We are a weird species. Like other species, we have a culture. But by comparison with other species, we are strangely unstable: human cultures self-transform, diverge, and multiply with bewildering speed. They vary, radically and rapidly, from time to time and place to place. And the way we live – our manners, morals, habits, experiences, relationships, technology, values – seems to be changing at an ever accelerating pace. The effects can be dislocating, baffling, sometimes terrifying. Why is this?
In A Foot in the River, bestselling historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto sifts through the evidence and offers some radical answers to these very big questions about the human species and its history – and speculates on what these answers might mean for our future. Combining insights from a huge range of disciplines, including history, biology, anthropology, archaeology, philosophy, sociology, ethology, zoology, primatology, psychology, linguistics, the cognitive sciences, and even business studies, he argues that culture is exempt from evolution. Ultimately, no environmental conditions, no genetic legacy, no predictable patterns, no scientific laws determine our behaviour. We can consequently make and remake our world in the freedom of unconstrained imaginations.
A revolutionary book which challenges scientistic assumptions about culture and how and why cultural change happens, A Foot in the River comes to conclusions which readers may well find by turns both daunting and also potentially hugely liberating.