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Social Life of Human Beings Through Different Aspects Essay

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Updated: Oct 15th, 2021


The existence of the human society is made possible by various relations and interactions between its members, i. e. human beings. Due to this, for students it is of paramount importance to understand the events that take place in the world, to study historical, sociological, political, and even biological factors of them. The current paper will focus namely on this aspect of social life as seen by the authors of the four essays which will be analyzed in this work. David Abram, Brett Bowden, Annie Dillard, and Steven Johnson are all qualified and widely reverend specialists in their fields of study, and their essays and articles prove this if considered attentively and diligently. This paper, thus, is going to consider the development of the humanity through realistic, theologian, anthropological, etc. perspectives so that to present the comprehensive picture of the social life.

The Ecology of Magic

To begin with, the work by David Abram is a perfect combination of realistic views of a natural scientist with the beliefs shared by primitive tribes and shamans of such Asian countries as Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc. The author of “The Ecology of Magic” is a famous anthropologist, but his interest in magic has driven him far away to the unknown lands to explore the craft of the Asian shamans and see if their magic is real: “As a result of this work I became interested in the relation, largely forgotten in the West, between folk medicine and magic.” (Abram, p. 4) Thus, a purely scientific approach to the rather ambiguous topic of magic is ensured by Abram in his work as a reflection of his attitudes to science and every business he takes up.

Consequently, the topics of the essay by Abram seem to be incompatible at first sight. However, when a reader considers the work closer, it becomes evident that Abram pursued absolutely practical goals while conducting his research on magic: “I had traveled to Indonesia on a research grant to study magic–more precisely, to study the relation between magic and medicine, first among the traditional sorcerers, or dukuns, of the Indonesian archipelago, and later among the djankris, the traditional shamans of Nepal.” (Abram, p. 3) Moreover, to study this relation means for Abram much wider phenomenon. In other words, his scope is not limited to medicine and magic; the author puts these two concepts into the framework of the world ecology and relations between human beings and the Earth they inhabit.

As a result, Abram’s research comes out of the boundaries of a narrow medical study or a vague magic exploration. This work becomes a reputable source of information on the close connection between human beings and nature, while shamans and magicians are, according to Abram act “as an intermediary between the human collective and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape to the human inhabitants but from the human community back to the local Earth.” (Abram, p. 6)

The Wreck of Time

As a continuation of Abram’s essay, the work by Annie Dillard titled “The wreck of time: Taking our century’s measure” can be viewed from another side of the topic discussed. In other words, if David Abram considers the possible harmony of a human being and nature, Dillard does contrary in her essay. The major point of “The wreck of time: Taking our century’s measure” is the insignificance of numbers, pieces of information, and human beings as such for so huge a phenomenon as the Universe. Annie Dillard thus, although dealing with a rather challenging and broad topic for discussion, aims to prove her point about the small roles of separate human beings for the whole Earth: “It is all a stage – we know this – a temporary stage on top of many layers of stages, but every year a new crop of sand, grass and tree leaves freshens the set and perfects the illusion that ours is the new and urgent world” (Dillard, p. 56).

Moreover, Dillard’s points and ideas are supported with statistical data that make the essay under consideration rather more credible and relevant. The author contrasts the situations when people consider that the Earth is circulating around them, and the situations when a natural disaster, war, or any other reason kills thousands of such people. According to the author, by this the Universe demonstrates what importance human beings have for it indeed. And the only circulation that actually takes place in respect of people in the circulation of those who live and die without making the Universe even notice it: “The dead outnumber the living, in a ratio that could be as high as 20 to 1,” a demographer, Nathan Keyfitz, wrote in a 1991 letter to the historian Justin Kaplan. “Credible estimates of the number of people who have ever lived on the earth run from 70 billion to over 100 billion.” (Dillard, p. 51) Thus, Dillard’s work is the manifestation of the wrong way people have chosen to live by, while Steven Johnson’s essay aims at showing the right one.

The Myth of the Ant Queen

The first impression made by this very essay is that the reader considers a biological or naturalist research dedicated to the development of ant colonies. However, the idea implicated by the author is much deeper and much more sophisticated. Steven Johnson, the author of publications for such reputable scholarly journals as Wall Street Journal, Harper’s and many others, tries to draw parallels between the development of ant “societies”, i. e. colonies, and the societies of human beings, i. e. cities where millions of people live without any centralized rule or guidance. Accordingly, the essay by Steven Johnson is the comprehensive analysis of the two similar forms of organization of life and work. According to the author, ants have chosen the right way being directed by the “cumulative memory”, while human beings always search for some rule over them to be sure about their future.

Consequently, the essay by Steven Johnson comes to adequate conclusions and scientifically grounded theories, which makes it a reputable source of scholarly knowledge. Johnson defines the main concepts of his study, for example, stating that a human city is a “pattern amplifying machine; its neighborhoods are a way of measuring and expressing the repeated behavior of larger collectivities – capturing information about group behavior, and sharing that behavior with the group.” (Johnson, p. 40) Furthermore, the author moves to the discussion of more complicated phenomena created by human beings, including the Internet and collective intelligence concept arising from its appearance. All these considerations are built on the basis of the analogies with the ant colonies and their organization of life. Ideas of Global Brain and the study of interesting details about the abilities of the human brain are also a substantial part of the work by Johnson. Thus, the work by Steven Johnson is a combination of comparative analysis and research aiming at stating the powerful nature of a human being whose power, however, is mainly used in a wrong direction.

Standard of Civilization

Thus, the previously considered essays can be found in the New Humanities Reader and constitute the essential part of scholarly research on the human civilization, its needs and trends for further development. However, pieces of work that are not considered by the New Humanities Reader are also rather relevant. For example, the article by Brett Bowden titled “In the Name of Progress and Peace: The “Standard of Civilization” is a perfect summarizing work that combined all the most important points by the previous authors, although in a different form, and synthesizes them into a comprehensive consideration of the essence of “civilization” and its standards (Bowden, p. 43).

Accordingly, one of the major points of the article is the impossibility to develop a term or standard to mark the entire human civilization with it. Moreover, Bowden (2004), argues about the alleged end of the development of the mankind: “the end of the cold war marked not just “the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the endpoint of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” (Bowden, p. 43) From this article, therefore, it can be concluded that the author sees no other objectives in the development of the mankind as far as ideological countering is in the past and globalization of all the processes in the world becomes more and more intensive.

As a result, Bowden comes to the conclusion that the human civilization has formed as a single whole at the modern stage of the historical development, and the major factor of this unification of cultures, economies, etc. has been “the reinvigoration of a “standard of civilization” in international society” (Bowden, p. 43). Thus, from the realistic point of view, as well as from theologian, naturalist and sociological ones, human civilization has reached its peak in the development, and the next stage should be the understanding of the rules of co-existence with nature and formation of skills to conform to those rules (Bowden, p. 43).


So, to make the respective conclusion to this paper, it is necessary to state that the interaction of human beings within the society is a rather complicated process which can be viewed from various contexts. This paper focused on the consideration of the social life of human beings through the perspectives of magic, theology, anthropology, biology, and history. The essays and articles considered in this paper are reputable sources of scholarly information. With their help, this paper managed to find out that there should be a balance in the relations between humanity and nature, and since this balance is not kept to nowadays the mankind faces numerous disasters and issues. Accordingly, the study of all the aspects of social and natural life is a rather useful discipline for those who plan to deal with it professionally and for those who want to exist in harmony with nature and other human beings.

Works Cited

  1. Abram, David. “The Ecology of Magic.” The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. David Abram. Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition, 1997. 3 – 30.
  2. Bowden, Brett. “In the Name of Progress and Peace: The “Standard of Civilization” and the Universalizing Project.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 29.1 (2004): 43+.
  3. Dillard, Annie. “The wreck of time: Taking our century’s measure.” Harper’s Magazine 296(1998): 51-56.
  4. Johnson, Steven. “The Myth of the Ant Queen.” Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. New York: Scribners, 2001. 29-57.
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