Rutger Bregman’s new book, Humankind, offers a roadmap for how we might organise ourselves very differently.
The book declares that political debate for centuries has turned on a critical argument about human nature. In one corner stands Thomas Hobbes, insisting that, left to their own devices, people will turn on each other in a “war of all against all”: they need the institutions of civilisation to restrain their otherwise base instincts. In the other corner stands Jean-Jacques Rousseau, countering “that man is naturally good, and that it is from these institutions alone that men become wicked”.
Bregman charts how Hobbes won the argument. Society and its key institutions –schools, companies, prisons – have been designed based on a set of bleak assumptions about human nature. But, Bregman says, the scientific evidence suggests those assumptions are badly flawed, that as a species we’ve been getting ourselves wrong for far too long.
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