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

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  98 ratings  ·  17 reviews
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 e
Hardcover, 468 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Basic Books
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3.53  · 
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 ·  98 ratings  ·  17 reviews

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Ryan Boissonneault
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
In most accounts of world or macro history, you get a few introductory sections or chapters on our hunter-gather past before moving on to the civilizations of written history. Yet 6,000 years of written history represents only three percent of our collective 200,000 year history as a species. Surely this span of time has more relevance and deserves more attention than it is typically given.

The Human Swarm by biologist Mark Moffett does not suffer from this limitation; it takes 21 chapters and 27
Peter Mcloughlin
Some interesting takes on human development from hunter-gatherer bands to state societies and the forging and breaking of ethnic and national identities in history as an integral part of the cycles of rising and declining states. Basically, it is history seen through an anthropologist's lens.
This was an excellent read. Author Mark W. Moffat takes the reader on a deep dive into sociology here.
He drops an interesting quote early on:
"Chimpanzees need to know everybody.
Ants need to know nobody.
Humans only need to know somebody."

He continues on, talking at great lengths about different animal societies, as well a human societies.
There's an interesting chapter about the Argentine ant. He also covers tribalism and group badging, aka "markers".
He speaks with great insight and clarity abo
Matt Nyman
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
What a strange book. I hoped, based on the titles and reviews, to find some overarching way to look at our modern anomized huge society differently. A new perspective. What this book is instead is a series of reinforced belabored concepts about the human tendency to find nothing of value in other societies. That we are are inherently and perpetually stuck in a world where there will be conflict and division between societies. Yes, we all know this. It’s the entire extent of human history. But if ...more
I did not finish this book. It is long, 362 pages. It has 26 chapters. I got to chapter 11. The book seemed to me to ramble on. To what extent can we try to figure out early humanoid and human societies from looking at bonobos, chimpanzees, and hunter-gatherers? Well, true, that is what we have to go by, but..... Can we ignore other types of societal organization? What about gorillas? Many societies have had one "band" with a single male--Solomon with all his major and minor consorts comes to mi ...more
An serendipitous sequel to The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution, the last nonfiction I read before tackling this one. Where Wrangham focused on humans' decreased reactive aggression compared to other animals, Moffett focuses on humans' ability to create anonymous social networks similar to those of social insects like ants or bees.

My goal is to show that membership in a society is as essential for our well-being as finding a mate or loving
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a book written by an amateur who pretends to be an expert. Come on, just because you are a biologist, it doesn't mean you can claim yourself as a sociologist! There is few meaningful insight or scientific proof. Also, the book is very hard to read.
Richard Thompson
It wasn't bad, but it didn't inspire me. I think that maybe it was just the wrong book at the wrong time. I read books like this because I want them to stimulate my thinking about big picture issues for humanity. This one didn't. Oh well. Next.
Felipe CZ
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Many animals live in societies that can even become very complex (such as ants) through markers. Humans have scaled this and made sophisticated societies where we connect even on emotional levels and are part of humanity.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it

Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fails to deliver on the promises in the first chapter. Author pussyfoots around sensitive topics as if he was running for office.
David Kennerly
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Mark Moffett's take on the human condition is brilliant!
Aug 16, 2019 added it
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. Very well written, however at times it may be a bit dry and repetitive. Thought provoking nonetheless.
Scott Hunter
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
a very interesting read, but too much information, too many words. I stalled out reading it, though I would have like to continue. I moved on and couldn't get back to it as of yet.
MCZ Reads
May 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
DNF: gave up in the eighth section and skipped to the conclusion.

Maybe I'm not smart enough for this book, or maybe it just wasn't what I expected.

The author handles the science of the book well. I appreciate the breadth of his approach to analyzing societal organizations of animals and early to modern humans; drawing from many disciplines makes his conclusions all the more convincing. The organization of the book and the author's guiding voice helped make the bulk of information easily digestib
Mike Stolfi
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm with the biologist, but many won't like hearing that our societies are closest to some of the insect colonies.
Belinda Jonak
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