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From the author of New York Times bestseller UTOPIA FOR REALISTS, a revolutionary argument that the innate goodness and cooperation of human beings has been the greatest factor in our success. If one basic principle has served as the bedrock of bestselling author Rutger Bregman's thinking, it is that every progressive idea -- whether it was the abolition of slavery, the adv From the author of New York Times bestseller UTOPIA FOR REALISTS, a revolutionary argument that the innate goodness and cooperation of human beings has been the greatest factor in our success. If one basic principle has served as the bedrock of bestselling author Rutger Bregman's thinking, it is that every progressive idea -- whether it was the abolition of slavery, the advent of democracy, women's suffrage, or the ratification of marriage equality -- was once considered radical and dangerous by the mainstream opinion of its time. With Humankind, he brings that mentality to bear against one of our most entrenched ideas: namely, that human beings are by nature selfish and self-interested. By providing a new historical perspective of the last 200,000 years of human history, Bregman sets out to prove that we are in fact evolutionarily wired for cooperation rather than competition, and that our instinct to trust each other has a firm evolutionary basis going back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. Bregman systematically debunks our understanding of the Milgram electrical-shock experiment, the Zimbardo prison experiment, and the Kitty Genovese "bystander effect." In place of these, he offers little-known true stories: the tale of twin brothers on opposing sides of apartheid in South Africa who came together with Nelson Mandela to create peace; a group of six shipwrecked children who survived for a year and a half on a deserted island by working together; a study done after World War II that found that as few as 15% of American soldiers were actually capable of firing at the enemy. The ultimate goal of Humankind is to demonstrate that while neither capitalism nor communism has on its own been proven to be a workable social system, there is a third option: giving "citizens and professionals the means (left) to make their own choices (right)." Reorienting our thinking toward positive and high expectations of our fellow man, Bregman argues, will reap lasting success. Bregman presents this idea with his signature wit and frankness, once again making history, social science and economic theory accessible and enjoyable for lay readers.


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From the author of New York Times bestseller UTOPIA FOR REALISTS, a revolutionary argument that the innate goodness and cooperation of human beings has been the greatest factor in our success. If one basic principle has served as the bedrock of bestselling author Rutger Bregman's thinking, it is that every progressive idea -- whether it was the abolition of slavery, the adv From the author of New York Times bestseller UTOPIA FOR REALISTS, a revolutionary argument that the innate goodness and cooperation of human beings has been the greatest factor in our success. If one basic principle has served as the bedrock of bestselling author Rutger Bregman's thinking, it is that every progressive idea -- whether it was the abolition of slavery, the advent of democracy, women's suffrage, or the ratification of marriage equality -- was once considered radical and dangerous by the mainstream opinion of its time. With Humankind, he brings that mentality to bear against one of our most entrenched ideas: namely, that human beings are by nature selfish and self-interested. By providing a new historical perspective of the last 200,000 years of human history, Bregman sets out to prove that we are in fact evolutionarily wired for cooperation rather than competition, and that our instinct to trust each other has a firm evolutionary basis going back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. Bregman systematically debunks our understanding of the Milgram electrical-shock experiment, the Zimbardo prison experiment, and the Kitty Genovese "bystander effect." In place of these, he offers little-known true stories: the tale of twin brothers on opposing sides of apartheid in South Africa who came together with Nelson Mandela to create peace; a group of six shipwrecked children who survived for a year and a half on a deserted island by working together; a study done after World War II that found that as few as 15% of American soldiers were actually capable of firing at the enemy. The ultimate goal of Humankind is to demonstrate that while neither capitalism nor communism has on its own been proven to be a workable social system, there is a third option: giving "citizens and professionals the means (left) to make their own choices (right)." Reorienting our thinking toward positive and high expectations of our fellow man, Bregman argues, will reap lasting success. Bregman presents this idea with his signature wit and frankness, once again making history, social science and economic theory accessible and enjoyable for lay readers.

30 review for Humankind: A Hopeful History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    You know that person who's always so happy no matter what? Maybe it's the colleague who is bright and cheery at 8:00 every Monday morning when everyone else is struggling just to open their eyes and get their third cup of coffee down?  Or that really annoying person who always urges you to look on the bright side. Oh, your arm fell off? No worries, you have another! Oh, your second arm fell off too? Well, just think of all the fun you're going to have learning how to use your feet to open doors, You know that person who's always so happy no matter what? Maybe it's the colleague who is bright and cheery at 8:00 every Monday morning when everyone else is struggling just to open their eyes and get their third cup of coffee down?  Or that really annoying person who always urges you to look on the bright side. Oh, your arm fell off? No worries, you have another! Oh, your second arm fell off too? Well, just think of all the fun you're going to have learning how to use your feet to open doors, feed yourself, and wipe your own ass! I don't know about you, but those kinds of people are just far too optimistic for me. If you're one of those people, well, maybe you can learn to tone it down a bit when you find yourself living in the real world with other human beings. Humankind: A Hopeful History is the book equivalent of that overly optimistic person. Author Rutger Bregman is certain the human species is inherently good. Most people, deep down, are really good people who care about others and want to help everyone and treat each other fairly. Growing up, I thought the exact opposite. Most people were bad and not to be trusted. Then, as an adult, I started seeing good in people. Maybe I didn't trust most people, but I let myself believe that there are a lot of genuinely good people in the world and maybe even there are more good than bad. Then along came trump and showed me how mistaken I was. Even some people I thought were good went to his side, ignoring the harm he does to minorities and even relishing in his hatred and cruelty towards them.  After that, along came Covid-19. Now we really see how many people care absolutely nothing about their fellow human beings. They do not care if they pass the virus on to others, some of whom might die, because they just don't like wearing a mask. (That is at least many Americans. The fact that other countries impose steep fines for not wearing a mask makes me think that it's not just Americans who are that self-centered, and others would go without too if not for those fines.) Yes, they are actually okay with being inadvertently responsible for someone else's death so that they don't have to be inconvenienced.  My faith in the inherent goodness of most human beings has plummeted.  I'm eager to know what Mr. Bregman would have to say today. Would he write the same book? Probably.  So let's get to it. Mr. Bregman starts with the premise that people are basically good and then pulls up all these studies to "prove" his point. Most of the studies he talks about are ones I've come across in other books, but he claims the exact opposite results. Who is correct in their conclusions? I would like to believe Mr. Bregman is, but I rarely did. He seems to cherry pick the things that support his premise while throwing out everything that goes against it.  He also makes some wild assertions such as, "Basically, our ancestors were allergic to inequality".  He's talking about our hunter gatherer ancestors and makes the claim that for most of human history, people lived in a veritable Paradise. That mythological Garden of Eden. Everyone got along, sharing, and doing their part, and kissing, and hugging, and singing Kumbaya, and being the very best of friends. He even goes so far as to claim that babies in hunter gatherer societies were different! When talking about a study that shows human infants have a clear preference for those most like them, he tells us that it just wasn't so for most of human history. He offers not one iota of proof for this, just assures us that babies today who are born into big, anonymous cities are different than babies that were born in the forest with a small tribe of other human beings. At times it was like reading a religious apologist.  That said, it was enjoyable to read this book. It's interesting. It's written well. Even if I disagree with most of Bregman's conclusions, the book encouraged me to think about things in a different way. I think the author is correct in his assertion that the media shows us the negative and leaves out the positive. I accept his conclusion that most people would find it difficult to take the life of another human being --IF they had to do it face-to-face. We see with the pandemic that many, many people really do not care what happens to anyone besides themselves or at least outside their own circle of close family and friends. They are okay with being responsible for someone's death even if they wouldn't pull out a gun and shoot someone. That doesn't make me feel very optimistic about humanity. I believe Mr. Bregman is correct -- the stats support it -- we live in the safest era, with far fewer people dying from violence inflicted by another than at any other time during civilization. I just can't share his optimistic conclusion that humans are basically good and caring people. Some are, some aren't.  It's almost amusing how he runs around in circles trying to explain away such atrocities as the Holocaust in a world where just about everyone is good. It's like arguing for a benevolent creator who purposely created such things as cancer in children and parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside caterpillars, slowly and horrifically murdering them as the baby wasps eat their way out. Maybe I'm cynical, which Bregman assures us is lazy. He asserts that, "If you believe most people are rotten, you don't need to get worked up about injustice. The world is going to hell anyway". I disagree. The more injustice I see in the world, the more I realise how much work there is to be done and the more I wish to be able to do something about it. If we ignore all the very real suffering humans inflict upon each other and other living creatures, we don't see where change needs to be made and we don't take responsibility for trying to bring about change.  Mr. Bregman's ideas seem lazy to me. For instance.... his solution for racism? Just let racists hang out with people of color. While not coming out and directly saying that people of color are responsible for eliminating racism, that is what he is implying. Why should people of color have to hang out with people who hate them (or LGBQT+ with people who hate us) in order to change their minds? It is not minorities who should shoulder the responsibility for change. I had to deduct a star from the rating for that BS. He blows off hatred of minorities by saying it wouldn't exist if we lived in small bands of people and yet at the same time among people who are very unlike us.  Yeh, I don't understand that either. So, my conclusion is that humans are capable of both good and bad. We are capable of love and kindness and compassion but also capable of the opposite. There is no neat and tidy way to account for war and genocide while claiming people are mostly all good. We are complicated. Life is complicated. It's a big grey area; human nature doesn't come in black and white, all good or all bad.   Do I recommend the book? Absolutely. I'm glad I read it, even if it didn't succeed in changing my mind. 

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Some great stories, but anecdotes don't make a sustained argument and the whole isn't entirely convincing. Even so, it's the perfect time for a healthy dose of optimism and if there's anything this book does well it's showing how hope and positivity can breed more. So go forth and be the good you want to see in the world. You might just inspire others to do the same. ARC via Netgalley

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elzinus

    Bregmans book is immensely populair at this moment in Holland. The central thesis is clear from the title, freely translated: Most people are OK. Bregmans, is a journalist and historic from Holland who gained fame by explicitering the need for tax reforms at Davos. In this book he argues that most people are OK in two different ways. 1. By summarizing study results that proof our good nature, that is, an preference for social cooperative behaviour and aversion to violence 2. Secondly by trashing e Bregmans book is immensely populair at this moment in Holland. The central thesis is clear from the title, freely translated: Most people are OK. Bregmans, is a journalist and historic from Holland who gained fame by explicitering the need for tax reforms at Davos. In this book he argues that most people are OK in two different ways. 1. By summarizing study results that proof our good nature, that is, an preference for social cooperative behaviour and aversion to violence 2. Secondly by trashing exemplary research into the dark human nature and present examples that show the good nature of humans For me his thesis is ridiculous. In our daily life we approach most people like they are OK. We don’t distrust our colleagues when they asked for help and there are always people standing up in public transport to free a seat for those who need it. These are the kind examples he gives of good behaviour. Still, maybe this is not the kind of behaviour Bregmans wants to talk about. In the beginning of the book he states (from an personal email of a university teacher) that 97% of people belief that we are inclined to act fully in self-interest in panic situations. However for this argument the research he presents is less convincing. This is because the ‘proof’ of our good nature falls mostly in the category ‘a la café’ and because he is not able to explicate these results in an synthesized framework. Secondly because by trashing the research methods of i.e. Zimbardo’s prison experiment (where splitting a group up into prisoners and guards resulting en violence) he thinks to prove that people are not inclined to show bad behavior. This however, is false reasoning, since the results of the Zimbardo experiment where always a presentation of how the context can make people bad. This is still standing, even if the researches (career driven lying pricks) where pushing for escalation. They where just a power structure within the context. As Rutger Bregman states he hopes to follow Bentrand Russel’s maxim to never get distracted by what he believes. It is a pity that he doesn’t live up to this. As he states in the preface, his goal in this book is not to prove that people are angels, more that we have an preference for te good (p.31). He fails to do this because: - He fails to make proper conclusions but merely summarizes a lot of research (which is interesting for sure!). But not explicitly derive the conclusion that this means ‘we’ are inclined to do the good in panic situations - This leaves him with the meaningless proposition that most people are (most of the time) OK. What do you mean OK? When are we not OK? What does this mean for our OKness in general? (This defect of the book was, for me, compensated by the last couple of chapters where the question is no longer the prove of the central thesis, but how vitreous behavior can be stimulated) - The question of evil is never a question of quantity but of quality. One person starting a fight in a bar can ruin the night for 30 OK-people. Magnifying the good intentions of the rest is not the point here. He does not address this but talks as if bad an good are leveled in equal measure. For example, the good behavior of (a lot) of people during WO II does not lessen the fact of the Holocaust. It is noteworthy that this book is so popular. Why so? De meeste mensen deugen is written in a way that makes you feel like a marathon runner. You just kill the thing in a few hours, and this made me feel good indeed. But this cannot be the only reason. What got my attention is the dualism created in the book between we (the 99%) and the leaders, scientist and politicians (the 1%). The most people are OK, but leaders… oef, the chances are high that they are psychopaths. In this way this book is a warm blanket that works as a sedative. We don’t have to feel guilty, because we are inclined to the good.[1] So, should you read this book? I think so. Rutger Berman is a great collector of research and is able to summarize the information so you can read it with ease. On the other hand, be aware that this book is an ideological pamphlet and the results of most research can be interpreted in multiple ways. So, practice benevolence, but not everything is OK and not only the powerful are evil. _________ [1] This is ideology and false with our direct experience. Though we think most people are OK we all now some examples where somebody is (as we say in Holland) ‘licking up, and kicking down’. Or for me growing up with brothers. I showed virtuous behavior, as well as evil sadistic behaviour to my younger brothers (not something i am proud about).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    An idealist can be right her whole life, and still be dismissed as naive. This book is intended to change that. Because what seems unreasonable, unrealistic, and impossible today, can turn out to be inevitable tomorrow. It is time for a new realism. It is time for a new view of humankind. With the subtitle “A Hopeful History”, Humankind is exactly the kind of optimistic read I think I needed right now. With so much negative going on, I keep hearing, “What do you expect? People are the worst, An idealist can be right her whole life, and still be dismissed as naive. This book is intended to change that. Because what seems unreasonable, unrealistic, and impossible today, can turn out to be inevitable tomorrow. It is time for a new realism. It is time for a new view of humankind. With the subtitle “A Hopeful History”, Humankind is exactly the kind of optimistic read I think I needed right now. With so much negative going on, I keep hearing, “What do you expect? People are the worst, a plague on the Earth!” And not only does that not solve anything, but it's so fatalistic as to suggest that nothing short of total human extinction could solve anything. With this new review of human history, Rutger Bregman not only busts a bunch of myths (and especially those based on social science experiments) about how rotten we humans are at the core, but by adding in stories of human decency and exploring some better ways of setting up entrenched institutions, Bregman shines a light on a more hopeful way forward. If the “nocebo effect” (If we believe most people can't be trusted, that's how we'll treat each other, to everyone's detriment) is as powerful as Bregman suggests, then a book like this that proves that humans are not basically evil is the first step towards building the society that works better for everyone. Just what I needed. (Note: I read an ARC from NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) There is a persistent myth that by their very nature, humans are selfish, aggressive, and quick to panic. It's what Dutch biologist Frans de Waal likes to call “Veneer theory”: the notion that civilization is nothing more than a thin veneer that will crack at the merest provocation. In actuality, the opposite is true. It's when crisis hits – when the bombs fall or the floodwaters rise – that we humans become our best selves. For most of this study, Bregman reviews what famous thinkers, philosophers, social psychology researchers, and recent pop historians have written; often finding source material that contradicts what we've been led to believe their evidence shows. Bregman starts with the opposite philosophical poles of Hobbes (“The man who asserted that civil society alone could save us from our baser instincts”) and Rousseau (“Who declared that in our heart of hearts we're all good” and that “'civilization' is what ruins us”). Bregman decidedly comes out on the side of Rousseau (and from more recent times, on the side of Yuval Noah Harari of Sapiens fame), who all believe that the dawn of agriculture was the downfall of happy human co-existence (and Bregman even takes issue with Steven Pinker and his hopeful books about how violence has decreased over time because, according to Bregman, there's zero evidence to support the widely accepted idea that nomadic/hunter-gatherer societies were anything but peaceful). To counter the dim, but popular, view of uncontrolled humanity in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Bregman recounts the true story of a group of six Tongan boys who survived on a deserted island for over a year by creating a totally egalitarian society; to dispute the notion that men are jingoistic warmongers, he shares the incredible stats about how few soldiers in the major wars actually fired their weapons; to try and explain why it was the comparatively weak and smaller brained Homo sapiens who survived out of several competing hominids in prehistory, Bregman uses a recent study on the domestication of foxes to suggest that it came down to “survival of the friendliest”. If nothing else, Humankind is a fascinating and wide-ranging collection of stories. I'm going to be honest. Originally, I wanted to bring Milgram's experiments crashing down. When you're writing a book that champions the good in people, there are several big challengers on your list. William Golding and his dark imagination. Richard Dawkins and his selfish gene. Jared Diamond and his demoralizing tale of Easter Island. And of course Philip Zimbardo, the world's most well-known psychologist. But topping my list was Stanley Milgram. I know of no other study as cynical, as depressing, and at the same time as famous as his experiments at the shock machine. So, not only does Bregman confront Golding, Diamond, and Dawkins (actually, although I had never heard this, apparently Dawkins has disavowed his early notion of the “selfish gene”), but Bregman also spends a lot of the book writing about Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram's shock experiments. I remember learning about Zimbardo and Milgram in more than one Psych course – as they both demonstrated something fundamentally awful and important about us humans – but I don't remember ever being told that Zimbardo was basically a fraud who manipulated his process and his results (but sure loved the fame that followed) and it hasn't become commonly known that while, yes, test subjects under Milgram were convinced to administer ever-increasing levels of painful shocks to unseen confederates of the experimenter, the results are much more nuanced than that (for example, subjects uniformly refused to continue if they were ordered to administer the shock instead of being encouraged to do it for the good of the experiment; believing that they were being helpful caused most to continue, against their own better natures, in the name of doing something good for society at large). Apparently, these experiments are still being taught because they seem to confirm what we all know – that people are just this thin veneer of civilisation away from brutality – and that's why we don't trust each other, and that's why we allow our governments to use lethal force against other countries and our own fellow citizens. Myths are so insidious. I remember reading somewhere recently something like, “What do you think that dude on Easter Island was thinking as he cut down his island's last tree? Could he not see that he was literally cutting down his own civilisation?” This was written in the context of climate change – and why are humans so self-interested as to continue to do those specific things that will lead to our own doom – so it was fascinating to me to read here that, although deforestation is the accepted explanation for the collapse of the Easter Island society, Bregman didn't need to dig too deeply into the evidence to discover that the islanders didn't cut down their vast forests (as Malcolm Gladwell reported and which everyone then accepted as fact) to the very last tree, but that an invasive tree rat was carried to Easter Island on Peruvian slave ships: slavers took the healthiest people and unknowingly left the rats (which had no natural predator on the island) and of course their civilisation collapsed. Other myths that deserve to be broken: The “bystander effect”. We've probably all heard about the murder of Kitty Genovese – killed on the doorstep of her NYC apartment building while thirty-some people watched and figured someone else would call the cops – but it turns out that her murder didn't happen that way (and when someone tried to correct the official account, the leading article's writer at The New York Times refused, saying that positive details would ruin the story). Also, the “broken windows” theory of crime control: Sure, the stats for serious crime went down when this practise was adopted in NYC, but it turns out that undue pressure was put on beat cops to make massive arrests for small misdemeanors and to discourage the reporting of major crimes (and apparently it was Zimbardo, once again, who did the one flawed experiment that served as the basis for this theory?) And also the notion that mass incarceration is the only way to deal with criminals because softer rehab options don't work (the sociologist who inspired this practise, Robert Martinson, eventually killed himself when he saw how his conclusions were applied; apparently, this former civil rights activist wanted to prove that all punishment was ineffective and “everyone would realize prisons were pointless places and should all be shut down”.) And why these myths matter today: As Bregman notes, the broken window strategy for policing is a racist system: Data show that a mere 10 percent of people picked up for misdemeanors are white. Meanwhile, there are black teens that get stopped and frisked on a monthly basis – for years – despite never having committed an offense. Broken windows has poisoned relations between law enforcement and minorities, saddled untold poor with fines they can't pay, and also had fatal consequences, as in the case of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 while being arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. In an earlier story, Bregman recounts the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – when, despite terrible newstories of opportunistic murders, rape, and looting – it turns out that most residents acted with “courage and charity”. Even so, first responders were also hearing the stories of a city in chaos – the thin veneer had been breached and 72,000 troops were called in – and “on Danziger Bridge on the city's east side, police opened fire on six innocent, unarmed African Americans, killing a seventeen-year-old boy and a mentally disabled man of forty”. The myths we tell ourselves about human nature matter, and more insidiously, we shouldn't allow the myths perpetuated by trauma-hungry media (or other entrenched institutions) form the entirety of our perceived reality. Could this be the thing that the Enlightenment – and, by extension, our modern society – gets wrong? That we continually operate on a mistaken model of human nature? We saw that some things can become true merely because we believe in them – that pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When modern economists assumed that people are innately selfish, they advocated policies that fostered self-serving behavior. When politicians convinced themselves that politics is a cynical game, that's exactly what it became. So now we have to ask: Could things be different? Can we use our heads and harness rationality to design new institutions? Institutions that operate on a wholly different view of human nature? What if schools and businesses, cities and nations expect the best of people instead of presuming the worst? In the last section of Humankind, Bregman tells the stories of various institutions (a factory, a school, a healthcare service, a prison, a municipal government) that found ways to do away with bureaucracy and middle managers, and instead, empowered individuals to follow in the direction of their own instincts and motivation. His examples sound Utopian – if you treat people like they're good and smart enough to do things right, they will – but they don't sound universally applicable; still, it was hopeful to end on such an optimistic note. Maybe we'll get there. I wrote about a lot here, but the book contains even more stories, experiments, and busted myths. I suppose because it contains so much, Bregman couldn't follow every strand out to my full satisfaction, and I found some of his quirks annoying (and especially, after suggesting we thrived through survival of the friendliest, Bregman continually refers to humanity as “Homo puppy”; dumb), but the good far outweighs the quibblesome; four stars is a rounding up.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    To be honest, I picked up this book to hate-read it. I thought it would be more Pinker and and that Lars guy saying how everything is better now and will everyone just shut up sort of stuff. But I actually really loved the book--that is, I loved the first 2/3rds of the book. The last 1/3rd was way too cute and optimistic for my cold cynical heart. The book is not making the claim that Pinker is making. The book is a point by point debunking of a Hobbsian worldview and the sham "studies" and stor To be honest, I picked up this book to hate-read it. I thought it would be more Pinker and and that Lars guy saying how everything is better now and will everyone just shut up sort of stuff. But I actually really loved the book--that is, I loved the first 2/3rds of the book. The last 1/3rd was way too cute and optimistic for my cold cynical heart. The book is not making the claim that Pinker is making. The book is a point by point debunking of a Hobbsian worldview and the sham "studies" and stories that have upheld it. This is important because this bleak worldview has led us into bad policies and behaviors because we assume that if the police state was slackened, there would be absolute mayhem and murder in the streets. That is just not true.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Rutger Bregman returns with one of the most anticipated nonfiction titles of the year. What makes this such a fantastic read is that it is equal parts fascinating and informative; many such books can be dry and tedious but Humankind avoids those pitfalls by employing a highly readable writing style to entice you to carry on turning the pages well into the night. At its heart, this is a book about human nature and on the whole is optimistic about life. I found it different from what I would usual Rutger Bregman returns with one of the most anticipated nonfiction titles of the year. What makes this such a fantastic read is that it is equal parts fascinating and informative; many such books can be dry and tedious but Humankind avoids those pitfalls by employing a highly readable writing style to entice you to carry on turning the pages well into the night. At its heart, this is a book about human nature and on the whole is optimistic about life. I found it different from what I would usually read as I am quite the cynic and it has taught me interesting anecdotal tidbits I will remember. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tine Putzeys

    Once again, I'm in doubt about the number of stars to give this book. I wanted to give it many many stars, I really did, because I like the premise that most people are inherently good. This has been my gut feeling for a long time, even if I get all kinds of opposite signals from the media and the f*ckers stealing my phone and breaking into my house. Bergman does give us some great examples of people being awesome and lovely anecdotes for me to casually throw into random conversations. And if I Once again, I'm in doubt about the number of stars to give this book. I wanted to give it many many stars, I really did, because I like the premise that most people are inherently good. This has been my gut feeling for a long time, even if I get all kinds of opposite signals from the media and the f*ckers stealing my phone and breaking into my house. Bergman does give us some great examples of people being awesome and lovely anecdotes for me to casually throw into random conversations. And if I look at the reviews it's getting, I see many people are loving it and saying it helped "restore their faith in humanity" or that it's a good antidote to their cynicism. Which is great and I think this was the explicit aim of the author. So in that sense, good book. You can argue about style. Yes it's written like an irritating click-baity internet piece, but then again, the author writes mainly for a digital audience, so that's probably what he's used to. If your target is the general population, the worst thing you could do is write in a dusty academic style. It won't wint prizes for its literary prose, but does that matter if everyone is reading it? However, the main flaw is the same as most of these feel good books: what the f*ck do I do now. Bregman gets a small amount of bonus points, because he has the 10 rules epilogue, which gives you some guidance on how to use the content, but it seems to be too small-scale to matter. Assuming the premise is correct and most people are inherently good, we still fall victim to our circumstances and the systems we live in. He briefly touches on this sometimes, like referring to how the wonderful Agora school could be shut down if it doesn't perform up to the educational standards in the country. And then he goes on to the next topic. Same for the rebels in the Columbian jungle. Now that they have returned to celebrate Christmas with their mother, the jungle is now taken over by drug lords and extreme right groups. Just leaving that hanging there and on to the next topic. SO WHAT NOW, my brain keeps screaming at me. In the end, I think stars should represent how valuable the book was to me, no the general population. How much I liked reading it and how much I got from it and I can't in earnest give it four stars with my brain still screaming at me. Thank you mr. Bregman for the lovely anecdotes and for 'proving' my gut feeling about people is right, but I can only give you 3 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susy

    1.5 stars Never been happier to finish a book! "What we look for is what we'll find", says Bregman. Hmm, could that be the case with his book and his "research"? He seems to want to sell his idea so (too) badly that he foregoes any scrutiny or nuance. There are a lot more points of criticism and I did start to write them all down, but my list was getting too long so I stopped. Besides, there are some excellent reviews already (be it in Dutch): Bou's review Lieke's review Daniëlle's review Amber's rev 1.5 stars Never been happier to finish a book! "What we look for is what we'll find", says Bregman. Hmm, could that be the case with his book and his "research"? He seems to want to sell his idea so (too) badly that he foregoes any scrutiny or nuance. There are a lot more points of criticism and I did start to write them all down, but my list was getting too long so I stopped. Besides, there are some excellent reviews already (be it in Dutch): Bou's review Lieke's review Daniëlle's review Amber's review I mean, I can understand that people like this book, the optimistic message and I hope that some will be positively influenced (so therefore I give it 1.5 stars, rounding it up to 2). I suspect though that this will be the case mainly for the people who already have a positive view of the world and people. It is just too positive and not enough nuanced to be convincing for those who aren't convinced already.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leonie

    must-read!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rhian Pritchard

    This book has taken me nearly two months to read, not because it was difficult to read (it’s not, it’s beautifully written and translated) but because the ideas required quite so long to process fully. I don’t know if anyone has spoken to me in the last two months and NOT had me recommend this book to them wholeheartedly, even when I was only about a hundred pages in. It is like reading a book that confirms and reinforces, through meticulous research, discussion and sourcing, a secret truth I ha This book has taken me nearly two months to read, not because it was difficult to read (it’s not, it’s beautifully written and translated) but because the ideas required quite so long to process fully. I don’t know if anyone has spoken to me in the last two months and NOT had me recommend this book to them wholeheartedly, even when I was only about a hundred pages in. It is like reading a book that confirms and reinforces, through meticulous research, discussion and sourcing, a secret truth I have wanted to believe, deep down, all along. But it took these two months, and I imagine much longer still, to begin dismantling the ideas society has ingrained in me. I can’t write a good review of this book because it would essentially mean rewriting the book. I have nothing to add, nothing further to discuss. I just want to put it in people’s hands and let it change their lives. And I believe Rutger Bregman is right - it is easy to be a cynic, to scoff and scorn kindness. It’s hard to be kind because it means taking responsibility - it means believing that your actions are worthwhile, when it is easier to believe that there is no point in trying, the world’s fucked anyway. I dare you to believe that it’s not true. I dare you to be an optimist - or as Rutger Bregman would have it, a realist. This is a challenging book to read. It does not shy away from the darker sides of humanity. But it is ultimately hopeful, and the more people begin to change their minds and believe that humans are not inherently bad, the better.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Clarke

    Four stars. In the philosophical stand-off between Hobbes (human life is a war of all against all, papered over with the thinnest veneer of civilisation) and Rousseau (we were born noble savages and civilisation has corrupted us) Bregman comes down decisively in favour of Rousseau. Such a flattering premise makes the book very enjoyable to read, at least in the first half. The weakness of the book is that it is a string of nicely written and presented anecdotes/episodes/debunkings and then like a Four stars. In the philosophical stand-off between Hobbes (human life is a war of all against all, papered over with the thinnest veneer of civilisation) and Rousseau (we were born noble savages and civilisation has corrupted us) Bregman comes down decisively in favour of Rousseau. Such a flattering premise makes the book very enjoyable to read, at least in the first half. The weakness of the book is that it is a string of nicely written and presented anecdotes/episodes/debunkings and then like a butterfly Bregman wafts on to the next flower in the field without really developing a coherent argument. In the end, despite disclaiming the ‘self-help’ genre he nevertheless ends with 10 rules for individual living. He is clearly a highly intelligent academic and throughout the book appears completely aware of the political implications of what he is up to (notably, he mentions conflicts with his German publishers over the message of this book). The second half covers contemporary societal issues - schools, prisons, countries in conflict - where his avoidance of political engagement becomes alarmingly apparent (and his engagement in each issue therefore feels superficial). He resolutely draws back from drawing any fundamental political conclusions, which leaves a syrupy aftertaste. (He does mention he likes Richard Curtis films.) But there is a tremendous amount of interesting and original research entertainingly presented. There is more than enough here to inspire your own thinking. Recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    Rutger Bregman set himself a really high-barrier task in his book Humankind. He wants to prove that Man is actually not violent, or bellicose, but peaceful, helpful and kind. To do it, he went back to all those famous, landmark social science studies we’ve all grown up believing. They show unequivocally that Man is selfish, self-centered, violent and wallowing in it. Bregman shows them to be faulty, false, staged or just plain bogus. It makes for an eye-opening journey readers will not soon forg Rutger Bregman set himself a really high-barrier task in his book Humankind. He wants to prove that Man is actually not violent, or bellicose, but peaceful, helpful and kind. To do it, he went back to all those famous, landmark social science studies we’ve all grown up believing. They show unequivocally that Man is selfish, self-centered, violent and wallowing in it. Bregman shows them to be faulty, false, staged or just plain bogus. It makes for an eye-opening journey readers will not soon forget. And he does it with style. Readers will recognize the studies, like the Stanley Milgram electric shock study and the Stanford Prison study. He even goes after the Kitty Genovese murder case and Lord of the Flies. Bregman goes back to research not just the study or the book, but the author and the author’s own notes. He uses an absolutely delightful structure. He describes the study, book or story, giving it all the credit it has always claimed, seemingly case closed, no argument possible. Then he starts researching, going back to original documents, and where possible, original participants. The story starts to crumble, and he ends up shaming the originators of the bogus findings. It makes a for a lively read of a very serious problem with Man: not violence, but fraud. Man bites dog doesn’t sell as well as dog bites man. So newspapers focus on the sensational negatives, and don’t bother correcting stories when they prove false. Hollywood is all over sensationalism, mostly in the form of violence and gore. Everyone is always at war, always in a personal fight. Doesn’t matter if it’s Genghis Khan, Vikings or pilgrims. So viewers come to believe that they are accurate, that it is reality. That’s the way it always has been. That’s the way Man is. For example, Bregman cites the Easter Island story. For centuries, it has been “known” that Easter Islanders raped the island and went to war with each other, finally eating each other as cannibals when the island could no longer support them all. It’s a classic that is in constant use to demonstrate Man’s selfish inhumanity to Man and total disregard for nature, not to mention the tragedy of the commons (which Bregman dismantles separately). Only it never happened. Going back to the original ship captain’s logs, he shows that Easter Islanders were not just peaceful, they were thriving: joyously open and healthy. Not only did they not fight, they didn’t even know what weapons were. (The Dutch sailors showed them, mowing them down, then later enslaved them and left them with Plague.) In the famous Stanley Milgram experiment, volunteers electrocuted people, almost to death. It was supposedly the answer to why Nazis could exterminate people so readily. But Milgram hid the fact that more than half the subjects believed his shock machine was fake, so it didn’t matter how high a shock they administered. And it only came out much later that Milgram’s assistant continually harassed the subjects into shocking the victim. The results were therefore not definitive in any way. Or even valid. But the study lives on as a foundational document and seminal moment in social science. Similarly, the Stanford Prison Study proved that jailers plus prisoners will always lead to violence, causing the entire justice system to apply stricter rules that caused (and continue to cause) totally unnecessary violence in prisons. The truth is the researcher forced the violence by making it a we/them setup (with him leading the we as the warden), forcing the guards to be aggressively obnoxious, and imposing odious arbitrary and humiliating rules on the prisoners to get them to rebel. Literally millions of Americans have suffered as a result of this landmark study. Meanwhile, in modern prisons in Norway, prisoners and guards live, work and play together, help each other in tasks, and prisoners leave ready to rejoin society at a higher level. It costs the state less, and recidivism is a fraction of the American rate. The author of the Stanford study lived off it his entire life, rising to the highest levels in psychology, never admitting what his notes showed was bogus science. In the infamous Kitty Genovese murder, a New York woman screamed for help as she was being stabbed to death, while 38 witnesses did nothing. She died in the hallway of her apartment building in Queens, alone. This story went global, and demonstrated how inhuman humans had become in big cities, reverting to savage animals who couldn’t bother even to lift a phone to help. Bregman went back and found that two people had called the police immediately, before the second attack took place, but the police never sent anyone. They decided Genovese must be drunk (it was 3:30 am). And she didn’t die alone. A woman in her building immediately rushed to her and cradled her in her arms until she died. Lastly, two men stopped a robber carrying a tv out of a house in broad daylight shortly thereafter, disabling his truck so he couldn’t get away. These two good neighbors turned out to have caught the Genovese murderer, but that was never reported either. No, it was preferable to leave the sensational story of uncaring New Yorkers and an unsolved murder fill the media forever after. Cities breed uncaring, leering animals remains the takeaway, despite the facts. Even Lord of the Flies, which has long proven how beastly human children will be when left on their own, turns out to be bogus. This novel, read by every schoolchild in the country for 60 years, was written by William Golding, a man who professed Nazi sympathies, and had a worldview of violence and hatred. He made no pretense of it being scientific, but it has become key to the canon of innate violence in Man regardless. It fits our worldview, so it has become truth. Bregman found a real case of Lord of the Flies, in which half a dozen kids on Tonga stole a boat and ended up shipwrecked on an island called ‘Ata in the 1960s. It took hard digging, but he tracked down the captain (now 90) of the boat that rescued them and got the whole story. After year, the boys were in excellent shape, finely toned, well organized, and now lifelong friends. Any time there was a disagreement on the island, the antagonists had to go to different ends to cool off, and had to shake hands and apologize when they came back. Wouldn’t make nearly as good a film as Lord of the Flies. And no one has ever heard of it outside Australia, where it has been forgotten. Meanwhile, Lord of the Flies is mandatory reading. It’s not the common man, it’s his leaders that embody this evil nature. “Dictators and despots, governors and generals—they all too often resort to brute force to prevent scenarios that exist only in their own heads, on the assumption that the average joe is ruled by self-interest, just like them.” Bregman finds the farther one is from the front line, the easier it is to espouse violence. There are lovely stories of how men find ways not to fight. Ninety percent of the muskets collected after the Battle of Gettysburg were loaded, often with two or more balls, as men used any excuse not to fire their weapons, pretending to be reloading rather than rushing into battle. At Christmas in 1914, Germans and Brits celebrated together, singing carols to each other from their trenches and then meeting to exchange gifts, play football, and carouse. To the point where the generals had to reinforce orders not to fraternize with the enemy. What enemy? “From Troy to Waterloo and from Korea to Vietnam, few armies have fought without the aid of intoxicants, and scholars now even think Paris might not have fallen in 1940 had the German army not been stoked on thirty-five million methamphetamine pills (a.k.a. crystal meth, a drug that can cause extreme aggression),” Bregman says. As for guerilla organizations. he cites Erica Chenoweth who found that more than 50 percent of nonviolent campaigns were successful, as opposed to 26 percent of the militant ones. The primary reason, Chenoweth established, is that more people join nonviolent campaigns. On average over eleven times more. Turns out violence is way less appealing to ordinary people, even under duress. Man is a domesticated animal, the finding of Richard Wrangham, from his excellent, groundbreaking book called the Goodness Paradox which I reviewed here: https://medium.com/the-straight-dope/... As with other such beasts, from dogs to cattle, Man is smaller than his wild version the Neanderthal, and has much gentler features. Mostly, he is more peaceable and friendly than the wild species, just like with all domesticated animals. For us to have built this false collection of violent attributes, Bregman says, must simply be wrong. Before modern times, tribes raised children together, partied with other tribes, shared food, and owned nothing. It was the rise of agriculture, the ownership of land and tools that started the route to wealth, inequality, protection of assets, selfishness and constant warring, Bregman says. He extends the argument to capitalism, which he says was imposed from above. He says the Adam Smith version is wrong: “Now it turns out that this view is completely upside down. Our natural inclination is for solidarity, whereas the market is imposed from on high. Take the billions of dollars pumped in recent decades into frenzied efforts to turn healthcare into an artificial marketplace. Why? Because we have to be taught to be selfish.” Bregman’s quest here was recognized three thousand years ago by Aesop. One of his fables was about the sun and the wind. They spotted a man in a cloak, walking along. The wind bet the sun he could get the cloak off the man. He blew and blew as hard as he could, and with every gust, the man clutched his cloak to him even tighter. Then the sun took his turn. With the wind dying down, the sun came out, the birds went back to singing, and the air became welcoming and pleasant. The man took his cloak off himself. Not much has changed in 3000 years. Co-operation works better than force, no matter what binge-tv series present. And that’s how people actually operate. We owe Rutger Bregman a debt of thanks for unearthing the truth behind these long-held frauds, and for starting to clear the air about human nature. It’s a lovely, lively, uplifting and scientifically important book. David Wineberg

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tzutopia

    The narrative is contradictory, the opinions too black and white, and the book a lazy attempt at trying to make everything fit into this black and white narrative. Life is way more nuanced, and all that he tries to deny is just fact. Face it, don't try to blame the most ridiculous stuff, which most of the time was contradicting his own premise; that most people are good.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Wright

    HUMANKIND is a call-to-arms! We are not savages hidden beneath a thin veneer of civilization as cynics and controllers would have us believe. Bregman makes an excellent case that humans are actually rather amiable creatures who have been manipulated into believing we are wicked. No, we are no angels. We have a strong preference for those who are like us and are easily turned against the "other." But we are also quick to help when given the chance. Bregman refutes the studies and most famous incid HUMANKIND is a call-to-arms! We are not savages hidden beneath a thin veneer of civilization as cynics and controllers would have us believe. Bregman makes an excellent case that humans are actually rather amiable creatures who have been manipulated into believing we are wicked. No, we are no angels. We have a strong preference for those who are like us and are easily turned against the "other." But we are also quick to help when given the chance. Bregman refutes the studies and most famous incidents of evil in clear, logical prose explaining how we are able to do horrendous things to each other and why these events are aberrations rather than the norm. Too often the scandalous news gets the headlines and the corrections are never reported. It is a compelling read that is a breath of fresh air amidst the doom and gloom all around us.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Maire

    I listened to this on audiobook and I must say I love the voice of this author. He tells the story in a way that makes it feel like he is talking to you. In a captivating way he argues for the good in humanity and like the title suggest that ‘’de meeste mensen deugen’’ (most people are good). In a way that is scientifically underpinned and using lots of historic examples. The author debunks a lot of things you think you know about, with the latest information available. From Machiavelli, the Pyg I listened to this on audiobook and I must say I love the voice of this author. He tells the story in a way that makes it feel like he is talking to you. In a captivating way he argues for the good in humanity and like the title suggest that ‘’de meeste mensen deugen’’ (most people are good). In a way that is scientifically underpinned and using lots of historic examples. The author debunks a lot of things you think you know about, with the latest information available. From Machiavelli, the Pygmalion effect to the bystander effect, Standford experiment, the nocebo and so many more. Ode to the resilience of people and plea for the good in people.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nacho Santos

    Humankind: A Hopeful History By Rutger Bergman It’s been almost 2 months since I last finished a book. This book is a great comeback to this lost momentum. I believe this is the next required read. To me it is as essential as Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It breaks down so many of the beliefs we hold true and debunks them in such an understanding way. For example, did you know the Stanford prison experiment was pushed by Zimbardo to be that way? Or the Nobel winning prize book, the lord of the fli Humankind: A Hopeful History By Rutger Bergman It’s been almost 2 months since I last finished a book. This book is a great comeback to this lost momentum. I believe this is the next required read. To me it is as essential as Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It breaks down so many of the beliefs we hold true and debunks them in such an understanding way. For example, did you know the Stanford prison experiment was pushed by Zimbardo to be that way? Or the Nobel winning prize book, the lord of the flies is an unclear depiction of human nature. This book tackles what we think about human nature, specifically, how in the back of our minds we think everyone is selfish or only in it for themselves, with stories and clear logic. 
I learned that beliefs regarding the “evilness” of human nature is false. Bergman showed me time and time again, we are good. Today, our culture never pushes that idea. We heard of the Stanford prison experiment but we haven’t heard of the dozens of others that tried to confirm it? The ones where that result never happened, where the prisoners actually had a smoke with the guards. What more, the Stanford prison experiment laid the foundation for what the prison system and mentality is today. We do not know most of the stories that debunk these “facts” because they apparently aren’t “news worthy”. It is a “nocebo”, when we believe something false and then that information actually makes up the world we are in, being detrimental to all of us. We haven’t heard of the Christmas truce of 1914. During WW1 when British, German, and French soldiers in the trenches were each expecting a surprise attack on Christmas Day, the British heard choirs of Germans singing. It was a life changing moment for all of them during a time where they were supposed to be killing one another. Following that, the French and British sang carols out in the dark night, they then all met up going through no mans land, the space they have been sacrificing their lives to keep. These are only a few of the stories mentioned, yet they are so essential. We are reminded to “think as carefully about what information you feed your mind as you do about the food you feed your body.” Remember, social media and the news is not a real picture of the world we are in. Look outside, talk to a friend, and you’ll find that people, the world, is better than what our culture makes it seem to be. 5 ⭐️

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Van den Eede

    Reading this book felt wholesome, like a healthy dose of idealism – scratch that, realism! Most people are okay, and if I didn’t already feel that way, Bregman sure as hell convinced me with this book. It’s basically hours of meditation and therapy and insights from dozens of self-help books, all wrapped up into one cogent, eloquently written text. If I had to name one drawback, though, it would be that the book could be about 1/3 shorter and 1/3 less anecdotal. Contrary to Harari, Bregman under Reading this book felt wholesome, like a healthy dose of idealism – scratch that, realism! Most people are okay, and if I didn’t already feel that way, Bregman sure as hell convinced me with this book. It’s basically hours of meditation and therapy and insights from dozens of self-help books, all wrapped up into one cogent, eloquently written text. If I had to name one drawback, though, it would be that the book could be about 1/3 shorter and 1/3 less anecdotal. Contrary to Harari, Bregman underestimates his reader’s intelligence at times, endlessly chewing on every piece of information, working a point until you feel exhausted by the repetition and slow pace. Yes, I remember that you’ve already mentioned this in a previous chapter. No, there’s no point in repeating that yet again. Maybe that’s one of the typical pitfalls of an academic trying to entertain his audience, when in fact he should be doing what he’s best at: educate them. Challenge them. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Harari’s more intricate, more mature writing style and insights. So for that, four stars. Still, I’d recommend this book to anyone. I feel like we need it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eric van der Toorn

    De meeste mensen deugen (Rutger Bregman) I’m going to be honest here, I never expected to be putting a Dutch book on this list. Not because I can’t read Dutch (I have a good grasp of the intricacies of the Dutch language as a native), but because I had grown to hate Dutch literature in all of its forms over the years in high school where I was forced to read and analyze literature that I intensely disliked, which took away my interest. "Is this the best that Dutch literature can offer me," is t De meeste mensen deugen (Rutger Bregman) I’m going to be honest here, I never expected to be putting a Dutch book on this list. Not because I can’t read Dutch (I have a good grasp of the intricacies of the Dutch language as a native), but because I had grown to hate Dutch literature in all of its forms over the years in high school where I was forced to read and analyze literature that I intensely disliked, which took away my interest. "Is this the best that Dutch literature can offer me," is the thought that recurred time and again. My prime example, by virtue of its still-living memory, is not a particularly horrific one but a work that started off great. ’Het Leven in een dag’ is a novel that describes how life could look like if we were to live in a world that where lifespans where compressed to a single day, and everything was about ’firsts,’ from the first time you saw the sun rise to the first time you had sex. Firsts were also lasts however, and most things could never happen again (we conveniently exclude things like breathing and thinking). In this world, heaven is a single moment where ’everything’ happens, and hell is the endless repetition (or ’Earth’ for those less religiously inclined) The concept is quite interesting and sets one to thinking about how the repetition of events makes them lose a lot of their magic. The plot of the story was that of a typical romance with an interesting plan: Have more sex by going to hell. In our world the reverse is usually preached, but I like this version more to be completely honest. The plan to go to hell by murdering someone and getting executed succeeds and our main character finds himself on Earth and looks around for his girl. Then, to completely gore the entire thought process that the first two-thirds of the book stimulate one too, the main character is recruited by the man he killed to become, of all things, a prostitute. The following few scenes are just raunchy depictions of the things he is all but forced to participate in, my ’favourite’ being where he has an orgy while skydiving, laid out in explicit detail. I realise that I have in the process of wanting to rant about it written an entire review, so I’ll now start talking about the book that (after a lot of stimulation from my dad and it being suggested by a lady I met while traveling) I reluctantly started listening to and now am determined to finish to the end, though I sometimes have to bite through some reluctance. The book starts off discussing how humanity is perceived, from a philosophical perspective. The age-old question that Bregman wishes to touch upon once again (and hopefully answer) is whether civilization - rules, order, and leadership - is a boon to humanity, a requirement for proper treatment of others, or a poison that has only eroded the basic human decency that is inherent to all of us. Bregman wants to approach this topic, which is prone to being quite subjective, as scientifically as possible. I believe he did a remarkable job, though the book is named after his opinion, which is that humans are inherently decent. He starts by analyzing our behaviour without civilization, through pre-historical findings, current tribes, and stories where civilization got a ’fresh start’ - a la The Lord of the Flies - then continues onto social psychological conclusions that are widely known but deeply controversial, to finish with how things should change if the worldview that most people are decent would be implemented, and what would be the effect. In the conclusion he briefly describes 10 lessons he’s learned over his research. In his efforts to sound rational and scientific he has done quite well, though some parts of the book leave me wondering whether he sufficiently defuses the arguments against human cruelty being non-inherent. One thing that I feel he skirts about unwilling to actually dive into is the belief that civilization is responsible for all that is cruel. He repeatedly paints the civilized world as the ’evil’ guy, with its colonization and slavery practices, through the comparisons feel more like comparing apples to oranges. I would’ve enjoyed it if he’d mentioned more cases where one civilization compared to another. Are leaders always the people with the most hate for eachother? How does this work in rebellions? How should we look at people that commit not violent crime but horrible deeds like paedophilia? These are just some of the questions that the book neglected to touch upon in what felt like an effort to not get into the intricate debates surrounding those topics. To conclude my review, this book has made a significant impact on how I perceive the world in terms of how people are, baring some of the resolutions that I felt are intuitive, and with that allowing me to become more resolved in their veracity. On the other hand, it is like an opening move at a debate, where the response and the ensuing persuasive efforts still have to follow. And I am looking forward to see the arguments from both sides.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Hickey

    The most profound book I’ve read in recent memory. I recommend everybody read this and think deeply about what’s between its covers. Life affirming and encouraging.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matty

    A mammoth book but I poured through it! Exactly my kind of book, shining light on little known stories & all kinds of unique research studies from the past 100+ years. I definitely came away feeling positive about my fellow man & hopeful for society. A book I’ll want to read again and again A mammoth book but I poured through it! Exactly my kind of book, shining light on little known stories & all kinds of unique research studies from the past 100+ years. I definitely came away feeling positive about my fellow man & hopeful for society. A book I’ll want to read again and again

  21. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    what if our negative ideas about human nature are actually a form of pluralistic ignorance? could our fear that most people are out to maximize their own gain be born of the assumption that that's what others think? and then we adopt a cynical view when, deep down, most of us are yearning for a life of more kindness and solidarity? on one hand, dutch historian rutger bregman's new book, humankind: a hopeful history, is a thoughtful, engaging, wittily written effort. on the other, it reads as what if our negative ideas about human nature are actually a form of pluralistic ignorance? could our fear that most people are out to maximize their own gain be born of the assumption that that's what others think? and then we adopt a cynical view when, deep down, most of us are yearning for a life of more kindness and solidarity? on one hand, dutch historian rutger bregman's new book, humankind: a hopeful history, is a thoughtful, engaging, wittily written effort. on the other, it reads as an anecdotal, feel-good magical thinking polemic trying its best to prove a premise settled upon in advance (for which the necessary corroborative evidence was then collected after the fact). while many of bregman's debunkings (the stanford prison experiment, the milgram shock experiment, easter island, lord of the flies, etc.) are compelling in their own right, to then use them as a foundational argument that people are better than they seem is rather specious. inevitably, human beings are indeed far kinder and altruistic than governments, corporations, or other dogmatic institutions would have you believe. thus, kudos to bregman for dispelling so many of the beliefs that have persisted not only popularly, but also in fields like social psychology. the argument that hey, people really aren't that evil or bad, just gullible and stupid is rather cold comfort, however. presuming that, in fact, humans are wired for kindness, beneficence, compassion, etc. (which does seem to be backed by considerable evidence), would a widespread understanding of such a point radically upend the world as we know it? or does it simply assuage our frustrations, pessimism, and/or latent guilt? if an alien anthropologist descended upon our planet some century or millennium hence to discover anthropogenic climate change ravished the living world, or that the sixth extinction annihilated millions of species, or that rapacious capitalism turned the earth into a ruinous hellscape, or that some egomaniacal autocrat launched nuclear weapons... what might they conclude? that with all evidence to the contrary, the so-called most intelligent creatures on the planet destroyed not only themselves but lifeforms of all kinds despite their natural inclination for cooperation and kindness? perhaps a more trenchant take on humanity's psychological makeup would have delved a bit more deeply into how it is we're so adept at destroying ourselves, other humans, non-humans, and ecosystems alike. inherent kindness or not, we've made a royal mess. to consider human's innate goodness while glossing over the ravages of capitalism, colonialism, empire, climate change, genocide, slavery, patriarchy, warfare, and the like seems, frankly, a sugar pill still too bitter to swallow. (rutger himself, however, seems like a charming fellow and his takes on many issues, including ubi, taxation, work, social progress, are most commendable. and his clash with perennial moron tucker carlson is required viewing.) *translated from the dutch by elizabeth manton (bregman's utopia for realists)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Hoenkamp

    I hope this will become one of the most important books in the history of humankind. It's a true page-turner and gave me the same addicted feeling as i.e. when reading Harry Potter. I've been a big fan of Bregman's work since about 2011. If you also have been following his journalism, and especially if you attended his book promo tour (in October 2019 in The Netherlands), you won't hear a whole lot of new things. Even if you have been following him for that long, it doesn't matter. Because this I hope this will become one of the most important books in the history of humankind. It's a true page-turner and gave me the same addicted feeling as i.e. when reading Harry Potter. I've been a big fan of Bregman's work since about 2011. If you also have been following his journalism, and especially if you attended his book promo tour (in October 2019 in The Netherlands), you won't hear a whole lot of new things. Even if you have been following him for that long, it doesn't matter. Because this book sparks joy, generates an incredible amount of energy and trust in humanity. I can't think of a better way to spend your time, than to read this book! PS: I wrote this review in English, since an English version is scheduled for June 2020 (yay!), and Goodreads usually then merges the reviews of two editions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    I am giving this book five stars because it was very stimulating and engaging around its central idea - that we should assume good about the people we encounter and give the benefit of the doubt to others. The author has written a book about a simple idea that proves to be very complex. The idea concerns the initial assumptions we make about the goodness or lack of goodness of other human beings as a basis for our action. Do we assume that other people are good (and trustworthy) or do we assume I am giving this book five stars because it was very stimulating and engaging around its central idea - that we should assume good about the people we encounter and give the benefit of the doubt to others. The author has written a book about a simple idea that proves to be very complex. The idea concerns the initial assumptions we make about the goodness or lack of goodness of other human beings as a basis for our action. Do we assume that other people are good (and trustworthy) or do we assume that they are not? Are we living in a veritable jungle where we are competing to the death with others or do we start out more sociable and welcoming (and trusting) of others? Is civilization based on a veneer of humanity that will easily disappear under stress or is our humanity more robust and instances of inhumanity what are more engineered? These sorts of questions and the assumptions that go with them in some form or another are behind much of what we do and how we live. They are behind theories of capitalism and marketplace competition. They are behind how we treat other people and whether their background and characteristics and origins matter to us or not. They influence how we think about politics, how we behave at work, how we interact with the police and the courts, how we process political slogans. They are behind how wars break out and how they are won or lost. They are even behind our religious beliefs. I have read a lot in history and political theory and the issue in this book is Nothing less than the current state of the debate between Rousseau and Hobbes. The author drops a lot of names in book but also seems to have done his homework. If you are not up to speed on the background for some of these chapters, I would recommend have a device handy to check when you have questions. Sound a bit much? Perhaps, but perhaps you might read this book to see if you agree. I was surprised by how thoughtful and how learned the book is. Mr. Bregman is a Dutch public intellectual of sorts and this book is a research based but a multi-disciplinary examination of how these ideas of been accepted or rejected, how they have been researched and promoted, and how they have changed over time. When I say “research based” I do not mean that Mr. Bregman has done the original research himself but more that he has looked at what researchers have found out about a topic. ...and then he digs even deeper to see if the findings have stood up over time and how the promotion of research findings has been consistent with what the researchers and their studies have actually found. He has certainly done his homework. The result is a breath taking tour of how some basic ideas can turn up all over the intellectual map - even in discussions of how to tame Siberian foxes. Why five stars and not four? I am familiar with most of the cases Bregman raises in the book and appreciate that sorting our these assumptions is complex and nuanced. There are not a lot of simple answers. What I loved about the book was how the author dug into particular illustrative chapters and showed that the research was famous and why it was famous (famous studies by Zimbardo and Milgram, for example). But then, he continues to push further and show how replications worked out, how the researchers’ later work fared, and what the backstory for various studies actually was. This is extraordinarily valuable and should be the process that anyone uses in familiarizing themselves with a research area. Unfortunately, it is time consuming to do the real homework and as a result, it is a chore to really complete the due diligence that is needed on even a simple topic. This is not a specialized research book. Mr. Bregman is aiming for an engaged and educated audience but also a general interest audience. The book reads as if he wanted to figure out the questions for himself and then communicate what he found. This is infrequently done in any publications especially those meant for relatively wider trade book audiences. I commend the author for taking the time to do this and I highly recommend the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    "The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months" I haven't read the Humankind" book yet, but I thought I'd share a fascinating article about one part of it. The translation is available to "wish for" on NetGalley, to be published 2 June 2020. I read (and watched) Lord of the Flies by William Golding so long ago, I have only an overall sense of how repulsed I was. I remember it as being about a bunch of English schoolboys stranded on a desert island and how t "The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months" I haven't read the Humankind" book yet, but I thought I'd share a fascinating article about one part of it. The translation is available to "wish for" on NetGalley, to be published 2 June 2020. I read (and watched) Lord of the Flies by William Golding so long ago, I have only an overall sense of how repulsed I was. I remember it as being about a bunch of English schoolboys stranded on a desert island and how they become ruthless savages. It is often required reading in schools, and I imagine it makes for lively classroom discussions. So I was fascinated to see this recent Guardian article about some real boys who faced a similar situation in 1966, a decade after the book came out. They were Tongan castaways. They had a completely different outcome. We'd all do well to learn how they did it. https://www.theguardian.com/books/202...  The article ends saying, "This is an adapted excerpt from Rutger Bregman’s Humankind, (Humankind: A Hopeful History) translated by Elizabeth Manton and Erica Moore. A live streamed Q&A with Bregman and Owen Jones takes place at 7pm on 19 May 2020." I assume that's via the Australian Guardian, but I don't know. He's an interesting speaker and was in Australia discussing his much talked-about Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bart Van Loon

    I really enjoyed this book - or collection of essays if you wish - by Bregman. I am very happy to have some of my misconceptions in social psychology set right (the shock-experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, the murder of Kitty Genovese, etc...). It was also refreshing to see somebody bluntly oppose great thinkers like Pinker and Gladwell and join the "new realism"-ranks of Harari. I found this new history of mankind very compelling and interesting to read. However, I also agree with most I really enjoyed this book - or collection of essays if you wish - by Bregman. I am very happy to have some of my misconceptions in social psychology set right (the shock-experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, the murder of Kitty Genovese, etc...). It was also refreshing to see somebody bluntly oppose great thinkers like Pinker and Gladwell and join the "new realism"-ranks of Harari. I found this new history of mankind very compelling and interesting to read. However, I also agree with most of the criticism online: sometimes the author's writing betrays a pedantic desire to have an exclusive right to the truth, and from time to time he even reverts to fallacies he condemns elsewhere in his work. I also found the very large font size, big margins and huge chapter headings in this edition and the sensationalist style overall somewhat negatively impact my taking his obviously hard work seriously. Still, he has me convinced that people indeed are inherently good and the subtitle "a new history of mankind" is not exaggerated for this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shivam Kimothi

    Bergman says that our pessimistic view of humanity is a placebo. The placebo effect states that things have the potential to be true if we believe in them. He says that we have been made to believe that humans are motivated by self-interest and are inherently evil. By whom? By the psychologists who are motivated by selfish reasons and are seeking prestige and acclaim by proving so. And because we are made to believe this, we think it is true. The book puts forward a radical idea: that humans, dee Bergman says that our pessimistic view of humanity is a placebo. The placebo effect states that things have the potential to be true if we believe in them. He says that we have been made to believe that humans are motivated by self-interest and are inherently evil. By whom? By the psychologists who are motivated by selfish reasons and are seeking prestige and acclaim by proving so. And because we are made to believe this, we think it is true. The book puts forward a radical idea: that humans, deep down, are decent. Bergman supports this claim by debunking most of the social experiments that promote the selfish nature of humans. He debunks lord of the flies, the Stanford prison experiment, the eastern island experiment, and many more such experiments. This part constitutes most of the book. I didn't like it. If humans are so good, then why do we fight? Why are there so many wars and genocides? He believes it's because of empathy. Oxytocin, the love hormone, not only enhances affection for friends, but it also intensifies aversion to strangers. The mechanism that makes us the kindest species, also makes us the cruelest species on the planet. The last part of the book is flat out tedious. It's too radical of an idea to be believed so easily. But it sure does ignite a spark. It makes you question your beliefs. You should read this book because it promotes an optimistic view of life, a life filled with kind and humble people.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I really enjoyed this book. And, even if I don’t ascribe to all Bregman was exploring, it was absolutely the most thought provoking book I have read this year. According to Bregman the change from being Hunter Gatherers to Agrarian was the beginning of Humanities problems not the advent of our “civilization” but of our downfall. We are made for connection and interaction but the rise of cities, then country’s made us distrusting and insular. And no, he doesn’t proscribe going back to being hunte I really enjoyed this book. And, even if I don’t ascribe to all Bregman was exploring, it was absolutely the most thought provoking book I have read this year. According to Bregman the change from being Hunter Gatherers to Agrarian was the beginning of Humanities problems not the advent of our “civilization” but of our downfall. We are made for connection and interaction but the rise of cities, then country’s made us distrusting and insular. And no, he doesn’t proscribe going back to being hunter gatherers. I recommend to anyone who wants to think deeply about humanity and our role in this world and how we as individuals can and should make a difference.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Why should cynicism be synonymous with realism? Bregman deconstructs our views on human nature, and the way these views underpin our sociopolitical institutions. With basic elements like human decency, a tendency toward peace, and a sense of community he builds hope. Despite occasionally feeling disorganized, this book should be required reading - especially for those who question whether people are fundamentally good.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    What an incredible read! I would highly recommend this to anyone who is tired of all the negativity and cynicism in the world. So many interesting studies and stories in here that help to reaffirm the basic goodness of people. It reflects highly on the author that he is able to criticize his earlier work and strive to do better. As should we all.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jayati Deshmukh

    This book is like a ray of hope in the current times of global pandemic, inter-community disruptions, natural disasters and more. All of us need to be reminded in the intrinsic goodness of the humankind, even though sometimes it might be hard to see. The core idea of this book is that humans in general are kind and trustworthy. And the author builds on this idea throughout the book across diverse aspects like education, business, government and more. The book has many interesting and well researc This book is like a ray of hope in the current times of global pandemic, inter-community disruptions, natural disasters and more. All of us need to be reminded in the intrinsic goodness of the humankind, even though sometimes it might be hard to see. The core idea of this book is that humans in general are kind and trustworthy. And the author builds on this idea throughout the book across diverse aspects like education, business, government and more. The book has many interesting and well researched case studies like the real life version of the fictional story from Lord of the Flies. What might have happened on the Easter Island than the usually believed story of war, mass destruction and cannibalism. There is also an in-depth analysis on some of the expected questionable events / experiments like the Stanford Prison experiment, Milgram’s shock machine experiment and Catherine Susan Genovese’s murder in NYC. In all these cases, an alternate picture based on detailed research is presented which completely changes the point of view. The models of our day-to-day systems will be very different and enriching when they are built from a trustful point of view rather that the existing models which are usually distrustful by default. There are interesting examples where the application of these principles has brought remarkable change. Management, of example in a top down manner with strict way of doing things can be counter productive. There is an interesting example of Blok’s model of management where small teams are given full autonomy which has been very successful and created a win-win situation for the company as well as the employees. As the author say, “Because nothing is more powerful than people who do something because they want to do it.” Further, education is looked at from the opposite of current day industrial / factory model. Importance of play, where the children are left free to experiment and explore is highlighted. Agora model of education which give a lot of autonomy to kids to design their own learning paths is presented which builds much more well-rounded individuals. “You can’t teach creativity,’ writes psychologist Peter Gray, ‘all you can do is let it blossom.” Next example shows how cities and governments might look like when then are run autonomously using participatory models of governance. There is also an interesting discussion of the Elinor Ostrom’s model of the commons countering Hardin’s tragedy of the commons. Finally, the author gives examples where even in the most complex scenarios like handling prisoners, controlling police or even wars, it is possible to bring a positive change with models based on trust and compassion. Being kind in not easy. As it is mentioned towards the end of the book, “To believe people are hardwired to be kind isn’t sentimental or naive. On the contrary, it’s courageous and realistic to believe in peace and forgiveness.” Also this strategy won’t be successful in 100% scenarios, however as the author says, “ accept and account for the fact that you’ll occasionally be cheated. That’s a small price to pay for the luxury of a lifetime of trusting other people.” This book is powerful and can change the way we perceive the world. It also presents numerous examples where a culture of trust, autonomy, goodness and compassion can build much better systems. This book restores hope in humankind and shows a way where we can be the change we want to see in the world, by being kind!

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