A revolutionary new history of humankind through the prism of work, from the origins of life on Earth to our ever-more automated present 'A fascinating exploration that challenges our basic assumptions of what work means' Yuval Noah Harari 'One of those few books that will turn your customary ways of thinking upside down' Susan Cain The work we do brings us meaning, moulds our values, determines our social status and dictates how we spend most of our time. But this wasn't always the case: for 95% of our species' history, work held a radically different importance. How, then, did work become the central organisational principle of our societies? How did it transform our bodies, our environments, our views on equality and our sense of time? And why, in a time of material abundance, are we working more than ever before?
Work defines who we are. It determines our status, and dictates how, where, and with whom we spend most of our time. It mediates our self-worth and molds our values. But are we hard-wired to work as hard as we do? Did our Stone Age ancestors also live to work and work to live? And what might a world where work plays a far less important role look like?
To answer these questions, James Suzman charts a grand history of "work" from the origins of life on Earth to our ever more automated present, challenging some of our deepest assumptions about who we are. Drawing insights from anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology, zoology, physics, and economics, he shows that while we have evolved to find joy meaning and purpose in work, for most of human history our ancestors worked far less and thought very differently about work than we do now. He demonstrates how our contemporary culture of work has its roots in the agricultural revolution ten thousand years ago. Our sense of what it is to be human was transformed by the transition from foraging to food production, and, later, our migration to cities. Since then, our relationships with one another and with our environments, and even our sense of the passage of time, have not been the same.
Arguing that we are in the midst of a similarly transformative point in history, Suzman shows how automation might revolutionize our relationship with work and in doing so usher in a more sustainable and equitable future for our world and ourselves.
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