Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Hebrew: קיצור תולדות האנושות, [Ḳitsur toldot ha-enoshut]) is a book by Yuval Noah Harari, first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 based on a series of lectures Harari taught at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in English in 2014. The book surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century, focusing on Homo sapiens. The account is situated within a framework that intersects the natural sciences with the social sciences….
Author Yuval Noah Harari Original title Country Israel LanguageHebrew
Followed by Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow…,.
Harari’s main argument is that Sapiens came to dominate the world because it is the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. He argues that prehistoric Sapiens were a key cause of the extinction of other human species such as the Neanderthals, along with numerous other megafauna. He further argues that the ability of Sapiens to cooperate in large numbers arises from its unique capacity to believe in things existing purely in the imagination, such as gods, nations, money, and human rights. He argues that these beliefs give rise to discrimination – whether that be racial, sexual or political and it is potentially impossible to have a completely unbiased society. Harari claims that all large-scale human cooperation systems – including religions, political structures, trade networks, and legal institutions – owe their emergence to Sapiens’ distinctive cognitive capacity for fiction. Accordingly, Harari regards money as a system of mutual trust and sees political and economic systems as more or less identical with religions.
Harari’s key claim regarding the Agricultural Revolution is that while it promoted population growth for Sapiens and co-evolving species like wheat and cows, it made the lives of most individuals (and animals) worse than they had been when Sapiens were mostly hunter-gatherers, since their diet and daily lives became significantly less varied. Humans’ violent treatment of other animals is a theme that runs throughout the book.
In discussing the unification of humankind, Harari argues that over its history, the trend for Sapiens has increasingly been towards political and economic interdependence. For centuries, the majority of humans lived in empires, and capitalist globalization is effectively producing one, global empire. Harari argues that money, empires, and universal religions are the principal drivers of this process.