Society

Essays and videos on social issues, history, political life and the future

Animals and humans Anthropology Archaeology Automation and robotics Cities Demography and migration Economic history Economics Education Environmental history Fairness and equality Future of technology Gender Global history History History of technology Human rights and justice Information and communication Making Nations and empires Politics and government Poverty and development Progress and modernity Public health Race and ethnicity Religion The ancient world The environment The future War and peace Work

Latest Popular


Photo by Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

Essay/
Information and communication
The misinformation virus

Lies and distortions don’t just afflict the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

The Course of Empire: Destruction (1836) by Thomas Cole. Courtesy Met Museum, New York/Wikipedia

Essay/
Nations and empires
The road from Rome

The fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t a tragedy for civilisation. It was a lucky break for humanity as a whole

Walter Scheidel

Fiddlesticks Country Club, a gated community in Fort Meyers, Florida. Photo by Michael Siluk/UIG/Getty

Essay/
Anthropology
Safety is fatal

Humans need closeness and belonging but any society that closes its gates is doomed to atrophy. How do we stay open?

David Napier

Stinson Beach, California, 1973. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum

Essay/
Animals and humans
The joy of being animal

Human exceptionalism is dead: for the sake of our own happiness and the planet we should embrace our true animal nature

Melanie Challenger

Photo by Steve Forrest/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Ageing and death
The gender of dementia

Are women really at greater risk from dementia? Until we reckon with social roles and inequalities, it’s impossible to say

Kate Gregorevic

Peanuts, bagged and ready for transport, are stacked in pyramids at Kano, Northern Region, Nigeria, 1955. Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
After slavery

Abolition in Africa brought longed-for freedoms, but also political turmoil, economic collapse and rising enslavement

Toby Green

Maxim and Ivy Litvinov in London in 1933. Photo by Hulton/Getty

Essay/
History
Madame comrade

How Ivy Litvinov, the English-born wife of a Soviet ambassador, seduced America with wit, tea and soft diplomacy

Brigid O’Keeffe

The wiring diagram of a human brain revealing connections. Courtesy of the consortium of The Human Connectome Project

Essay/
Neuroscience
Am I my connectome?

Each human brain possesses a unique, intricate pattern of 86 billion neurons. If science can map it, immortality beckons

Phil Jaekl

A bottlenose dolphin. Photo by Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures

Essay/
Animals and humans
Thanks for all the fish

The search for dolphin intelligence and the quest for alien life have moved in historical lockstep. What does the future hold?

Thomas Moynihan

Photo by Frederic Courbet / Panos Pictures

Essay/
Anthropology
What pastoralists know

Pastoralists are experts in managing extreme variability. In a volatile world economy, bankers should learn how they do it

Ian Scoones

Participants in the annual Twins Days Festival parade in Twinsburg, Ohio, 4 August 2012. Photo by Lisa Wiltse/Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Genetics
The science of terrible men

The pioneers of social genetics were racists and eugenicists: should we give up on the science they founded altogether?

Kathryn Paige Harden

An almost deserted village square at Hilibotodane on southern Nias c1906. Anonymous. Photo courtesy Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, Netherlands

Essay/
Anthropology
Longhouse lockdown

On a regular cycle, the Nias islanders of Indonesia would retreat into enforced seclusion. What can we learn from them?

Andrew Beatty

Hexensabbat in Trier (‘witches’ sabbath’, 1593), by Pastor H H Lauen, Germany. Courtesy the Witchcraft Collection, Cornell University.

Essay/
History
Rich witches

How a flawed logic of economic scarcity and social climbing spurred witch hunts in early modern Germany

Johannes Dillinger

Bessie. Holstein cow, aged 20, from the Allowed to Grow Old project and book by the photographer Isa Leshko. All photos © Isa Leshko

Essay/
Ethics
Philosophers and other animals

Christine Korsgaard argues that we can extend a Kantian moral framework to include other animals. But her argument fails

Peter Godfrey-Smith

U Pyinyathee of the All Burma Monks Alliance, a group of exiled monks who fled the protests of the Saffron Revolution of 2007, outside the makeshift monastery he shares in Utica, upstate New York, 27 April 2010. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Essay/
Demography and migration
Exiles on Main Street

To respect exiles as real and important political actors, we should get over casting them as saints, threats or victims

Ashwini Vasanthakumar

A British soldier near the Pimon military camp in Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, 25 March 2010. Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty

Essay/
War and peace
Reading John Gray in war

As a soldier, I was hard-wired to seek meaning and purpose. Gray’s philosophy helped me unhook from utopia and find peace

Andy Owen