How did humans, a species that evolved to be cooperative and egalitarian, develop societies of enforced inequality? Why did our ancestors create patriarchal power and warfare? Did it have to be this way? These are some of the key questions that Dr. Nancy Lindisfarne and Dr. Jonathan Neale grapple with in Why Men? A Human History of Violence and Inequality (Hurst, 2023).
Elites have always called hierarchy and violence unavoidable facts of human nature. Evolution, they claim, has caused men to fight, and people—starting with men and women—to have separate, unequal roles. But that is bad science.
Why Men? tells a smarter story of humanity, from early behaviours to contemporary cultures. From bonobo sex and prehistoric childcare to human sacrifice, Joan of Arc, Darwinism and Abu Ghraib, this fascinating, fun and important book reveals that humans adapted to live equally, yet the earliest class societies suppressed this with invented ideas of difference. Ever since, these distortions have caused female, queer and minority suffering. But our deeply human instincts towards equality have endured.
This book is not about what men and women are or do. It’s about the privileges humans claim, how they rationalise them, and how we unpick those ideas about our roots. It will change how you see injustice, violence and even yourself.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.