Top positive review
A very important study, a fascinating read
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2014
James Scott is well-known among cultural anthropologists for this and other works which challenge some long-held assumptions and axioms about traditional social structures in pre-developed regions of the world. This book, however, is also very important for general readers of history and culture and a nonacademic audience.
I leaned decades ago the general belief that minority and subordinate cultural groups surrounding or adjacent to dominant groups quite likely were driven to less-desirable and remote habitations in competition for land and resources. Scott illustrates convincingly that, in many cases, the dominant groups wanted those subordinate peoples close by to exploit them for labor, crops, taxes, and military recruitment, but that those groups commonly migrated away to avoid those same costs. In doing so, they purposely backtracked in what we would normally think of as normal cultural and technological evolution to more primitive standards, such as by going from settled farming and animal husbandry to swidden agriculture and foraging and hunting. In some cases, they even gave up literacy as less useful and less sustainable in their new lifestyles. While the dominant culture and its governors might have promised some stability and even military protection from bandits and raiders, the minority populations might have thought that, in balance, it was not a good deal.
Ground-breaking and fascinating. Scott's book is based on his long researches in Southeast Asia, but his conclusions are applicable all over the world.