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Publisher's Summary

Instant New York Times best seller

"The Sapiens of 2020." (The Guardian)

From the author of the New York Times best seller Utopia for Realists comes "the riveting pick-me-up we all need right now" (People), the number one Dutch best seller Humankind, which offers a "bold" (Daniel H. Pink), "extraordinary" (Susan Cain) argument that humans thrive in a crisis and that our innate kindness and cooperation have been the greatest factors in our long-term success on the planet.

"Humankind made me see humanity from a fresh perspective." (Yuval Noah Harari, author of the number one best seller Sapiens)

One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works in 2020

If there is one belief that has united the left and the right, psychologists and philosophers, ancient thinkers and modern ones, it is the tacit assumption that humans are bad. It's a notion that drives newspaper headlines and guides the laws that shape our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Pinker, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought. Human beings, we're taught, are by nature selfish and governed primarily by self-interest.

But what if it isn't true? International best seller 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. In fact this instinct has a firm evolutionary basis going back to the beginning of Homo sapiens

From the real-life Lord of the Flies to the solidarity in the aftermath of the Blitz, the hidden flaws in the Stanford prison experiment to the true story of twin brothers on opposite sides who helped Mandela end apartheid, Bregman shows us that believing in human generosity and collaboration isn't merely optimistic - it's realistic. Moreover, it has huge implications for how society functions. When we think the worst of people, it brings out the worst in our politics and economics. But if we believe in the reality of humanity's kindness and altruism, it will form the foundation for achieving true change in society, a case that Bregman makes convincingly with his signature wit, refreshing frankness, and memorable storytelling.

©2020 Rutger Bregman (P)2020 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

"Rutger Bregman's extraordinary new book is a revelation. Although Humankind is masterful in its grasp of history, both ancient and modern, the real achievement is Bregman's application of history to a new understanding of human nature. Humankind changes the conversation and lights the path to a brighter future. We need it now more than ever." (Susan Cain, author of the number one New York Times best seller Quiet)

"This stunning book will change how you see the world and your fellow humans. Humankind is mind-expanding and, more important, heart-expanding. We have never needed its message more than now." (Johann Hari, New York Times best-selling author of Lost Connections and Chasing the Scream

"An extraordinarily powerful declaration of faith in the innate goodness and natural decency of human beings. Never dewy-eyed, wistful or naive, Rutger Bregman makes a wholly robust and convincing case for believing - despite so much apparent evidence to the contrary - that we are not the savage, irredeemably greedy, violent, and rapacious species we can be led into thinking ourselves to be. Hugely, highly, and happily recommended." (Stephen Fry, author of Mythos and The Ode Less Travelled)

What listeners say about Humankind

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He’s correct but he misrepresented the data

At first I loved this book. I share the author’s view of human nature and loved reading about the evidence in support of it. Unfortunately, once he got to research I know, I realized he was cherry picking and distorting the data. I then realized he was demonizing the researchers who he presented as having opposing viewpoints (not all really did). He fell into what he was criticizing the media and others for: make a dramatic story with terrible humans because that will attract viewers. I ended up not believing the data in other areas, research I was unfamiliar with, because I don’t trust him. I still believe his thesis but am disappointed that I don’t trust the support he provided.

98 people found this helpful

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I would have given 5 stars but...

This was an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The one thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was the author’s hypocrisy. He states that there is good and kindness in everyone and that we need to just look for it. He states you can find good in “murderers, thieves and rapists” but when he speaks of Trump supporters he regards them as lost degenerates. He should practice what he is preaching in this book and look for the good in everyone... including Trump supporters.

95 people found this helpful

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That's Not What "Selfish Gene" Means.

Throughout the book the author constantly juxtaposes his ideas about humans being selfish with the book the selfish gene by Richard Dawkins. The problem is he either didn't read this book or didn't understand it. As the author seems to labor under the false assumption that a selfish gene means a gene that makes you selfish, but that's not what it means a selfish gene is a gene that is itself selfish so it wants to produce as many copies of itself as possible including copies in other bodies. The selfish gene is about where morality comes from. It doesn't exist in opposition to this idea rather it's a more refined form of it. To that end I recommend the selfish gene over this book if you're interested in this subject matter.

74 people found this helpful

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Really good, but...

The book is fantastic, though I don't believe that the author could not have read (or if he did he didn't understand), "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins.

He references Dawkins' book multiple times and claims that the book concludes with the idea that humans are inherently selfish. This is not the case and is a common misconception of the ideas put forward in the book popularized by media outlets looking for a story that sells - which is ironically something that Mr. Bregman derides in his book.

Part of "The Selfish Gene" is about a genetic basis for moral behavior and how the genes themselves are selfish. Not that the genes make the organisms (aka survival machines) they build inherently selfish.

This erroneous assumption/conclusion on the part of Bregman doesn't take away from the main drive of "Humankind," but it was like nails on a chalkboard for me to hear the erroneous conclusion throughout the book.

I highly reccomend reading both wonderful books for yourself.

61 people found this helpful

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Philosoph wannabe drops the Ball

Bregman cruises along in several channels with impressive lack of depth, to get to his final Directions for Life, or whatever he calls it. While mentioning them, it is clear that Bregman did not understand Darwinian Evolution, nor Steven Pinker, nor did he probably read The Selfish Gene. Yet he launches his construct of "Homo puppy " as the genuine core of humanity. He mentions Frans DeWaal & other primatologist with such superficial grasp of the deep seated characteristics of animal homophily and the cooperative nature of successful tribes yet fails to incorporate those documented findings.
Spend your time elsewhere

36 people found this helpful

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Not What We Need

I truly love this concept. How to be kind and how we can rewrite our story.... if you are WHITE. This book does not help me do the work I need to be doing right now. It is from the white perspective. If you come from a place of privilege, you do not have the historical abuse, racism, suppression, injustice, .... As a white woman, I have the luxury to look at the world around me as an opportunity. Doors will open because of the color of my skin. As a woman, I do struggle, but I am still privileged. We need to listen to other voices right now. If you are reading this book, GOOD. But also look at other books that help be ANTI-RACIST. I recommend "My Grandmother's Hands" "How To Be An Antiracist." Mr. Bregman, thank you for your research and hard work, but right now we have other work to do.

14 people found this helpful

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An epically important idea casually addressed here

The central premise is huge and defendable. We have built civilization around our weakest links and assume the worst of each other. It could be different. While I like a lot of of the data points the author brings to make this case, I find his style a little whimsical like reading a freshman year college journaling project. Some of the topics deserve more rigorous treatment. This book seems to me like a simple casual outline of the more powerful serious book it could have been and which the subject so richly deserves.

13 people found this helpful

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Popper's Open Society meets Nicholas Nassim Taleb

I hate to say it, but if you fail to grasp the concepts being laid out here, you might just be stupid. Rutger Bregmank lays out the evidence (historical and otherwise) for the case that our worst fears about our fellow humans are largely unfounded. Worse, they are mostly made up without data and evidence to support them.

With all that is going on in the world, take the time to step back and challenge your negative assumptions of your fellow humans. Bregmank shows us the better Angeles of our nature is the rule not the exception. He lays to waste the notion that humans are innately selfish and greedy.

When it comes right down to it, almost all of us choose to help each other when we see someone in need. The myths perpetrated by political, economic, and religious leaders to the contrary serve only to maintain the power they hold over us. To borrow from "A Bug's Life" this is a book written for most of us (the ants) to remind us that, through our natural tendencies towards kindness, we are more powerful than them (the grasshoppers).

11 people found this helpful

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Good intentions but missing the point

The world is not going to change just because the author made a few good suggestions. Unless we have radically different systems of governance and resource distribution, things will carry on exactly the same. It is not as if we have not been trying to teach children the right moral values. But the moment they enter society, those who believe and practice them lose out!
One suggestions for the author: by making all the famous intellectuals sound evil, it reinforce the world view that the system is completely corrupt and we can trust no one, not even the author of this book!

9 people found this helpful

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Some Good Points and a Lot of Opinion

The author made a few good points about human nature with some scientific studies that were interesting. The author also made a lot of opinions. Perhaps there should be a follow up on the results of the feel good law enforcement tactics. South Africa is a disaster and the criminals are out of control in the United States. Escalations from broken glass to violent crime occurred as expected.

7 people found this helpful