Less Than Human by David Livingstone Smith
Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others

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Synopsis

Winner of the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction

A revelatory look at why we dehumanize each other, with stunning examples from world history as well as today's headlines

"Brute." "Cockroach." "Lice." "Vermin." "Dog." "Beast." These and other monikers are constantly in use to refer to other humans--for political, religious, ethnic, or sexist reasons. Human beings have a tendency to regard members of their own kind as less than human. This tendency has made atrocities like the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and the slave trade possible, and yet we still find it in phenomena such as xenophobia, homophobia, military propaganda, and racism. Less Than Human draws on a rich mix of history, psychology, biology, anthropology and philosophy to document the pervasiveness of dehumanization, describe its forms, and explain why we so often resort to it.

David Livingstone Smith posits that this behavior is rooted in human nature, but gives us hope in also stating that biological traits are malleable, showing us that change is possible. Less Than Human is a chilling indictment of our nature, and is as timely as it is relevant.

 

About David Livingstone Smith

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DAVID LIVINGSTONE SMITH is founding director of the New England Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Studies at the University of New England. He is the author of Why We Lie and The Most Dangerous Animal and lives in Portland, Maine.
 
Published March 1, 2011 by St. Martin's Press. 336 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Woven into Smith’s dense, circuitous analysis are references from psychologist, cognitive scientists, philosophers, alchemists and the research of anthropologists Jane Goodall and Lawrence Hirschfeld, who contribute conjecture on the dangerous and complex nature of racism, genocide and same-speci...

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The New York Times

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A philosopher argues that dehumanization is necessary for genocide, slavery and slaughter to take hold.

Mar 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Less Than Human: Why We Demea...

The New York Times

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A philosopher argues that dehumanization is necessary for genocide, slavery and slaughter to take hold.

Mar 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Less Than Human: Why We Demea...

Publishers Weekly

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Smith (The Most Dangerous Animal), cofounder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England, interrogates why man alone, in Mark Twain's words, can go "forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind."

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Bookmarks Magazine

David Livingstone Smith posits that this behavior is rooted in human nature, but gives us hope in also stating that biological traits are malleable, showing us that change is possible.

Mar 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Less Than Human: Why We Demea...

Spirituality & Practice

Smith uses this cogent quotation as a jumping off point for his sturdy survey of dehumanization theories espoused by Aristotle, Augustine, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Erik Erikson, Konrad Lorenz, Jane Goodall, and others.

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