cover image Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going

Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going

Marvin Harris. HarperCollins Publishers, $24.95 (547pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015776-0

Pondering infanticide, cultural anthropologist Harris ( Cannibals and Kings ) suggests that humans have no innate predisposition to nurture, protect and rear their offspring. On the other hand, he claims that our genetically determined need for love and emotional support underlies couples' desire for children as well as ambitious leaders' thirst for prestige. Cultural materialism, as applied by Harris, is a malleable explanatory tool that occasionally leads to simplistic theorizing, but more often results in brilliant, provocative insights. His range of topics includes our hominid ancestry, ties between sexism and warfare, dietary preferences, the worldwide sugar binge, incest avoidance, humans' addiction to orgasm, racism, the taboo on cannibalism, the animistic roots of religion and much else. The virtue of this encyclopedic, consistently engaging survey of human evolution and culture is its weavng of fact, research and speculation into a grand vision mapping the transformation from hunter-gatherer bands to villages, chiefdoms and nation-states. 35,000 first printing; Literary Guild alternate; author tour. (Oct.)