the ethnic tribes of Asia/upland Asia, I’d suggest doing your research elsewhere; unless it works in your favor to loosely group the Asian tribal communities together in a broad sense. In that case, no harm no foul.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ezra

    An excellent book that explains much about the so-called developing world. I was born in the Philippines and have always been slightly ashamed that no state developed in my country, unlike in nearby Vietnam and Indonesia. This book shows that my birth country is a place where people fled to escape states. Combined with Wilhelm Solheim's Nusantao idea, one can see how the "country" was connected in a loose network of trade and communication to as far as Madagascar and Hawaii. The book also does mu An excellent book that explains much about the so-called developing world. I was born in the Philippines and have always been slightly ashamed that no state developed in my country, unlike in nearby Vietnam and Indonesia. This book shows that my birth country is a place where people fled to escape states. Combined with Wilhelm Solheim's Nusantao idea, one can see how the "country" was connected in a loose network of trade and communication to as far as Madagascar and Hawaii. The book also does much to show that ethnic identity, writing, and religion is tied up with state-making. A mind-blowing read full of fascinating insights.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Benoit

    A fascinating account of “state-evasion and prevention” on the part of Southeast Asian peoples. It’s books like these that expand our ideas of what is socially possible/doable, and the ways in which our imagination being limited is by no means accidental. I do agree with others that the book is, perhaps, too long. Like, 100-200 pages too long. However, one must admire the breadth and thoroughness Scott’s research yields. For those of us who’ve been trained in college in the Art of Not Reading Ev A fascinating account of “state-evasion and prevention” on the part of Southeast Asian peoples. It’s books like these that expand our ideas of what is socially possible/doable, and the ways in which our imagination being limited is by no means accidental. I do agree with others that the book is, perhaps, too long. Like, 100-200 pages too long. However, one must admire the breadth and thoroughness Scott’s research yields. For those of us who’ve been trained in college in the Art of Not Reading Every Page, the book is by no means insurmountable.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    The ideas in James Scott's book are very interesting and important to understanding how governments develop and how real people deal with governments. That being said, he is a terrible writter. He repeats himself constantly, doesn't go into enough detail describing South East Asian hill societies (nominally the focus of the book), and he constantly writes about Latin America and the Middle East. He clearly had very good ideas but this book is a rambling mess.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Troy Kramer

    An interesting glimpse in isolated community living. Worth a read, though not exactly proof of concept for how to structure an ancap society, since it largely depends on isolation brought about by unique and challenging geography which doesn't allow for large group living.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Tobin

    Excellent intro to how and why non-state peoples act the way they do (as a way of evading subordination by their state neighbors). Useful for just about every world region, though particularly helpful for mainland Southeast Asia and southwestern China.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    I love this book. It’s just awesome. So provocative and a blast to read.

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