"Ultrasociety is a winner. It gives us an incisive look at Cultural Evolution and the implications for group selection. Turchin argues clearly and well for a deeper understanding of how culture trumps other social forces, and thus he can explain our era far better." --Gregory Benford, author of Timescape.
"Peter Turchin will go down in history as a great scientific historian. In Ultrasociety he makes the thesis of Edward O. Wilson's The Social Conquest of Earth come alive with empirical detail." --David Sloan Wilson, author of Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others.
"An exciting account of how the growing theory of cultural evolution can be applied to understanding patterns in the sweep of human history and prehistory" --Peter J. Richerson, coauthor of Culture and Coevolutionary Process.
"Peter Turchin's Ultrasociety delivers multi-level satisfaction, as deep-down enjoyable as seeing justice served on a bully. The book is a riveting safari through the origins of human social behavior and a revolutionary new way of reframing the study of culture as a scientific discipline. Turchin and his colleagues are on the cusp of changing the humanities forever, and none too soon. Ultrasociety is a must-read for any member of an intellectually curious species." --Baba Brinkman, author of The Rap Guide to Evolution.
"As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously observed 2,500years ago, 'war is the father of all and king of all,' but historians have beenslow to appreciate just how profoundly true this statement really is. In thissweeping and boldly argued survey of the rise of civilization, Peter Turchinrestores organized violence and conflict between groups to its rightful placeas the key driver of social development. A tour de force!" --Walter Scheidel, Stanford University, author of The Great Leveler: Violence and the Historyof Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century.
From the Back Cover
There aren't many highly cooperative species--but they nearly coverthe planet. Ants alone account for a quarter of all animal matter. Yetthe human capacity to work together leaves every other species standing.
We organize ourselves into communities of hundreds of millions ofindividuals, inhabit every continent, and send people into space. Humanbeings are nature's greatest team players. And the truly astoundingthing is, we only started our steep climb to the top of therankings--overtaking wasps, bees, termites and ants--in the last 10,000years. Genetic evolution can't explain this anomaly. Something else isgoing on. How did we become the ultrasocial animal?
In his latest book, the evolutionary scientist Peter Turchin (Warand Peace and War) solves the puzzle using some astonishing results inthe new science of Cultural Evolution. The story of humanity, from thefirst scattered bands of Homo sapiens right through to the greatestempires in history, turns out to be driven by a remorseless logic. Ourapparently miraculous powers of cooperation were forged in the fires ofwar. Only conflict, escalating in scale and severity, can explain theextraordinary shifts in human society--and society is the greatestmilitary technology of all.
Seen through the eyes of Cultural Evolution, human history reveals a strange, paradoxical pattern. Early humans were much more egalitarianthan other primates, ruthlessly eliminating any upstart who wanted tobecome alpha male. But if human nature favors equality, how did theblood-soaked god kings of antiquity ever manage to claim their thrones?And how, over the course of thousands of years, did they vanish from the earth, swept away by a reborn spirit of human equality? Why is thestory of human justice a chronicle of millennia-long reversals? Onceagain, the science points to just one explanation: war created theterrible majesty of kingship, and war obliterated it.
Is endless war, then, our fate? Or might society one day evolvebeyond it? There's only one way to answer that question. Follow Turchinon an epic journey through time, and discover something that generations of historians thought impossible: the hidden laws of history itself.