‘What a truly radical reading of the human past looks like’

June 6, 2022

Below is a review by Peter W. Wood of the new Pathfinder title Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity. Wood is the author of 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project; president of the National Association of Scholars and former professor of anthropology at Boston University.

Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity is a timely and somewhat unusual anthology of writings by Marx, Engels, the late American communist leader George Novack, and the contemporary Mary-Alice Waters. As an anthropologist and political conservative, this is not the company I would ordinarily keep, but as someone concerned about the rise of pseudo-history and pseudo-science in American society today, I find the frank materialism of the old-fashioned Marxist left refreshing, especially in its recognition of institutional progress through continuous social struggle.

Readers who have been inundated with identity politics and post-modern counterfactual fabrications would do well to refresh themselves on what a truly radical reading of the human past looks like, and how both biological evolution and social evolution have a major claim to our attention.

As an introduction to an important but now neglected side of one of the great debates of our age, this short book genuinely deserves attention.