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Compassion: A Global History of Social Policy

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By Alvin Finkel June 10, 2019 - 12:24am

My latest book is one of the few global histories that tries to tell the story of humanity from the point of view of the common people and their struggles rather than focusing exclusively on great men and the occasional great woman. It also serves as something of a counter-narrative to Yuval Harari's best-selling history, Sapiens, which provides a positive account of early human societies but then suggests that the beginning of agriculture more or less changed humans into non-cooperating beasts and produced ugly social hierarchies. Industrialization made that worse. That pessimism is only possible because Harari ignores all the agricultural societies and then the industrial ones that continued to embody the values of pre-state societies. Historian Peter Baldwin, of the University of California, Los Angeles and New York University writes: "A book that manages to be simultaneously deep and global, ranging from our hunter-gatherer ancestors to the neo-liberal slash-backs of the 1980s. Who knew it was possible to write an epic panorama of the welfare state?"

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