Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others

Front Cover
St. Martin's Press, Mar 1, 2011 - Science - 336 pages
2 Reviews

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.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

LESS THAN HUMAN: Solving the Puzzle of Dehumanization

User Review  - Kirkus

Penetrative research on the brutal dehumanization of societies and why it's been happening for centuries.Smith (Philosophy and Evolutionary Psychology/Univ. of New England; The Most Dangerous Animal ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This is a very insightful book. I applaud the author for his thorough research and presentation of facts and examples taken from history as well as recent events. The reading explores the cognitive mechanisms and processes of the human psyche in an attempt to identify the roots of dehumanization. Perhaps most interesting was the topic of human essence. Citing ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Saint Augustine, the author explores the difference(s) between essence and appearance and posits that humans often percieve one another as possessing such. Although the author touches on alot important topics, he only scratches the surface of the violent and often trivialized conditions of the human pysche. 

Contents

LESS THAN HUMAN
11
STEPS TOWARD ATHEORY OF DEHUMANIZATION
26
CHAPTER3 CALIBANS CHILDREN
72
THE RHETORIC OF ENMITY
103
LEARNING FROM GENOCIDE
132
RACE
163
THE CRUEL ANIMAL
202
AMBIVALENCE AND TRANSGRESSION
224
QUESTIONS FOR ATHEORY OF DEHUMANIZATION
263
PSYCHOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM
275
NOTES
281
INDEX
317
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2011)

Dr. David Livingstone Smith is the author of Why We Lie and The Most Dangerous Animal. He is professor of philosophy and cofounder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Studies at the University of New England. He and his wife live in Portland, Maine.

Bibliographic information