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Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels:
How Human Values Evolve
Ian Morris
Edited and with an introduction by Stephen Macedo
With commentary by Richard Seaford, Jonathan D. Spence, Christine M. Korsgaard, & Margaret Atwood

Paperback | 2017 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691175898
400 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 2 halftones. 28 line illus. 2 tables. 6 maps.
Hardcover | 2015 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691160399
400 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 2 halftones. 26 line illus. 4 maps.
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A Q&A with Ian Morris

Most people in the world today think democracy and gender equality are good, and that violence and wealth inequality are bad. But most people who lived during the 10,000 years before the nineteenth century thought just the opposite. Drawing on archaeology, anthropology, biology, and history, Ian Morris explains why. Fundamental long-term changes in values, Morris argues, are driven by the most basic force of all: energy. Humans have found three main ways to get the energy they need—from foraging, farming, and fossil fuels. Each energy source sets strict limits on what kinds of societies can succeed, and each kind of society rewards specific values. But if our fossil-fuel world favors democratic, open societies, the ongoing revolution in energy capture means that our most cherished values are very likely to turn out not to be useful any more. Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels offers a compelling new argument about the evolution of human values, one that has far-reaching implications for how we understand the past—and for what might happen next. Originating as the Tanner Lectures delivered at Princeton University, the book includes challenging responses by classicist Richard Seaford, historian of China Jonathan Spence, philosopher Christine Korsgaard, and novelist Margaret Atwood.

Ian Morris is professor of classics and a fellow of the Stanford Archaeology Center at Stanford University.


"Excellent and thought-provoking. . . . More important, by putting forth a bold, clearly formulated hypothesis, Morris has done a great service to the budding field of scientific history."--Peter Turchin, Science

"A provocative explanation for the evolution and divergence of ethical values. . . . In the hands of this talented writer and thinker, [this] material becomes an engaging intellectual adventure."--Kirkus

"A very good and enjoyable read."--Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist

"Stimulating."--Russell Warfield, Resurgence & Ecologist

"I couldn’t more warmly recommend. . . . [This book is] the product of a lifetime’s personal experience, mixed with a vast body of research, then distilled through the hand of a gifted wordsmith. It’s a book that will help you understand how values--and with them, the world we know today--came to be, and how they evolved through time. . . . Most of all, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels will show you that apart from a few biologically 'hardwired' ones it’s the daily churn of society, not some ultimate authority or moral compass, that dictates our values--that’s a very liberating realization."--Ian Morris, ZME Science


"Ian Morris has thrown another curveball for social science. In this disarmingly readable book, which takes us from prehistory to the present, he offers a new theory of human culture, linking it firmly to economic fundamentals and how humans obtained their energy and resources from nature. This is bold, erudite, and provocative."--Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of How Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

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Table of Contents:

List of Figures and Tables ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction by Stephen Macedo xiii
Chapter 1 Each Age Gets the Thought It Needs 1
Chapter 2 Foragers 25
Chapter 3 Farmers 44
Chapter 4 Fossil Fuels 93
Chapter 5 The Evolution of Values: Biology, Culture, and the Shape of Things to Come 139
Chapter 6 On the Ideology of Imagining That “Each Age Gets the Thought It Needs,” Richard Seaford 172
Chapter 7 But What Was It Really Like? The Limitations of Measuring Historical Values, Jonathan D. Spence 180
Chapter 8 Eternal Values, Evolving Values, and the Value of the Self, Christine M. Korsgaard 184
Chapter 9 When the Lights Go Out: Human Values after the Collapse of Civilization, Margaret Atwood 202
Chapter 10 My Correct Views on Everything, Ian Morris 208
Notes 267
References 305
Contributors 341
Index 343


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