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Publisher's Summary

"This book is a tour de force." (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Give and Take)

A revolutionary new history of humankind through the prism of work by leading anthropologist James Suzman.

Work defines who we are. It determines our status and dictates how, where, and with whom we spend most of our time. It mediates our self-worth and molds our values. But are we hardwired to work as hard as we do? Did our Stone Age ancestors also live to work and work to live? And what might a world where work plays a far less important role look like?

To answer these questions, James Suzman charts a grand history of "work" from the origins of life on Earth to our ever more automated present, challenging some of our deepest assumptions about who we are. Drawing insights from anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology, zoology, physics, and economics, he shows that while we have evolved to find joy meaning and purpose in work, for most of human history our ancestors worked far less and thought very differently about work than we do now. He demonstrates how our contemporary culture of work has its roots in the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. Our sense of what it is to be human was transformed by the transition from foraging to food production, and, later, our migration to cities. Since then, our relationships with one another and with our environments, and even our sense of the passage of time, have not been the same.  

Arguing that we are in the midst of a similarly transformative point in history, Suzman shows how automation might revolutionize our relationship with work and in doing so usher in a more sustainable and equitable future for our world and ourselves.

©2021 James Suzman (P)2021 Penguin Audio

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All is well that ends well

Good beginning, great end. The middle was a float with anthropology nuance, needing personal experience grounding. very important book nonetheless.

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  • 2021-03-18

great book!

really a great experience with this book. it is similar to Sapiens, in that it reviews much of human and pre human history and uses this as the basis to challenge our concepts about work. really shows that most of our current ideas about identity, work culture and social groups are not permanent and we should be able to challenge these ideas and open to new concepts about what role work should play in our societies and what value we should give it.

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  • Asteriskx
  • 2021-02-28

Hot garbage

I have an eclectic taste, centered around history and branching out. Usually the best books will be written on a specific subject by deep experts, and when they venture outside of that expertise, the writing suffers. I have a rule: if you are brazenly wrong three times in the first hour from three different domains about something that is presented as support to your argument, your book is crap and not worth listening to as you can’t even get the fundamental facts right, let alone martial them to make a convincing argument. Mr. Suzman got there within 22 minutes. He is an expert on his anthropological work with hunter gatherers in Namibia. He is far from an expert on evolutionary biology or much history outside of his particular slice.

I recommend Joseph Henrich as the best version of what Suzman is trying to do, where Henrich very thoroughly goes through the peculiarities of how western perspectives and motivations developed from an evolutionary biology perspective.

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  • Casey
  • 2021-02-09

Fundamental

Suzman elaborates what is potentially the most important conversation of our time, drawing from wisdom across various disciplines ranging from archaeology and anthropology to physics and biology. At its core, Work brings attention to the fundamental relationship between ourselves, the energy that we require, and the entropy that we must manage in order to sustain life.

The narrative hinges on four watersheds in the history of work: the harnessing of fire, the aggregation of cities, the development of energized machinery, and the rise of computation and automation. Work: A Deep History explores the interplay between the mechanical changes in how we go about acquiring/distributing energy and the attitudes and social norms that developed alongside these changes. More than a laundry list of notable events, this book abounds with enlightening perspectives on our modern attitude towards work, on social organization, and perhaps even on our perception of purposeful live.

Excellent performance by the narrator as well!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-03-25

Wow

Really makes you rethink the priorities and mechanisms of our modern economic systems.
Great book!

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  • Liz Jardine
  • 2021-03-13

What a world history lesson this book is!!!

This book is about so much more than 'work'. When I attempt to describe it to friends the title 'Work' doesn't begin to describe it. The research behind it is so extensive that I learned so much more than simply the history of work. I learned about the efforts of animals as well as humans on this planet and began to truly contemplate the meaning of work in the past as well as the present & implications for the future. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Liz Jardine

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  • Charles J. Nagele
  • 2021-02-05

really enjoyed the history of work

From the hunter/gatherers to the agricultural era and then to the industrial age, it is a great history of how we Sapiens create and use our energy thru work. Connected a lot of dots in my understanding of the existence of the Homo Species and the transition to agriculture.

Did not give it a 5 because a little disappointed in that their wasn't much discussion on where we are going with the impact of robotics and AI on work. Maybe the author is doing a WORK 2.0 book to develop those projections.

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