A poisonous mood is stalking the world, according to Rutger Bregman – a mood of cynical pessimism that threatens to annihilate political hope and paralyse social progress. Bregman cites several recent surveys which show that nearly all of us believe that other people cannot be trusted, that they care only for themselves and that everything is going from bad to worse. But we are gravely mistaken, according to Bregman, and in his new book he tries to demonstrate that ‘most people, deep down, are pretty decent’.
Bregman traces our ‘mean world syndrome’ to the a priori philosophising of Thomas Hobbes, who argued back in the 17th century that, if it wasn’t for severe constraints imposed on us by the state, our lives would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. Scholars will not be especially impressed