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A Hopeful History

Rutger Bregman



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15 May 2020
Philosophy; History of Western philosophy; Ethics & moral philosophy; Behavioural theory (Behaviourism); Politics & government

"It'd be no surprise if this proved to be the Sapiens of 2020." - The Guardian


Human beings, we're taught, are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest.

It's a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought.

Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. It argues that the instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust, has an evolutionary basis going back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. By thinking the worst of others, we bring out the worst in our politics and economics too.

In this major book, Rutger Bregman takes some of the world's most famous studies and events and reframes them, providing a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history. From the real-life Lord of the Flies to the cooperation seen in the aftermath of the Blitz, the hidden flaws in the Stanford Prison Experiment to the true story of the Kitty Genovese murder, Bregman shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think - and act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society.

It's time for a new view of human nature.

"A declaration of faith in the innate goodness and natural decency of human beings." - Stephen Fry

"Humankind challenged me and made me see humanity from a fresh perspective." - Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens

"Wonderfully unexpected and very persuasive." - Philip Pullman

"The topic is vital, the sweep immense and the storytelling is spellbinding. This is a fabulous book." - Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist

"Bregman's understanding of history leads to a new view 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 Quiet

"Make a note of Humankind. It's an exceptional read." - Matt Haig, a Guardian Book to Look Out For in 2020

By:   Rutger Bregman
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   763g
ISBN:   9781408898949
ISBN 10:   1408898942
Pages:   480
Publication Date:   15 May 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Rutger Bregman is one of Europe's most prominent young historians. Utopia for Realists was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been translated from the Dutch into thirty languages. He has twice been nominated for the prestigious European Press Prize for his work at The Correspondent, and his writing has also been featured in the Washington Post and the Guardian. His TED talk, 'Poverty isn't a lack of character; it's a lack of cash', has been viewed more than three million times. He was ranked number 10 in the Big Issue's Top 100 Changemakers of 2020. @rcbregman |

Reviews for Humankind: A Hopeful History

An author bristling with hope, optimism and answers . . . Listen out for Rutger Bregman. He has a big future shaping the future * Observer * One of Europe's pre-eminent young thinkers * New Statesman * Bregman argues that it is only by dreaming about what seems unachievable that society can make good things possible * New York Times * Put aside your newspaper for a little while and read this book -- Barry Schwartz Part of the new zeitgeist . . . One for today's dreamers and tomorrow's realists -- Danny Dorling Rutger Bregman is part of a new generation of thinkers who are suggesting exciting alternatives to the orthodoxies of the last forty years -- Brian Eno Bregman shows us we've been looking at the world inside out. Turned right way out we suddenly see fundamentally new ways forward -- Richard Wilkinson, author of 'The Spirit Level' Bregman is out on his own, thinking for himself, using history to give the rest of us a chance to build a much better future than we can presently imagine -- Timothy Snyder This beautifully written, well documented, myth-busting work is now number one on my list of what everyone should read. Read it and buy copies for all of your most cynical friends -- Peter Gray

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