Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth



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It is my great pleasure to report that my latest book, Ultrasociety, has been published. It is now available on the Amazon as an e-book (Kindle). Once we check the proof copy, you will also be able to purchase the trade paperback. E-books in epub format will also soon be available from Sony, Apple, Smashwords, and so on.

On the left you can view the cover (I described how we arrived at it in a previous post). And see the book description at the end of this post.

Ultrasociety is a popular book. I put a lot of work into making it accessible to the general reader, and I had a lot of help from two talented editors and several colleagues who read previous drafts. I hope you will enjoy reading it. The paperback becomes available later this week – just in time for your Christmas shopping!

I also have a request for all readers of this blog. If you like the book, please leave a review on Amazon.com. Although I am hoping for a favorable one, it’s better to have your honest opinion than none at all. Because I published this book independently, I rely on people like you to spread the word. Everybody agrees that customer reviews on Amazon sell books. Please help!

Publishing this book is a big experiment for me – and for the whole field of indie publishing of serious nonfiction. In the world of fiction books, there are many examples of very successful indie authors. But I know of no comparable success stories in the world of popular science or history books (if you do, tell me). I put an enormous amount of work into this book (more than into any other of my previous five books). I am waiting to see whether the result is worth the effort. So if you want me to write a sequel (and I already have a rough idea what it will be about), then help me make Ultrasociety a success.

And here’s the book description:

Cooperation is powerful.

There aren’t many highly cooperative species–but they nearly cover the planet. Ants alone account for a quarter of all animal matter. Yet the human capacity to work together leaves every other species standing.

We organize ourselves into communities of hundreds of millions of individuals, inhabit every continent, and send people into space. Human beings are nature’s greatest team players. And the truly astounding thing is, we only started our steep climb to the top of the rankings–overtaking wasps, bees, termites and ants–in the last 10,000 years. Genetic evolution can’t explain this anomaly. Something else is going on. How did we become the ultrasocial animal?

In his latest book, the evolutionary scientist Peter Turchin (War and Peace and War) solves the puzzle using some astonishing results in the new science of Cultural Evolution. The story of humanity, from the first scattered bands of Homo sapiens right through to the greatest empires in history, turns out to be driven by a remorseless logic. Our apparently miraculous powers of cooperation were forged in the fires of war. Only conflict, escalating in scale and severity, can explain the extraordinary shifts in human society–and society is the greatest military technology of all.

Seen through the eyes of Cultural Evolution, human history reveals a strange, paradoxical pattern. Early humans were much more egalitarian than other primates, ruthlessly eliminating any upstart who wanted to become alpha male. But if human nature favors equality, how did the blood-soaked god kings of antiquity ever manage to claim their thrones? And how, over the course of thousands of years, did they vanish from the earth, swept away by a reborn spirit of human equality? Why is the story of human justice a chronicle of millennia-long reversals? Once again, the science points to just one explanation: war created the terrible majesty of kingship, and war obliterated it.

Is endless war, then, our fate? Or might society one day evolve beyond it? There’s only one way to answer that question. Follow Turchin on an epic journey through time, and discover something that generations of historians thought impossible: the hidden laws of history itself.

Buy Ultrasociety

on Amazon.com (Kindle)

on Smashwords.com (epub)

on CreateSpace (Trade Paperback)

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Peter, have you ever considered making a website for Beresta Books?


Highly fascinating stuff. I’m writing before I read it, but I’m commenting on the very notion here: http://vanityfea.blogspot.com.es/2015/11/ultrasociety.html

Cooperation AGAINST A THIRD PARTY is powerful, and has shaped human cultural evolution. The Play of Power—or the Game of Thrones—the making and unmaking of confrontational alliances, feudal management of men, and the replay of this game of alliances at the level of groups and alliances of states—ALL THIS is a major evolutionary force shaping humanity. So, cooperation and competition go hand in hand; we are a highly competitive species as well.


Wow! This book looks terrific. I am looking forward to the paperback.

Randall Parker

Just started reading last night. Very interesting. I like your use of newer anthropological/archaeological research on the size of construction teams and construction sites and how big some of the construction projects were thousands of years ag. Your theme of the evolution of human societies to cooperate on larger scales helps explain the build-up to the industrial revolution.

Ross Hartshorn

Order finger (similar to “trigger finger”, but less violent) is twitching, waiting for paper version. Yes, I’ve been a computer programmer professionally for just over a decade now and I still prefer paper books for some things.

I’m curious as to how this will compare to the rough draft you sent out to us readers of your blog a year or two ago? I’m guessing a few things changed in the meantime.

Ross Hartshorn

Oh, wow, you have been busy lately! Glad to see that the release-the-book part of the process is getting unblocked. I look forward to buying both!


Will this come out on Google Play? As someone who did conflict studies and has a passion for archaeology, I cannot wait to read it.

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