Content warning Their thesis statement, as I can glean it, which they only state in the last chapter.
Deeply frustrating book. their central thesis, which is fine, if a little anticipated by most post-modern political theory, is that there are no socially or technologically deterministic reasons for hierarchies or states and that their development is a historical accident. The pedagogy of the book — going through a hundred examples before stating their thesis — makes it a bad read, politically speaking (even if I largely agree with them), and worse learning. On the other hand, archeology and anthropology is fascinating.
If you’re looking for the premise and getting tired of the literature review aspect, this is what I wrote to a friend in a similar place:
There are three fundamental freedoms (the freedom to choose your society or social relations, the freedom to leave, the freedom to disobey. These are contrasted with the fundamental forms of domination, which are monopoly of violence, monopoly of information, and individual charisma. The emergence of these forms of domination hinder the exercise of freedom culminating in first, second, and third order “states”, the last of which encompasses or employs all three. However, as opposed to the stagist and/or the technologically determinist view of history, nothing about the scale or complexity of human relations and society necessitates that large groupings of human “need” a third order state in order to live fulfilling, prosperous lives.
On the contrary, there are examples littered throughout history of peoples living healthy, fulfilling, prosperous lives without any or all of these forms of domination present. That we do live in a world dominated by third order states is a historically contingent accident and later justified by western philosophy.