Thursday, March 23, 2017

'Foragers, farmers and fossil fulels' by Ian Morris

A short review by Robin Hanson.
A comprehensive 19 page review by Alberto Bisin

The book is a large-scale history of the world through the different modes of production humanity has adopted over time and their implications in terms of moral values. Morris argues that the predominant value systems of human societies are cultural adaptations to the organizational structures of the societies themselves, their institutions, and ultimately to their modes of production. In particular, the book contains a careful analysis of how the hunting-gathering mode of production induces egalitarian values and relatively favorable attitudes towards violent resolution of conflicts, while farming induces hierarchical values and less favorable attitudes towards violence, and in turn the fossil fuel (that is, industrial) mode of production induces egalitarian values and non-violent attitudes. 

The narrative in the book is rich, diverse, and ultimately entertaining. Morris’ analysis is very knowledgeable and informative: arguments and evidence are rooted in history, anthro- pology, archeology, and social sciences in general. Notheless, the analysis falls short of being convincing about the causal nature of the existing relationship between modes of production and moral value systems. 

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