Preface. Clearly for their conclusion to make sense you’ll need to read the book and see the evidence for yourself. Since they challenge just about all of the ideas currently in fashion, you can find some pretty damning reviews of their book, but do not believe them, the several I’ve read entirely misstate what was actually written, the old straw man fallacy of inventing something that they didn’t say and shooting it down. And their attitude is not at all “we’re right, you’re wrong”, no, quite the opposite. They’re hoping to stir up fruitful avenues of inquiry, different and more meaningful ways of looking at the past, and my hope is that rather than try to invent a steady state / degrowth economy, that ecologists will team up with experts in anthropology and archeology to discuss the best sustainable ways of life from the past, how to avoid authoritarian kings, brutal agricultural societies, and more.
Here is part of their summary, and at greater length below (though they are constantly summarizing arguments throughout the book, another reason you need to actually read it).
“In trying to synthesize what we’ve learned over the last 30 years, we asked question such as “what happens if we accord significance to the 5,000 years in which cereal domestication did not lead to the emergence of pampered aristocracies, standing armies or debt peonage, rather than just the 5,000 years in which it did? What happens if we treat the rejection of urban life, or of slavery, in certain times and places as something just as significant as the emergence of those same phenomena in others?
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…