Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Humankind by Rutger Bregman – A Hopeful History. Is a book recommended by Harari and I wonder why. The book is not properly researched. His approach is quite simplistic. People are either good or bad. I would have imagined everybody older than 5 would realize that people are a complex mix of shades of grey, which makes us so interesting and fascinating.

The book starts well, with his point in how research is presented, especially by the media. He also makes a very good point that not many engage with the research, do not read it in full, do not stop to think of how the data was gathered in the first place. Unfortunately pretty much this was the highlight of the book. He is doing exactly what he accused others of doing. For example he mentions The Selfish Gene but he didn’t understand Dawkins’ point, which is a shame.

Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Fellow Dutchmen Bart van Es talked in his book The Cut Out Girl which I reviewed two years ago about what happened in the Netherlands during WWII. As people received a bounty for each Jew delivered, they cashed in, making them the most prolific at killing Jews in Western Europe. With a death rate of 80%, it was higher than in other countries, including Germany and Austria. He likes to give positive examples of what happened in Denmark, but avoids his own country because it doesn’t fit with his narrative.

Babies are not as Homo puppy as he wants to believe, so he doesn’t dwell on this too much. Even more, he makes some rather strange comments on Facebook, which developed because people share their pictures out of generosity. Why didn’t he chat with some psychologists about this or read a few books on social media. Sharing pictures is not generosity any more than drinking alcohol is a sign of selfless generosity towards brewers.

He is a historian, but said at page 315 that: “Enlightenment-era economists decided collective farmlands were not maximising their production potential, so they advised governments to create enclosures.” From where did he come up with that? There is no reference. If I hadn’t made an essay on Tudor economics I would have missed this inaccuracy. Most enclosures were made by the 1500s and in England 44% of the parishes were enclosed by 1650, which is just a few percentage points up from 1550. [see Peter Ramsey – Tudor Economic Problems] So this happened well before enlightenment. Furthermore, some historians believe that enclosure drove up production, which helped everyone in the community. I would have imagined a historian would have looked into this, but, this again didn’t fit with his narrative so he ignored it. I wonder what other things he did not talk about.

Human kind by Rutger Bregman

Details about the picture: cracks in background are indicative of the cracks in the narrative
My rating: 1/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: no
Published by: Bloomsbury
Year it was published: 2021 (first published in 2019)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Philosophy
Pages: 496

About the author: Rutger Bregman is a Dutch historian, author and journalist. He studied at Utrecht University and the University of California, Los Angeles and is known for popularizing topics related to social and economic innovation measures and their history through, among others, universal basic income and shorter work weeks.
Rutger Bregman is a journalist at The Correspondent, and one of Europe’s most prominent young thinkers. He has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics.
Website & Social Media Links: –

4 thoughts on “Humankind by Rutger Bregman”

  • Just that first part about “people are either good or bad” is off-putting. Nothing about humanity is that simple.

    I’m sorry this one ended up being such a disappointment for you… especially at almost 500 pages.
    Kelly recently posted…Fourth of July, 2021My Profile

    • The problem with it is that many are raving about the book, when the idea is built on false assumptions. Without notes is around the 400 mark.

  • Oh Dear! some books really do have the power to wind up readers, especially when it is mostly because they are not particularly well researched, and this one seems to have pushed all the buttons for you. Mind you, if we all enjoyed every book we read, then there would be no conversation or discussion to be had! I don’t profess to know all the finer points about the enclosures act, however I am aware of them because we have subsidence in our property and we are having to go right back to enclosures and tithe maps, to work out which boundary hedges are included in our plot, as the insurance company wants to remove a large mature hedgerow and a couple of listed trees! Better luck with your next book and rack this one up to experience 🙂

    • It is quite a long book, at over 300 pages, so if he wasn’t sure about something or did insufficient research he could left out some of the things he said. I was looking forward to read about his ideas, but the book annoyed me greatly. As you said, it’s good to have some bad books, so I can appreciate the good ones even more. 🙂

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