The Evolution of Power: A New Understanding of the History of Life

A sweeping new account of the role of power in the evolution of all life on Earth


Published (US):
Nov 14, 2023
Published (UK):
Jan 9, 2024
6.13 x 9.25 in.
3 tables.
Buy This

Power has many dimensions, from individual attributes such as strength and speed to the collective advantages of groups. The Evolution of Power takes readers on a breathtaking journey across history and the natural world, revealing how the concept of power unifies a vast range of phenomena in the evolution of life—and how natural selection has placed humanity and the planet itself on a trajectory of ever-increasing power.

Drawing on evidence from fossils, living organisms, and contemporary society, Geerat Vermeij documents increases in power at all scales, from body size, locomotor performance, and the use of force in competition to efficiency in production and consumption within ecosystems. He shows how power—which he defines as the rate at which organisms acquire and apply energy—is tied to the emergence of cooperation, and how the modern economy, which for the first time has established a monopoly over the biosphere by a single species, is a continuation of evolutionary trends stretching back to the dawn of life. Vermeij persuasively argues that we can find solutions to the many problems arising from this extreme concentration of power by broadening our exclusively human-centered perspective.

A masterful work by one of today’s most innovative and forward-thinking naturalists, The Evolution of Power offers a new understanding of our place in the grand sweep of evolutionary history.