One of the sources I used for my paper was the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Harari writes in an easy to read style that portrays complex ideas in way that anyone can understand, and bolsters them with fun anecdotes and examples. This book is about how human society has developed since the beginning of the Cognitive Revolution and is extremely well researched.
Chapters 9 and 11 deal with the development of human societies, and Harari shows that throughout history there is an overall trend toward unity. However this unity comes at a cost. Often, it is achieved through imperialism, and the way a singular culture is developed within an empire is by eradicating or absorbing elements of it to fit the empire’s needs. This can be seen with Roman empire. They borrowed cultural elements, such as the gods from the Greeks, and eradicated many others, such as languages or other religions. Chapter 8 shows how imagined orders, more commonly known as social constructs, create divides in society that are often unfair. Some of these constructs include racism, sexism, and classism.
The way in which the trend toward cultural unity has been created throughout history can lend us some insight into how dystopias are formed from other societies. Coupled with Harari’s imagined orders from Chapter 8 it is easy to see how empires and societies can fall into a dystopia. It also begs the question, are we living in a dystopian country? Or a dystopian world? Is it only a dystopia for certain groups? How do we classify our society?
These are very complicated questions with very complicated answers. Based on what we know about the duality of dystopian literature, the idea of utopia versus dystopia, it is impossible that there will be a consensus on the answer to these questions, and highly unlikely that there will ever be a relatively agreed upon answer. Sapiens, though it cannot answer these questions, lends us insight into why things are the way they are in the world and how they came to be whether we like the way they are or not.
Below is the author himself, Yuval Noah Harari, giving a brief summary of a few key points Sapiens.
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens. HarperCollins, 2015.