The Evolving Human System
The human species consists of individuals divided into nations and languages, but also functions as one large community. My work seeks to explain large-scale social change by exploring how networks of people connect at local and global levels. This approach also provides useful context for understanding current crises such as social inequality and environmental degradation.
This collection of essays explores several different focus areas:
Households and Communities in Homo sapiens
Households and communities have been central for the full life-course of the human species. And while the existence of households and communities has long been known, it is only within the past 60 years that a full story of their transhistorical significance has emerged. Identifying this pattern has come about through interdisciplinary collaboration of human and natural sciences, to which the contribution of historians has been fundamental.
Published (2020), in Manning, History of Humanity, 229–233
Growth of industry and population in the Anthropocene Epoch—especially since 1800—has amplified human interference with Earth’s physical and biological processes. Waters are diverted, the atmosphere is heated, plant and animal species become extinct, and new viruses spread disease to many species. The hope for economic growth only compounds this environmental destruction, leaving both the Human System and the Earth in trouble.
Karl Marx identified capitalism as a new process within a long-established world market. He argued that capitalist systems emerged in the 1700s as expanded wage labor in manufacturing gave rise to surplus value owned by proprietors. Now, after nearly two centuries of debate, we can gather new thoughts on capitalism, its place in the global economy, its institutional organization, and how it has changed economic, political, and social affairs.
The Idea of Civilization
Published (2022), in New Global Studies
“Civilization” is an ideological term invented in the eighteenth century. It links prestigious ancient societies to the classification of modern groups by culture, race, and religion. Since the nineteenth century, the concept of “civilization” has been used to rank and classify societies and to identify and celebrate leaders of progress. In my critique of civilization, I argue that the term usually creates confusion rather than clarity.
Empires and Nations
Published (2022), in Asian Review of World Histories
Empires, having conquered near and distant lands for four millennia, seem to have disappeared. Nations, formed both by consensus and warfare during the past few centuries, now govern almost the entire world. This essay traces the interplay and transformation of empires and nations for the past 250 years, while also considering the expansion of representative government and the emergence of new types of dictatorial government.