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Rutger Bregman and Helen Lewis on Human Kindness in a Frightened World (online)

Historian Rutger Bregman explains that altruism can be a new way to think - and can act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society

Human beings, we’re taught, are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest. From Hobbes’ theory about the state of nature to Richard Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene’, the roots of this belief are deeply ingrained in Western thought.

But historian Rutger Bregman believes we have got human nature wrong – and that deep down we are all pretty decent. On August 3 Bregman came to the Intelligence Squared stage to persuade us that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. And that the instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust, has an evolutionary basis going right back to the beginnings of Homo Sapiens.

In conversation with journalist and author Helen Lewis, Bregman will discuss some of the world’s most famous studies and events and reframe them, providing a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history. From the real-life Lord of the Flies to the Blitz, a Siberian fox farm to an infamous New York murder, Stanley Milgram’s Yale shock machine to the Stanford prison experiment, Bregman will tell us that believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think – and act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society.

Watch the event live and have your chance to type in your question during the Q and A.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman is available to order from Waterstones.



Rutger Bregman

Historian and bestselling author

Historian and bestselling author. He has published five books, including Utopia for Realists and most recently Humankind: A Hopeful History.

Helen Lewis

Journalist, author and broadcaster

Staff writer on The Atlantic and former associate editor of the New Statesman. She presents The Spark on BBC Radio 4, in which she interviews radical thinkers on their solutions to the structural problems of our age.  Her first book is Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights.


Speakers are subject to change.