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20190630 – The Goodness Paradox

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The main idea of this book is that humans evolutionary developed via self-domestication, which occurred by process of elimination of troublemakers, either tyrannical or just non-conforming. The group’s elimination of such people created evolutionary pressure against tendency to resort to reactive aggression. Such aggression usually unplanned and happens within group, which undermines its survivability. At the same time competition between groups supported genes for planned aggression that would be directed either externally against outsiders or internally against individuals who become too powerful and therefore subject to elimination via conspiracy of a group of weaker individuals. These theses supported by multiple data obtained from genetic analysis and observation of two species of human close relatives: chimpanzees and bonobos.


Introduction: Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

It starts with discussion of human paradox when individuals that clearly demonstrate nice and humane features and behavior at the same time can commit huge crimes against humanity. Author looks at ideas of inherently good human nature, spoiled by civilization and inherently evil human nature, constrained by civilization and finds both inadequate, albeit having some merit to them. Then author expresses his believe that one should look at evolutionary explanation of human behavior, which is defined by the fact that: “Human societies consist of families within groups that are part of larger communities, an arrangement that is characteristic of our species and distinctive from other species.”
At the end of introduction author describes plan of the book and objectives of each chapter.

Chapter 1: The Paradox

This chapter launches the investigation by documenting behavioral differences among humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Decades of research suggest how species differences in aggression can evolve. Aggressiveness was once thought of as a tendency running from low to high along one dimension. But we now recognize that aggression comes in not one but two major forms, each with its own biological underpinnings and its own evolutionary story.

Chapter 2: Two Types of Aggression

Here author is trying to demonstrate that “humans are positively dualistic with respect to aggression. We are low on the scale of one type (reactive aggression), and high on the other (proactive aggression). Reactive aggression is the “hot” type, such as losing one’s temper and lashing out. Proactive aggression is “cold,” planned and deliberate. So our core question becomes two: why are we so lacking in reactive aggressiveness, and yet so highly proficient at proactive aggressiveness? The answer to the first explains our virtue; the answer to the second accounts for our violence. Our low tendency for reactive aggression gives us our relative docility and tolerance. Tolerance is a rare phenomenon in wild animals, at least in the extreme form that humans show.

Chapter 3: Human Domestication

Here author discusses “the similarities between domesticated animals and humans, and show why an increasing number of scientists believe that humans should be regarded as a domesticated version of an earlier human ancestor. One of the exciting aspects of the biology of domesticated animals is that researchers are beginning to understand puzzling similarities that occur among many unrelated species. Why, for example, do cats, dogs, and horses frequently sport white patches of hair, unlike their wild ancestors?

Chapter 4: Breeding Peace

This chapter “explains new theories linking the evolution of physical features such as these to changes in behavior. Humans exhibit enough such features to justify calling us a domesticated species. That conclusion, which was first intimated more than two hundred years ago, creates a problem. If humans are like a domesticated species, how did we get that way? Who could have domesticated us?”

Chapter 5: Wild Domesticates

Author believes that some clues to human evolutionary development could be found in the behavior of bonobos. Author reviews “the evidence that bonobos, like humans, show many of the features of a domesticated species. Obviously, bonobos were not domesticated by humans. The process happened in nature, unaffected by human beings. Bonobos must have self-domesticated. That evolutionary transformation seems likely to be widespread among wild species. If so, there would be nothing exceptional in the self-domestication of human ancestors.”

Chapter 6: Belyaev’s Rule in Human Evolution

Here author traces “the evidence that Homo sapiens have had a domestication syndrome since their origin, about 300,000 years ago. Surprisingly few attempts have been made to explain why Homo sapiens arose, and as I describe, even the most recent paleoanthropological scenarios have not addressed the important problem of why selection should have favored a relatively tolerant, docile species with a low tendency for reactive aggression. How self-domestication happened is in general an open question, with different answers expected for different species. Clues come from the way that aggressive individuals are prevented from dominating others. Among bonobos, aggressive males are suppressed mainly by the joint action of cooperating females. Probably, therefore, bonobo self-domestication was initiated by females’ being able to punish bullying males. In small-scale societies of humans, females do not control males to the same extent as they do among bonobos. Instead, among humans, the ultimate solution to stopping male aggressors is execution by adult males.”

Chapter 7: The Tyrant Problem; Chapter 8: Capital Punishment

These two chapters are about the process of self-domestication, which author believes is based on “the use of execution in human society to force domineering men to conform to egalitarian norms, … through the selective force of execution was responsible for reducing humans’ reactive aggression from the beginnings of Homo sapiens. If genetic selection against reactive aggression indeed occurred through self-domestication, we should expect human behavior to share aspects of the behavior of domesticated animals beyond reduced aggression.”

Chapter 9: What Domestication Did

Here author “emphasize that the proper comparison is not between humans and apes, because too many evolutionary changes have occurred in the seven million years or so since we had a common ancestor. Instead, the proper comparison is between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals”

 Chapter 10: The Evolution of Right and Wrong

Here author looks at reasons “why our evolved moral sensibilities often make people afraid of being criticized.” He concludes that sensitivity to criticism “would have promoted evolutionary success thanks to the emergence of the same new social feature that was responsible for self-domestication: a coalition able to carry out executions at will. Our ancestors’ moral senses helped protect them from being killed for the crime of nonconformity. The ability of adults (and particularly men) to conspire in the act of capital punishment is part of a larger system of social control using proactive aggression that characterizes all human societies.”

Chapter 11: Overwhelming Power

Here author discusses impact of types of aggressions on evolutionary selection of humans. “Since proactive aggression is complementary to reactive aggression (rather than its opposite), proactive, planful aggression can be positively selected even while reactive, emotional aggression has been evolutionarily suppressed. Humans can therefore use overwhelming power to kill a selected opponent. This unique ability is transformative. It has led our societies to include hierarchical social relationships that are far more despotic than those found in other species.”

Chapter 12: War

Obviously war is the highest form of proactive aggression and author discusses its specificity in this chapter: “Although contemporary war is much more institutionalized than most prehistoric intergroup violence, our tendencies for proactive and reactive aggression both play important roles, sometimes promoting and sometimes interfering with military goals.

Chapter 13: Paradox Lost

The final chapter “assesses the paradox that virtue and violence are both so prominent in human life. The solution is not so simple or morally desirable as we might wish: humans are neither all good nor all bad. We have evolved in both directions simultaneously. Both our tolerance and our violence are adaptive tendencies that have played vital roles in bringing us to our present state. The idea that human nature is at the same time both virtuous and wicked is challenging, since presumably we would all wish for simplicity.


Here author expresses his pain that his theory of self-domestication via elimination of troublemakers is kind of linked to capital punishment and therefore could not be feely expressed by western academic with fear of massive attack from the left. So he feels that the strong denial of support of this measure is absolutely necessary, even if his research demonstrate that consequences of capital punishment are highly beneficial for human development.


This is another very interesting approach to evolutionary roots of human species. Its concentration on aggression makes a lot of sense because it is what needed for survival in the natural world with its wonderful choices between the necessities to eat and real possibility to be eaten. I think ideas and research results presented in this book support approach to human being as the entity of dual types of evolutionary pressure: individual survival and group survival. It is very interesting that group survival required not only ability successfully fight outsiders, but also maintain cohesiveness within group. Author’s idea that this was achieved via elimination of too powerful and non-conformists looks very plausible, especially in the view of provided data. I think that this newly achieved realistic understanding of human nature would help in the current process if reformatting it to the new methods of production when old need for human labor is going extinct and new construction of society needs to be developed.


20190623 – Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout

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This book has two objectives. One is autobiographical to tell author’s story of growing up in logging community in the family of business owners, his education in environmental science that led him to activism and participation in creation of Greenpeace organization, which later become powerful anti-human advocacy group seeking limits on human use of environment and most of all power over other people, which in turn led author to drop out from this organization. The other one is to express author’s environmental views, which mainly come down to very reasonable approach trying to find way to build sustainable future by designing such forms of human interaction with environment that would create dynamically stable system supporting comfortable existence for humanity.



Here author briefly retells his story with Greenpeace, including critic of extreme movement to the left of this organization. More important, he formulates his environmental believes.

  1. First Principles

Here author defines his principles and provides his definition for relevant notions such as: Renewable, Sustainable, Clean, and Green. Then he critics all kind of environmental noise makers who are often driven by strive for power combined with some idealism, but not without greed for donations money and academic or political career.  He also expresses here his attitude to Philosophy, Religion, Politics, Dogma, Propaganda, and Science. Then he discusses the “Precautionary Principle” and how often it is taken beyond any reasonable limit.

  1. Our Present Predicament

This chapter is a brief review of current situation, specifically global warming, species extinction, and such. He critic unreasonable and unscientific alarmism and contrasts it with his vision presented in this book.

  1. Beginnings; 4. No Nukes Now! 5. Saving the Whales; 6. Baby Seals and Movie Stars;

These chapters narrate author’s upbringing in the woods of Canada, his education and development as environmental scientist and creation of Greenpeace – organization that started by fighting nuclear testing by USA and France, but quite reasonably restraining it to Western testing because of unwillingness to spend rest of their life in Gulag if they would try doing the same for USSR or China. The Wales and Seals were the following up causes Greenpeace was fighting for with nice cameo of Brigitte Bardot who somewhat helped.

  1. Taking the Reins; 8. Growing Pains; 9. Greenpeace Goes Global

This is mostly about period when author was president of Greenpeace and how it developed into typical organization with power politics between different personalities, local offices, and ideological divisions. Author continues here narrative of their activities harassing waling fleets, oil companies, and such, but internal politics seems to be taking most of his attention.

  1. Consensuses and Sustainable Development Discovered

This brief chapter is about Greenpeace big win on seals hunting, but more about author’s discovery that the goal should be not stopping human activity, but rather integrate this activities into such interaction with environment that dynamic equilibrium between using resources and restoring them could be achieved.

  1. Jailed Whales, Curtains of Death, Raising Fish, and Sinking Rainbows

This is continuation of narrative about Greenpeace fight to protect baby seals and terrorist act against them by French authorities that exploded  “Rainbow Warrior” ship, but it is also about author discovery of Aquaculture – fish harvesting in closed waters.

  1. Greenpeace Sails Off the Deep End

Here author describes the end of his affiliation with Greenpeace, which move into direction of the use of pseudoscience to raise alarms, money, and prestige while author moved into direction of building sustainable future by growing salmon – the process he describes in some detail.

  1. Round Tables and Square Pegs

This is about author’s participation in a number of environmental round tables in UN and elsewhere and his experiences in art of negotiation. He also mentions his first encounter with ideas of global warming and then describes in detail the second, after the salmon, fission between him and environmental movement – his support of sustainable forestry based on specific rules negotiated with business that was countered by the hate and accusation in treason. He describes attacks by environmental zealots who wanted logging completely stopped. He also describes hypocrisy of Greenpeace, which fought sinking of outdated oil platform to create marine habitat, while doing the same with its own outdated ship.

  1. Trees Are The Answer

This is about author’s position on wood, which he considers the most important renewable resource already produced in controlled environment similar to other agricultural product, albeit with much longer maturity period: decades instead of months.

  1. Energy to Power Our World

Here author reviews all known sources energy and concludes that any effective mix should include nuclear power, which is the only serious source of energy that does not rely on fossil fuel. He provides detailed analysis of all aspects of nuclear demonstrating that fears are overblown and by far.

  1. Food, Nutrition, and Genetic Science

This is similarly detailed overview of food production where author once again finds contemporary activism unscientific and harmful, especially in regard to genetic engineering.

  1. Biodiversity, Endangered Species, and Extinction

Here author addresses another panic promoted by environmentalists and quite reasonably notes that not only humans, but also all other species led each other to extinction, so there is nothing new about. The difference is that humans are the only species, which can and do consciously recognize the problem and act to remedy it. He also discusses how activist environmentalists capture more and more formerly scientifically sound publications such as National Geographic and turn them into sources of propaganda.

  1. Chemicals are us; 19. Population Is Us; 20. Sustainable Mining; 21. Climate of Fear

In these chapters authors reviews multiple areas where environmentalists fight completely save materials and processes that constitute contemporary industry and provide goods and services necessary for human live. He allocates especially significant amount of space to Climate discussion, providing multiple data graphs and concluding that, while human do have impact on climate it is not that significant, that the system is way too complicated and dynamic for scientists to be able reliably understand and predict its future changes at this point. So the hysterical alarms sounding all over the world combined with often successful attempts to generate financing, government grants, and regulatory power grabs that makes alarmist rich and powerful have no scientific foundations.

  1. Charting a Sensible Course to a Sustainable Future

In this final chapter author summarizes his believes about environment in such way:

  • We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and energy resource.
  • Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.
  • Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply, especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective
  • Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or windmills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.
  • The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.
  • Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment healthier.
  • Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.
  • Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of people productively.
  • There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.
  • Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care, sanitation, literacy, and electrification should be provided to everyone.
  • No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever. This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or capture them humanely.


It is an interesting story of man growing from somewhat mindless activism to maturity and understanding that human interaction with environment not one way movement when benevolent or evil humans to something to environment destroying or conquering it. It is not even two ways interaction, but rather humans being part of environment, as any other species changing it, making it more or less fit for them. The key here is that this part of environment has conscience and recently acquired powerful intellectuals tools: science and technology, which allow them more or less control their own actions, predict future results of these actions, and correct these actions in such way that would be the most beneficial for humans. It is also nice to see person, who spent decades in activism, recognizing that lots of this activism represents the worse that is in humanity – strive for power over other people and ability to take advantage of them.


20190616 – Science and the Good

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The main idea of this book is to examine quest by scientists and philosophers for understanding biological, evolutionary, and historical origin of the notion of good and how to build “good society” based on of scientific foundation of morality. The conclusion is that science is far from meeting challenges posed by these questions and as of now science failed as well as religion failed before provide foundation for morality strong enough to be generally accepted.


Preface: The Argument, in Brief

Here author explicitly formulates his objectives in this book, which is to demonstrate failures of religion to bring order and peace, followed by similar failure of Enlightenment and science, then redirects this question to finding just “useful solutions“ that science can discover, which per author could lead to “moral nihilism”.

PART I: Introduction

1 Our Promethean Longing

Here author is looking at the question “ if science can be foundation of morality.

He discusses “the Dilemma of Difference”, which is resulting from the need to find common moral ground for multitude of different cultures that now encounter each other in common place of interconnected world of economics and politics.  The difficulties are greatly increased by the problem of complexity that resulted from overload of information. Author then moved to the promise of science that was supposed to provide common language and objective methodology to define good and bad, but could not do so.  After that author discusses his method and approach to the problem of finding objective and universal criteria of good and bad.

PART II. The Historical Quest

  1. Early Formulations

Author starts with 3 challenges to traditional philosophy that where posed by Europe social transformation: These challenges included:

(1) The inability of old ways of knowing—philosophy, religious authority—to resolve exploding moral and political conflict;

(2) A need for a convincing basis for shared international trade laws as global commerce swelled and broadened;

(3) A sense that the world was bigger and more complex—in terms of natural, cultural, and moral phenomena—than older medieval conceptions could account for.

Author looks at Aristotelian Scholasticism, then at the conflict and complexities of medieval Europe, which moved morality foundation away from the god mainly due to consequences of religious wars. The Enlightenment, Reason and Science seem to promise scientific solution to the problem of absolute good. Author looks at ideas of lawyers Hugo Grotius (1583-1645 and Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694) and philosophers Thomas Hobbs (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704)

  1. Three Schools of Enlightenment Thinking And One Lingering and Disturbing Worry

The first school author discusses is Sentimentalism as represented by Anthony Ashley Cooper, better known as the Third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713); Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746); and, of course, Adam Smith (1723–1790) among them. The central figure was David Hume (1711–1776).

The main point here is empirical impossibility in Hume’s opinion to derive “ought” from “is”. The second was Utilitarism with its Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and ideas of nearly mathematical balance of pain and pleasure. Author also discusses consequent developments of Utilitarism with John Stuart Mills (1806-1873). The third and school came with Charles Darwin (1809-1882) –Evolutionary Ethics. Author looks at each school and especially at the logical and ideological problems that could not be overcome. A bit outside of schools framework author discusses attempts for empirical finding of solutions via behaviorism with its raise and fall during XX century.

4 The New Synthesis

In this chapter author moves to our time and discusses Sociobiology of Edward O. Wilson and its transformation into Evolutionary Psychology. It led to the new synthesis, which author defines in such way:

This new-synthesis view of morality has four basic elements:

(1) Humean mind-focused sentimentalism,

(2) Darwinian evolutionary account of why the mind has the traits it does,

(3) Human interest–based utilitarianism about morality, all embedded within

(4) Strident naturalism committed to empirical study of the world.”

PART III. The Quest thus Far

5 What Has Science Found?

This starts with discussion of meaning of science and author properly stresses that science could not be settled on anything, ever. In relation to morality author suggested existence of 3 levels of scientific results:

  1. Foundation of morality that would settle existing moral issues
  2. Scientific facts that, while not settling issues would give same material to support or reject a moral claim
  3. Finding that would demonstrate origins and meaning of morality, even if they would not support or reject any specific moral doctrine.

He then discusses how different fields of science approach to moral issues like altruism, other-regarding behavior and such. After reviewing some finding from Evolutionary Biology, Psychology, Primatology, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology, he concluded that results are very modest indeed.

6 The Proclivity to Overreach

Here author refer to tendency to overstate scientific achievements in relation to morality when there are claims of achieving levels 1 and 2 when in reality they are not even close. After that author refers to a number of works that demonstrate philosophical and methodological limitations in this area. Then he discusses some cases of oversimplification such as oxytocin. Finally he points out to blurred boundary between “Is” and “ought”, in other words between empirical and moral statements, that so far nobody was able to breach.

7 Intractable Challenges

He details the following challenges for scientific approach to morality:

  • The Challenge of Definition
  • A Lexical Range
  • Neuroscientific representation of “Ought” vs. “Is”
  • Altruism
  • Virtue
  • Specificity
  • The Challenge of Demonstration
  • Happiness and Well-being
  • An Internal Barrier

PART IV. Enduring Quandaries

8 The Quest, Redirected

Here author claims that scientific approach to morality should not be forfeited despite lack of significant results so far. He rather suggest that it makes some turns in more productive directions, the first toward a Disenchanted Naturalism and he provides duality of approaches between enchanted and disenchanted:

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Then the second turn: The Original Quest Abandoned that author treat as failure of science to provide foundation for morality similarly to the previous failure of religion.

9 The Promethean Temptation And the Problem of Unintended Consequences

This is the summation of the narrative of this book, which provided plenty of evidence of science failing in the area of morality. At the end author recommends not to give up and try to find some foundation of morality that would overcome moral differences between people and cultures. It just requires more understanding, interaction, and discourse that would hopefully lead to some accommodation between varieties of moral views.


I think that the core of problem is that people do not really understand meaning of morality, which in my view comes from duality of human as a product of evolution of individual organism fully integrated into the group without which it cannot survive. Consequently it causes development of dynamic interplay between actions of individual directed to survival of organism and actions of individual directed to survival of the group. The morality is just a set of rules developed by individuals within group over long period of time that would provide for group survival even at the expense of individual survival. These rules are culturally transferred to every individual via process of socialization that individuals of each generation sometimes adhered to and sometimes change, depending on personality and place of individual within group and in lifetime point. If morality rules are sound in support of survival in the given environment and flexible enough to change with the change of environment, the existence of group will continue indefinitely and existence of individual would be successfully maintained at last until the next generation of individuals of this group matured enough to carry it on. The rules of the group morality that are not allow flexibility enough could lead to group disappearance with individual members of the group, if they survived group destruction, joining some other group and internalized the morality of this more successful group.


20190609 – A History of Fascism 1914-1945

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The main idea of this book is to provide detailed analysis of nature and history of fascist movements in Europe and all over the world. These movements were somewhat popular in Europe between WWI and WWII, but a lot less than people usually believe. There is trend to call fascistic all kind of authoritarian regimes that are not really belonging to this category. Moreover author quite convincingly demonstrates that in between wars majority of fascist movements were successfully suppressed by rightist authoritarian regimes, so the most famous German Nazi and Italian fascists who obtained state power were unlucky exception rather than rule. Finally the overriding idea is to provide understanding of these exceptions and make sure that it would not happen again.


Introduction. Fascism: A Working Definition

Here author discusses use of the term and its meaning. He provides a very detailed definition and historical reference to various movements that could be defined as fascist:

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Despite closeness between totalitarian ideologies – all beings collectivistic ideologies, author places fascism on the right and provides table comparing it with other right wing movements:

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  1. The Cultural Transformation of the Fin de siecle

Here author discusses development of fascist ideologies and links it to the end of era of monarchies and empires that was prepared by European development before WWI and caused huge convulsion in period between1914 and 1945. Author looks at expansion of Marxist philosophy with its ideas of radical revolution and advocacy of mass violence, which coincided with development and popularization of racist ideas, somewhat derived from application of Darwinian ideas of evolution and survival of the fittest to societies and populations. Author makes an interesting point that it all become possible due to dramatic improvement in productivity that freed multitude of young people from the need to work hard just to survive and allowed them to spent time on ideology.

  1. Radical and Authoritarian Nationalism in Late Nineteenth-Century Europe

Here author discusses growth of authoritarian nationalism in Europe at the end of XIX century, which was directed against old monarchical imperial orders and promoted ethnicity based nationalism. First it obtained popularity in France and author reviews history of this movement. Then it was expanded to Germany where it obtained somewhat more sophisticated form with German school of political economy and volk traditions. It basically included massive state control over economy in interest of indigenous people with strong limitations on ethnic outsiders, especially Jews. Then author looks at Italy with its “Risorgimento” movement that was aimed not only to remove foreign control, but also create new superior society. It was expressed in Futurist movements that become ideological precursor of fascist movement. Here is example of manifesto from 1909:

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However author stresses that it all was not the main foundational part of fascist movement. It actually came from the left from Revolutionary Syndicalism that was directed to more violent action with objective to implement socialism in contrast with existing popular socialist movements that were looking for peaceful transition from capitalism. Finally author allocates some space to Eastern Europe and Russia, but so little that he misses similar events in Russian division of socialist movement into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

3. The Impact of World War |

The WWI was the key event that created foundation for all fascist and communist movements of XX century and author provides quite comprehensive list of its consequences:

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4. The Rise of Italian Fascism, 1919-1929

Here author provides details of fascist movement’s history in Italy including personal history of Mussolini, impact of WWI, and postwar crisis that pushed a lot of people into search of new solutions outside of constitutional monarchy of the time. There are plenty of historical details of party organization, development, and internal politics. There is also a very interesting analysis of class and professional participation:

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The author reviews phases of taking power: March on Rome; Mussolini taking role of Semi-constitutional Prime Minister (1922-25); Construction of dictatorship (1925-29); and finally completion of Totalitarian state. In the final part of the chapter author reviews attitudes to the newly established Italian fascist regime from different quarters including communist and anti-communist ideologues. Communists were ambivalent, recognizing fascists’ similarity to their own movement with ambition to establish new society on ruins of old using the same violent methods, but also recognizing their anti-Marxist philosophy that would put nation above class. Kind of side effect of this ambivalence was tendency to use the word fascist as insult intended to denigrate opponents of all kinds, while at the same time building alliances with fascists when it was useful for communists.

5. The Growth of Nonfascist Authoritarianism in Southern and Eastern Europe, 1919-1929

This is country-by-country review of fascist movements in small countries of Europe. Important point here is that nowhere they succeeded in taking power on their own, being mainly suppressed by traditional authoritarians and conservatives.

6. German National Socialism

German version was famously much more successful. Author rejects idea that it was because of some specifics of German culture or history. It was rather time specific combination of defeat, economic suffering, and believes that army was not defeated, but betrayed. Author goes through postwar crisis of 1919-1923 when communist forces nearly took power, but were suppressed in bloody, but brief civil war. Author also discusses creation and development of Nazi party, which was invigorated by Hitler who turned it into genially cross-class mass movement. It however failed when it tried to take power in Bavaria, leading to decisive change to formal compliance with laws and attempts to take power legally via elections. Then author moves to reviewing period of stability 1923-1930 when Weimar was quite successful until it was economically crashed by the worldwide depression. However author mainly reject that Germany was uniquely hard hit. He provides table of unemployment in different countries showing that there was nothing unusual in its situation, except that after taking power Nazis did decreased unemployment and quite dramatically:

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7. The Transformation of Italian Fascism, 1929-1939

Here author discusses history of Italian fascist rule and its transformation from popular movement to bureaucratic elite. Basically author presents opinion that the state kind of consumed fascist party and it become the prime object of support of all statists of the world including FDR and many members of intelligentsia in democratic countries that saw in this party-state combination much more effective method of society organization than messy democratic governance. Economic policy was relatively successful: “Compared with the pre-World War I norm of 1913, total production in Italy had risen by 1938 to 153.8, compared with 149.9 in Germany and 109.4 in France. The aggregate index for output per worker in 1939, compared with the same 1913 base, stood at 145.2 for Italy, 136.5 for France, 122.4 for Germany, 143.6 for Britain, and 136.0 for the United States. “ The fascist state even started implementing welfare programs, but it was never fully completed. Author also discusses expansionist policies, which were not especially successful due to overall military weakness.

8. Four Major Variants of Fascism

Here author discusses countries where fascist movements were powerful and popular: Austria, Spain, Hungary, and Romania. In all these countries authoritarians subdued fascist movement, even if they were initially very important part of coalition, like it was in Spain.

9. The Minor Movements

Here author looks at fascist movements in democratic countries like France, Britain, Low countries, Ireland, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia, and others. Nowhere fascist movements were able to get close to power before the war. Only under German occupation fascist movements where somewhat in control, but only to the extent Germans allowed.

10. Fascism Outside Europe?

In this chapter author reviews countries outside Europe and mainly demonstrate that despite usual tendency to call any authoritarian regime fascistic, they generally were far from it.

11. World War II: Climax and Destruction of Fascism

Here author reviews WWII and how character of Nazi regime defined its conduct by Germany. Here is representation of different approaches:

Table 11.1. The Nazi New Order

  1. Direct Annexations: Austria; Czech Sudetenland; Danzig: Polish West Prussia. Poznan, and Silesia; Luxembourg; Belgian Eupen and Malmcdy: French Alsace and Moselle: northern Slovenia; Yugoslav Banat
  2. Direct German Administration:
  3. a) Civil: Polish Government General. “Ostland” (Baltic area). Ukraine. Norway. Holland
  4. b) Military: Belgium and part of northern France, forward military districts in the Soviet Union
  5. Tutelary Satellite or Puppet Regimes: Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia: Croatia. Serbia. Montenegro. Greece. Italian Social Republic (1943-45)
  6. Satellites: Denmark. Finland. Hungary. Romania. Slovakia. Bulgaria. Vichy France. Italy (1941-43)
  7. Neutrals:
  8. a) Friendly neutrals: Spain. Switzerland. Sweden
  9. b) Distant neutrals: Portugal. Ireland. Turkey

At the end of chapter author discusses how military defeat led Nazis to attempt to expand the fascist movement into all European form so it would allow combining total resources of occupied Europe, but this was mainly unsuccessful.


12. Interpretations of Fascism

Author discusses a variety of explanations mainly provided by ideologues of the left with the clear intention to link it to the right. Probably the funniest part is that a bunch of interpretations are quite opposite to each other. Here is the list:

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Probably on conclusion, which is practically inevitable, is that, as any other complex societal phenomenon, it is just not possible generalize.

13. Generic Fascism?

Here author discusses difficulties of defining genus of fascism and presents 5 specific varieties that did existed:

  1. Paradigmatic Italian Fascism, pluralist, diverse, and not easily definable in simple terms. Forms to some extent derivative appeared in France, England, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and possibly even Brazil.
  2. German National Socialism sometimes defined as the most extreme or radical form of fascism, the only fascistic movement to achieve a total dictatorship and so to develop its own system. Somewhat parallel or derivative movements emerged in Scandinavia, the Low Countries, the Baltic States, and Hungary, and, more artificially, in several of the satellite states during the war. The Italian and German types were the two dominant forms of fascism.
  3. Spanish Falangism. Though to some extent derivative from the Italian form, it became a kind of Catholic and culturally more traditionalist fascism that was more marginal.
  4. The Romanian Legionary or Iron Guard movement, a mystical, kenotic forms of semireligious fascism that represented the only notable movement of this kind in an Orthodox country. It was also marginal.
  5. Szalasi’s “Hungarist” or Arrow Cross movement, somewhat distinct from either the Hungarian national socialists or Hungarian proponents of a more moderate and pragmatic Italian-style movement. For a short time, perhaps, it was the second most popular fascist movement in Europe.

14. Fascism and Modernization

Here author discusses relationship between fascism and modernization or more precisely idea that fascism is reaction to modernization by people who are not able to adjust. Author provides data demonstrating that it was not the case, showing that fascism accelerated modernization as part of process of military preparation.

15. Elements of a Retrodictive Theory of Fascism

Here author confirms that all attempts to create adequate theory of fascism failed, but it was possible identify a specific set of circumstances consistent with its success. Here there are compiled in the table:

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Epilogue. Neofascism: Fascism in Our Future?

Here author states that despite destruction of fascism in WWII fascists did not disappear and still exist, albeit on the margins of politics. He reviews their activities in several countries, but concludes that at this point it is not very serious threat. However author provides list of features that are typical for fascist movements and could appear in some other arrangement. Here is this list:

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It’s a very nice historical research and it provides lots of facts and background that allows better understanding of this phenomenon. I think that, while overall reviewed and discussed, the issues of psychological environment that make people to seek revolutionary changes to existing order using extreme violence were not looked in sufficient depth. I also think that the key feature of Fascism as philosophy of group supremacy and suppression of individual should be discussed more. I would be interested in much more extensive look at the link between Fascism and Communism, but at the commonality of all group dominance / statist / welfare ideologies of XX century that seek top down control of society by bureaucrats and politicians. I think those have a lot more in common, even if some of such ideologies in Western world by far less murderous than Nazis. There is also clear connection between real danger of fascism and level of adherence to democracy in population. The greatest examples are probably consequences of taking power by collectivistic powers in Russia, Germany, USA, and Britain. In all cases communist / fascist / socialist parties took power either via democratic (USA, Britain), semi-democratic (Germany) or quasi-democratic (Russia) methods. Populations with deep democratic traditions (USA and Britain) were capable more or less recover by electing less collectivistic parties in relatively short period of time (1932-1952 in USA and 1945-1951 in Britain) when collectivistic policies proved to be detrimental to population wellbeing, despite multitude of antidemocratic methods like massive propaganda in support of regime and legal measures against its opponents. Populations with strong authoritarian traditions were successfully suppressed for decades so they could move away from totalitarian collectivism only after complete military (Germany) or economic (Russia) collapse.


20190602 Tomasello, Michel – Becoming Human

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The main idea here is to review experimental data comparing human and great ape development and use it to support author’s believe that human specificity comes from qualitatively different process of development collective intentionality, which provides for human ability to create cultures and societies based on hyper cooperative processes.



Chapter 1. In Search of Human Uniqueness Chapter

It starts with Darwin and author discusses seemingly puzzling circumstance that unlike any other animals, humans created their own environment that includes technology, culture and religion. Author suggests that solution for this puzzle is unusually high level of cooperation achieved by humans. Author discusses ideas of Vygotsky about species-unique forms of sociocultural activity and links it to evolutionary developed biological specificity of human species. Then he defines his team’s specific proposal that this specificity was defined by common intentionality, which emerges during human development at about age of 3 years. At the end he defines his aim as to provide a “complete and coherent account of the process of becoming human”.

  1. Evolutionary Foundations

Human Evolution

It starts with human evolutionary history and then proceeds to compare it to the great apes. Author defines difference in such way:” What they do not possess is humanlike skills of shared intentionality, such as the ability to participate in the thinking of others through joint attention, conventional communication, and pedagogy. Chimpanzees and bonobos—and thus the LCA (common ancestor)—are and were very clever, but mainly or only as individuals.

Then author moves to define shared intentionality and look at its development all the way until present when it becomes Culture and Collective Intentionality. Here is graphic representation if these ides:

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Explanation in Developmental Psychology

Here author discusses 4 different types of learning and how humans are different:

“Typology of four types of learning and experience that play key roles—at different ages in diverse domains—in human cognitive and social ontogeny: (1) individual learning, (2) observational learning (imitation and so forth), (3) pedagogical or instructed learning, and (4) social co-construction (prototypically in peer collaboration).

Here author provides development diagram for complex movements:

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Here is how author describes this process overall:First, from around nine months of age, infants engage with others in acts of joint attention, which creates the possibility of conceptualizing entities and situations simultaneously from differing perspectives; then, later, they can even view things from an “objective” perspective. From early on as well, infants communicate with others referentially, inviting them to jointly attend to something, and this requires recursive inferences about mental states embedded in mental states; later they communicate with shared linguistic conventions. Again, from early on infants imitatively learn things through others’ perspectives, and later they come to understand pedagogy as an attempt by a representative of the cultural group to convey objective cultural knowledge. Finally, by the time they reach school age, children are capable of using all these skills of social cognition, referential communication, and cultural learning to engage intersubjectively with a peer in the kind of cooperative thinking and reasoning that are the source of all kinds of novel cultural achievements.

Chapter 3. Social Cognition

Author describes the mature human thinking as based on several dualities such as objective vs. subjective, true vs. false, and so on. Then author describes in details research that analyses how it happens step by step:

From Apes: Imagining What Others Perceive; Joint Attention; The Coordination of Perspectives; Becoming “Objective”.

At the end of chapter he also provides the graphic representation of this processes:

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Chapter 5. Cultural Learning From Apes: Social Learning

Imitation and Conformity

Here author moves into the area that even further away from animals – cultural transmission of knowledge and skills. The humans so far are only one known species that formally teach young generation not just by example, but using language and other methods such as books, pictures, graphs, and so on. The topics are: Instructed Learning; Becoming Knowledgeable.

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Chapter 9. Social Norms

This is an interesting discussion about normalization of human behavior when groups developed norms of behavior that they formalize and then pass from generation to generation. It is again feature highly developed in humans and mainly absent in apes:

From Apes: Group Life; Social Norms; Justice; Becoming Group-Minded.

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Chapter 10. Moral Identity

This is another purely human feature that pretty much define humans as extremely group-oriented creatures. Author discusses the meaning of moral identity and how it is developed in humans via process of socialization. It is greatly different from apes that form partnerships, but in very primitive forms and usually directed on achieving not more than some local dominance. Obviously in humans it means a lot more because it places individuals “I” within group “WE” supporting both compliance with norms and their enforcement against non-compliant individuals.

From Apes: Social Evaluation; Self-Presentation and Self-Conscious Emotions; Moral Justification and Identity; Becoming Responsible.

Here author provides not only graphic representation of development, but also Venn diagram for moral decision making unique to the humans:

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Chapter 11. A Neo-Vygotskian Theory

Here author reaffirms his conclusion that specifics of human ontogenetic process come down to hyper cooperative way of life, which is main difference between humans and great apes.

Global Theories of Human Ontogeny Shared Intentionality Theory

Here author reviews the following theories:

  • Individualistic – human child as individual scientist developing theory of the world
  • Sociocultural – human child as newly developed part of socio-cultural network being socialized via language and interactions with older members of the culture.
  • Shared Intentionality – human child develops based on two sets of specifically human capacities:

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Chapter 12 The Power of Shared Agency

Here author looks at evolutionary meaning of human species development as unique form based on hyper cooperation and collective intentionality. He refers to work of Maynard Smith and Szathmary that identified common characteristics of eight major transitions in complexity of living things with each transition characterized by two fundamental processes. Here is author’s characterization of these processes and their relevance to humans:

(1) a new form of cooperation with almost total interdependence among individuals (be they cells or organisms) that creates a new functional entity, and

(2) a concomitant new form of communication to support this cooperation.

In this very broad scheme, we may say that shared intentionality represents the ability of human individuals to come together interdependently to act as single agent—either jointly between individuals or collectively among the members of a group—maintaining their individuality throughout, and coordinating the process with new forms of cooperative communication, thereby creating a fundamentally new form of sociality.



It all looks very convincing to me, which somewhat impacted my attitude to duality of humans with their separation / interaction of individual and group evolutionary fitness. I guess I was too much concentrated on individuality as reaction to surrounding pressures throughout to put group first in everything and everywhere. I think that development process based on collective intentionality adequately represents reality and should be taken into account. I guess it moves me to move focus a bit away from individual / group to individual / hierarchy-of-groups, meaning that key better functioning humanity is in forming such hierarchy in minds of all individuals that would give higher priority to more inclusive group over less inclusive competing groups. For example putting humanity overall over religious groups, consequently denying religious supremacy claims and compelling tolerance of other religious groups, if necessary by force. Similarly it could be applied to nation as higher level of hierarchy group over various ideological groups, similarly compelling tolerance between various ideologies. In short whatever internal hierarchy of group exists in the mind of individual, the overriding priority should be tolerance of other hierarchies of groups.