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Descripción de editorial
The epic story and ultimate big history of how human society evolved from intimate chimp communities into the sprawling civilizations of a world-dominating species
If a chimpanzee ventures into the territory of a different group, it will almost certainly be killed. But a New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles--or Borneo--with very little fear. Psychologists have done little to explain this: for years, they have held that our biology puts a hard upper limit--about 150 people--on the size of our social groups. But human societies are in fact vastly larger. How do we manage--by and large--to get along with each other?
In this paradigm-shattering book, biologist Mark W. Moffett draws on findings in psychology, sociology and anthropology to explain the social adaptations that bind societies. He explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how societies develop, function, and fail. Surpassing Guns, Germs, and Steel and Sapiens, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind created sprawling civilizations of unrivaled complexity--and what it will take to sustain them.
Moffett (Adventures Among Ants), a visiting scholar in Harvard's Human Evolutionary Biology department, intrigues by setting human societies in the context of those of the animal kingdom. He returns to humanity's near kin, the chimpanzees and bonobos, again and again, but includes other surprising comparisons as well. Ants, perhaps, provide the most astonishing analogue, with one colony of Argentine ants spreading from the Mexican border north past San Francisco and with outliers in Hawaii and along nearly 2,000 miles of Europe's coast. What sets ants and humans apart from other species is the ability to live in anonymous societies, which Moffett illustrates with his caf example a person can walk into a caf full of strangers, recognize them as members of his or her own society, and feel perfectly safe. Much of this work is devoted to the need for an "other" to define societies, including some rather disheartening studies on how deeply ingrained prejudices can be. Moffett, in his final thoughts, suggests that though humanity will never be free from all divisions, "humans have some capacity to counter our inherited propensities for conflict through deliberate self-correction." This fine work should have broad appeal to anyone curious about human societies, which is basically everyone.