The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

Basic. Apr. 2019. 480p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465055685. $32; ebk. ISBN 9781541617292. SCI
OrangeReviewStarTropical biologist Moffett (visiting scholar, Harvard Univ.; Adventures Among the Ants) integrates research in biology, sociology, anthropology, and psychology to explore the nature and evolution of human societies. Beginning with the earliest humans, the author describes how cultures evolved from nomadic hunter-gatherer bands to tribes, villages, chiefdoms, and, finally, to the large complex states of today. For comparison, the author discusses various animal communities, including those of other primates. He argues that in significant ways, human societies resemble large ant populations more than they do that of chimps or bonobos, our closest genetic relatives. In addition, Moffett explains how human societies became so large, why all eventually die out, and the role of families and kin in their functioning. Some may bristle at the similarities made between human and Argentine ant societies, but Moffett argues his points well and provides a well-researched and richly detailed account of why societies have been a fundamental part of the human experience since our earliest ancestors.
VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed and Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
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