The best books on egalitarianism

Many authors have picked their favorite books about egalitarianism and why they recommend each book.

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Hierarchy in the Forest

By Christopher Boehm,

Book cover of Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior

To understand human nature you need to take a deep dive into anthropology, particularly into the lives of hunter-gatherers. Because humans are the most flexible animal on this planet, it can be incredibly difficult for an outsider to tell which lessons from any one society are general and which relate to just their small part of the world. The beauty of this book is that the brilliant anthropologist who wrote it does the hard yards for you, narrating a fascinating and highly accessible trip through the lives of hunter-gatherers.


Who am I?

I’m a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Queensland. I’ve had the good fortune to spend my life studying humans and trying to figure out how they got that way. These are some of the best books I’ve read on this fascinating topic. They might seem to be all over the map, but understanding human nature requires approaching it from many different perspectives, and these books will get you started.


I wrote...

The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy

By William Von Hippel,

Book cover of The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy

What is my book about?

In the compelling popular science tradition of Sapiens and Guns, Germs, and Steel, a groundbreaking and eye-opening exploration that applies evolutionary science to provide a new perspective on human psychology, revealing how major challenges from our past have shaped some of the most fundamental aspects of our being.

News from Nowhere

By William Morris,

Book cover of News from Nowhere

This is William Morris’s utopian fantasy imaging an egalitarian, ecological, and pacific future for Britain is a perennial political favourite. It challenges each generation to think ‘how we might live’ without capitalist conflict. This book tackles revolutionary change, human nature, work, gender, manufacturing, architecture, economics, ecology, and the uses of imagination in critical analysis. All topics demonstrate the ongoing importance of William Morris’s vision and provoke responses.


Who am I?

I’ve had a lifelong admiration for William Morris’s eloquent writings on political optimism. And how these fit with the personal life of his wife Janey and daughter May. This began with my biography of the two women, published by the feminist Pandora Press and continuing through to editing Jane Morris’s Collected Letters. Admiration is also critical engagement rather than simple fandom. We need to think, act, and endeavor to promote how we might live better lives in the world. I love the task of relating individual lives in the context of their time. Biography involves historical imagination to fill the gaps in recorded information and conceive how those in the past thought, felt and behaved.   


I wrote...

The Collected Letters of Jane Morris

By Frank C. Sharp, Jan Marsh,

Book cover of The Collected Letters of Jane Morris

What is my book about?

The only direct source of the authentic voice of Janey Morris, long described as the silent and sullen wife of designer William Morris.

Five hundred letters written by Janey to a variety of correspondents, collected and meticulously edited by Frank Sharp and Jan Marsh. Full of unexpected details and opinions.

Reconstruction

By Eric Foner,

Book cover of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

If most Americans are like me, Reconstruction is vaguely remembered from high school history classes as a time when corrupt and incompetent Carpetbaggers and Scalawags reigned while the South struggled to recover from the devastation of the Civil War. Historians have rescued Reconstruction from this neglect and misunderstanding, revealing it as a second American revolution – but one that failed. It was a time of stunning progress in the rights of Black Americans, a reconceptualization of the role of government in society, and staggering violence to preserve white supremacy. Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Eric Foner’s book is the Bible for this era–lucidly written, carefully researched, and painful in its assessment of this lost moment in American history.


Who am I?

I first became interested in extremism and terrorism when I was young, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. As a student and then as an intelligence analyst, I became deeply immersed in terrorism emanating from the Middle East and later served with the 9/11 Commission. In the last decade, I focused on the white supremacist threat, motivated both by its growing lethality and its political impact during the Trump era and today. In this book, I share my insights on the movement’s modern history, global dimensions, presence on social media, and numerous vulnerabilities.


I wrote...

Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism

By Daniel Byman,

Book cover of Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism

What is my book about?

The modern white power movement is a global, transnational phenomenon. I trace the key moments in the movement's evolution in the United States and around the world, examining shocking episodes of violence from New Zealand to Norway to South Carolina. They are not a hide-bound movement seeking to turn back the clock, but are dynamic, exploiting the most cutting-edge technologies, especially social media. Because white power terrorists' grievances echo mainstream debates, their political impact can be inordinately high even if the body count is low. White power terrorists, however, are divided, with poor leadership, and often attract the incompetent and the criminal as well as the dangerous and deluded. I explain how governments can exploit these weaknesses and better protect their citizens from this deadly threat.

The Assault on American Excellence

By Anthony T. Kronman,

Book cover of The Assault on American Excellence

Kronman is particularly good at describing the “tough” reasoning skills that underlie the thinking styles that have produced modern science and modern democracies. An example of these tough skills is what he calls the “ethic of depersonalization”: expressing arguments in a form available to all—a form not dependent on our emotions or personal experience. Identity politics, in contrast, gives weight to immutable demographic characteristics in ongoing political conversations.  It thus reverses centuries of progress in the intellectual march toward open, ecumenical inquiry, where personal characteristics do not trump rational argument.


Who am I?

I’m an emeritus professor living in Portland, Oregon, officially retired, but still writing articles and books. Although I am a lifelong US citizen, I spent the heart of my career as the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto. Most of my books are about aspects of rationality, especially cognitive biases. I have also worked on tools for measuring individual differences in rationality. Lately, I have focused on ways to reduce political polarization by taming the myside bias that plagues all human thought, and by reforming institutions (especially universities) that are currently failing in their role as knowledge adjudicators. 


I wrote...

The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

By Keith E. Stanovich,

Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

What is my book about?

Myside bias is the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward our own beliefs. When studying the cognitive biases that indicate poor thinking, my research group discovered that myside bias was the strangest of all the cognitive biases. Unlike virtually all the other biases, the avoidance of myside bias is not correlated with high intelligence, education, or knowledge. It is just as prevalent among the cognitive elites of society as it is among nonelites.

Faculty in universities don’t recognize their own biases, and this has contributed to declining public trust in university research. It is also a factor in fueling our current ideologically polarized politics. 

Q

By Luther Blissett,

Book cover of Q

Q takes place in strife-ridden 1500s central Europe. At the center is an Anabaptist revolutionary, of many names, hunted by a Papal spy, Q. Identities mutate in Q. Thus, Q is an espionage novel, with disguises, code, counterfeiting. Commoners build egalitarian communities in Q. But rulers cannot tolerate egalitarianism. It might be catching. Thus, Q is also a war novel, with battles, skirmishes, narrow escapes. 

Is Q an allegory for modern revolution? The take-away seems to be, “Use the new technology and dissimulate.” A seems self-evident. But B? Would I even know, if they’re dissimulating? An idea-filled, engrossing, wide-ranging, tragi-comic read.


Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University, and I have taught English for 30 years. I have studied and taught Shakespeare, Tudor drama, English linguistics, the Reformation, and various other aspects in the literary and cultural history of the 16th century. The 16th century is a time of great upheaval and the more I study it, the more I am fascinated by how pivotal this epoch is in the creation of the modern world, for better and for worse. I seek out books that chart, from grandest to most intimate, this momentous time’s transformations.


I wrote...

Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

By Theodore Irvin Silar,

Book cover of Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

What is my book about?

It is Michaelmas in rural Renaissance England, and Thomas Smith and William Philpott, scriveners, cannot believe their luck. They have been invited to revels at the manor house of Lady Grace Atwater, Countess of Burnham. There will be food, drink, dancing, and gracious company culled from a diverse assortment of county societies. Thomas has even written a poem for the occasion. All goes well until a certain Sir John, a master swordsman out to better himself by whatever means, makes an entrance. Soon, all is not well, and a cascade of revelations lays open the decadent underside of the glamourous aristocratic life. 

Play Like a Feminist.

By Shira Chess,

Book cover of Play Like a Feminist.

If we want a better world, we have to be able to enact change. Play Like a Feminist is about feminism, equality, and games. But it’s also really about how we make change, how we rise up, and how we lift others up. Games can help to reveal not only the problems, but how we can protest those problems and make solutions. It shows us that play itself can be a form of protest.


Who am I?

I first realized the power of games when I won the Geography Bee in my elementary school. I had been playing Carmen Sandiego, which encouraged me to study maps and read almanacs. I started to see how games could motivate interest in all different topics. But I didn’t realize I could make games until I was a graduate student at MIT, and I made an augmented reality game to teach history. Since then I have been designing games to inspire connection, care, and curiosity. I am Associate Professor and Director of Games at Marist College, and I have designed media for organizations like the World Health Organization, Scholastic, and Nickelodeon.


I wrote...

We the Gamers: How Games Teach Ethics and Civics

By Kat Schrier,

Book cover of We the Gamers: How Games Teach Ethics and Civics

What is my book about?

The world is in crisis. Can games help us to solve the world’s biggest problems—such as global pandemics, climate change, and racial and gender inequality?

Ethics and civics have always mattered, but perhaps they matter now more than ever before. Games are starting to be seen as communities for civic debate and problem-solving. The book, We the Gamers explores how we engage in civics and ethics when we play games. The book shares examples of all different types of games, including Minecraft, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Fortnite, When Rivers Were Trails, Buffalo, Quandary, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We the Gamers shows us how we might repair and remake our world through gaming. 

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