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Intellectual historians have never really abandoned the Great Man theory of history. They often write as if all important ideas in a given age can be traced back to one or other extraordinary individual - whether Plato, Confucius, Adam Smith or Karl Marx - rather than seeing such authors' writings as particularly brilliant interventions in debates that were already going on in taverns or dinner parties or public gardens (or, for that matter, lecture rooms), but which otherwise might never have been written down. It's a bit like pretending William Shakespeare had somehow invented the English language. In fact, many of Shakespeare's most brilliant turns of phrase turn out to have been common expressions of the day, which any Elizabethan Englishman or woman would be likely to have thrown into casual conversation, and whose authors remain as obscure as those of knock-knock jokes - even if, were it not for Shakespeare, they'd probably have passed out of use and been forgotten long ago.

David Graeber & David Wengrow: The Dawn Of Everything