How did humans, a species that evolved to be cooperative and egalitarian, develop societies of aggressively enforced inequality? Why did our ancestors create a world of patriarchal power, war and abuse? Did it have to be this way?
Powerful elites have always called hierarchy and violence unavoidable facts of human nature. The science of evolution, they say, caused – and causes – men to fight, and people to have different, unequal roles, starting with men and women. But that is bad science.
In this fascinating, fun and important book, two anthropologists tell the real story of humanity, from early behaviours to contemporary cultures. From bonobo sex and prehistoric childcare to human sacrifice, Joan of Arc, Darwinism and Abu Ghraib, they reveal humankind's evolutionary predisposition to both equality and inequality. Very old ideas of difference, invented by the earliest class societies, have hidden this truth, causing much female, queer and minority suffering. But there is hope.
Why Men? is not a book about what men and women are or do. It's about what privileges humans claim, how they rationalise them, and how we unpick those ideas about our roots. It will change how you see the nature of injustice, violence and even yourself.
Nancy Lindisfarne is an anthropologist who previously studied and taught at SOAS University of London. Her most recent book, written with Richard Tapper, is Afghan Village Voices.
Jonathan Neale is a historian and professional writer. His most recent book is Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs.