James C. Scott

James C. Scott lectures on agrarian life at Yale and is, he says, a mediocre farmer. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States was published last month and will be reviewed in a future issue of the LRB.

Take your pick: Cataclysm v. Capitalism

James C. Scott, 19 October 2017

It is​ by now common knowledge that income inequality has grown by leaps and bounds as a result of the neoliberal policies of the past half-century. The United States is a case in point – eight hyper-rich Americans today own as much as the entire bottom half of the nation’s households – but it is not an anomaly. Such massive inequalities are a global phenomenon. In 2015,...

Crops, Towns, Government: Ancestor Worship

James C. Scott, 21 November 2013

It’s a good bet a culture is in trouble when its best-known intellectuals start ransacking the cultural inventory of its ancestors and its contemporary inferiors for tips on how to live. The malaise is all the more remarkable when the culture in question is the modern American variant of Enlightenment rationalism and progress, a creed not known for self-doubt or failures of nerve. The deeper the trouble, the more we are seen to have lost our way, the further we must go spatially and temporally to find the cultural models that will help us.

Tyranny of the Ladle: Mao’s Great Famine

James C. Scott, 6 December 2012

There is no doubt that the Great Leap Famine in China more than half a century ago was the worst man-made calamity of modern times. Between early 1958 and the spring of 1961, somewhere between 30 and 45 million people died. The more cautious figure is five million more than the population of Scandinavia, the higher one the current population of Spain. The famine was compressed geographically...

Duas Cervejas: Ford’s Utopia

James C. Scott, 8 October 2009

It was clear that Henry Ford’s audacious attempt to establish a vast rubber plantation in Amazonia had failed long before the first shipment of latex from Singapore arrived in Brazil in 1951. When the plantation, which was larger than the state of New Jersey, was set up in 1928, the Washington Post’s headline had boasted that it was expected to provide the latex for two million...

At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, the American Communist Party was a pale shadow of what it had been two decades earlier. Thanks to the FBI, the McCarthy hearings in the Senate and the Un-American Activities Committee in the House of Representatives, blacklists, firings and generalised fear, the Party’s ranks had been radically thinned. And still it lived. That it survived was...

The perfectly formed city-state is the ideal, deeply ingrained in the Western psyche, on which our notion of the nation-state is founded. But what if the conventional narrative is entirely wrong?

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The View from the Top: Upland Anarchists

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, 2 December 2010

The researcher starts out with fieldwork data from a village or set of villages, or material from a set of archives, or even a set of conversations between friends in a pub, and then proceeds to...

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In the Languedoc there is a vineyard that teaches us an important lesson about textbook learning and its application to the world. In the early Seventies it was bought by a wealthy couple, who...

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