Rutger Bregman: ‘Our secret superpower is our ability to cooperate’

The historian offers a hopeful view of human nature in his latest book, Humankind. It couldn’t have come at a better time

For most authors, now is the very worst time to bring out a book. The shops are closed; the festival circuit has migrated to Zoom; there’s a plague to compete with. But for Rutger Bregman, this might just be the perfect moment to publish Humankind, a sweeping survey of human existence which argues that, despite all our obvious flaws, most people are basically good.

A book whose subtitle is “A Hopeful History” should be welcome at a time when people are gagging for cheering news. It fits the mood too, appearing just as neighbours are helping neighbours, people are clapping for carers, and humans the world over are cooperating to save each other’s lives. What’s more, as some are talking of a radical fresh start once we emerge from this crisis, a 1945-style new settlement, Humankind offers a roadmap for how we might organise ourselves very differently.

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