Hodder (Stanford Univ.) offers an excellent discussion of a key process in human evolution: the interplay between humans and the “stuff” that allows the former to meet environmental challenges. Hodder argues that human dependence on things—tools, for example—leads to things’ dependence on other things and on humans, which produces greater human dependence on things. It really can’t be any other way: humans use things to solve problems in their environments (to get things done), but along the way, they meet all kinds of unanticipated consequences—contradictions, conflicts, and contingencies. Although Hodder doesn’t use the term, these instances of mutualism are “coevolutionary relationships.” Coevolution, which has long been recognized in biological systems, is now seen as a powerful process in effecting social change as well. Hodder’s book adds substantially to the case for the importance of coevolutionary relationships in human evolution. In summary, this book will be a valuable addition to college courses in fields such as anthropology and history, and the book’s ease of presentation make it accessible and engaging to general readers.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. Reviewer: M. J. O’Brien, Texas A&M University–San Antonio Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Anthropology Choice Issue:Jan 2019