Rutger Bregman provides new perspective on the past 200,000 years of human history, setting out to prove that we are hardwired for kindness, geared toward cooperation rather than competition, and more inclined to trust rather than distrust one another.
Bregman is not naive; he grounds his arguments in reassessments of historical events and in studies from the sciences and social sciences, observing that the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that people are much more inclined toward good than toward evil. He debunks a number of long-held beliefs ... Bregman presents his findings in a chatty, engaging style that evokes Malcolm Gladwell. As in Gladwell’s work, there is a cherry-picked quality to the information he presents. There is also a fair amount of generalization and oversimplification ... Additionally, Bregman tosses off some claims that seem unfounded ... Despite its flaws, Humankind is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, one whose bold argument has potentially far-reaching implications for how we run our governments, workplaces, schools, and correctional facilities.
Bregman has a Gladwellian gift for sifting through academic reports and finding anecdotal jewels. And, like the Canadian populariser, he’s not afraid to take his audience on a digressive journey of discovery ... despite the almost bewildering array of characters and information, Bregman never loses sight of his central thesis ... There’s a great deal of reassuring human decency to be taken from this bold and thought-provoking book and a wealth of evidence in support of the contention that the sense of who we are as a species has been deleteriously distorted. But it seems equally misleading to offer the false choice of Rousseau and Hobbes when, clearly, humanity encompasses both ... There will always be a battle between our altruistic and selfish instincts, our openness and our protectiveness – it is the very stuff of human drama. Still, if the devil has all the best tunes, it makes a welcome change to read such a sustained and enjoyable tribute to our better natures.
Releasing a book with the subtitle 'a hopeful history' during a pandemic that has led to thousands of deaths, put millions out of work and threatens to undermine the global financial system, is a brave choice...But Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s latest work has enough research and anecdotes to make even Hobbesian cynics feel a little less jaded about humanity — even if they may not be fully convinced by every anecdote or example that he offers ... Bregman’s attacks on the consensus around our nature are often delivered with aplomb and evidence ... Even when the stories covered are not novel, Bregman successfully ties them into an overarching narrative that, on balance, humanity is not so bad ... The writing is not without fault. Bregman has a tendency to grandstanding, particularly in his introduction. Labelling his central thesis as a 'mind-bending drug' feels more than a little unnecessary. His claim that 'to stand up for human goodness is to take a stand against the powers that be' also feels unnecessary, not least at a time when conspiracy theories about globalist elites are rife ... But Humankind is engaging enough to overlook these moments. Certainly, it is hard not to feel a greater sense of hope after reading the statistics on how hard it is to make soldiers want to kill their opponent ... in some ways these are redundant: the story of humanity woven into the book is sufficient to suggest a healthy way forward. Whether or not it is a truly 'new realism' is a point for debate. But Bregman’s examples offer a more caring ideal for how to perceive the world, a concept that is only going to seem more relevant in years to come.