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The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal [Paperback]

Desmond Morris , Philip Turner
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 15 1996 Kodansha Globe
How does city life change the way we act? What accounts for the increasing prevalence of violence and anxiety in our world? In this new edition of his controversial 1969 bestseller, The Human Zoo, renowned zoologist Desmond Morris argues that many of the social instabilities we face are largely a product of the artificial, impersonal confines of our urban surroundings. Indeed, our behavior often startlingly resembles that of captive animals, and our developed and urbane environment seems not so much a concrete jungle as it does a human zoo. Animals do not normally exhibit stress, random violence, and erratic behavioruntil they are confined. Similarly, the human propensity toward antisocial and sociopathic behavior is intensified in todays cities. Morris argues that we are biologically still tribal and ill-equipped to thrive in the impersonal urban sprawl. As important and meaningful today as it was a quarter-century ago, The Human Zoo sounds an urgent warning and provides startling insight into our increasingly complex lives.

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About the Author

Desmond Morris is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked Ape, Intimate Behavior, and Human Animal. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Naked Ape - An Anvil of Reality Feb. 25 2002
The Naked Ape (if you read it) clearly shows the beauty and brilliance of our fundamental nature, a nature still iron-locked to our basic, animal ancestry. The Naked Ape proves that there is no immediate escape from the stronghold our ancient mode of behaviour still plays on us, regardless of our newfound "human intelligence".
After first reading The Naked Ape (at age 25) my judgement on life simplified. Each chapter lifted burdens of heavy confusion and sadness off my shoulders. I read the book five times. Even now, at 37, I go back to it when I'm feeling angry or betrayed or confused. I'm familiar with every paragraph; I absorbing each page almost at once. And with every reading, the truth of The Naked Ape strengthens and clarifies my life.
At the end of the book, Desmond Morris's final message tops anything ever written about the solution to our current, misconstrued "advanced" lifestyle. I won't spoil it and quote him. You'll need to read the book and find out for yourself (or get the book and read the final chapter if you're into short-cuts). But do yourself a gigantic good turn and start fresh from the beginning.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read and some fasinating information! May 21 2004
I bought this book cheap second hand, and I'm surprised what a good purchase it was. This book is a basic beginners sort of guide into the world of anthropology/zoology but it is tailored to the average reader, and contains lots of interesting facts you may not already know about the animal kingdom, especially about the monkeys and apes. This book is bent towards the Darwinist theory of evolution, probably one of the most popular "scientific" theories people are taught today. Yet all this is still not much more than speculation, for there isn't ample concrete evidence to prove that this theory is true. Still, the question is : what if it is true? And if it is, then all these incredible things said in the book (I was very amused when reading the chapter about how and why human beings have nipples, lips, etc.) could be true! As I said - almost unbelievable, funny at times, and so fascinating! The book isn't overly lengthy at all, so its pretty short and sweet, but most of the general public will definitely learn at least one or two things after reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fallen Angel or Risen Ape? April 29 2004
This book is phenomenally informative. It is organized into eight long chapters, so the good stuff keeps coming fast and furious, making the book hard to put down. The Naked Ape will teach you everything you've ever wanted to know about yourself, your fellow man, and society at large.
Morris deals briefly with the concept of religion, describing it as a manifestation of our need to fulfill our inbred biological primate urges. But his main intent is to describe humans in zoological terms as just another species, albeit a tremendously successful one. He jokingly compares our journey to the top of the food chain as a rags-to-riches story, and like all nouveaux riche, we are very sensitive about our background.
I wholeheartedly declare this book a must read, although it might be a bit unsettling to those who prefer not to think of humans as mere animals. Even still, it is definitely worth reading. It seems Morris, writing just a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, was not optimistic about humanity's long-term prospects, and wished to write a book for the time capsule. Reading it on the other side of the millennium which he doubted we'd see, I'd say he succeeded.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Well, let's bungle in the . . . zoo?" Jan. 10 2003
Like Desmond Morris's _The Naked Ape_, this book is an old friend of mine. The second volume in his well-known trilogy (the third is _Intimate Behavior_), this one makes a compelling case that modern cities are less like "jungles" and more like zoos.
Other animals, Morris says, don't behave in the wild the way humans do in cities. But the sort of erratic violence and heightened self-stimulation in which we find modern humans engaging _does_ have a counterpart in the rest of the animal world: animals do act that way . . . in zoos.
Essentially, Morris's claim is that many millions of years of evolution have equipped us for life in small communities in which everybody knows everybody else and there's enough room for us to move around without klonking into each other all the time. We are not, in short, adapted to the modern metropolis, and that's why "city folk" are so danged weird. And our misattribution of our maladaptive behavior actually gives the jungle an undeserved bad name.
So what's a naked ape to do? I don't know that the intervening years since this book was first published have generated a whole lot of solutions. I guess that's, um, life in the big city.
But as with so many problems, just being aware of the problem is at least half the solution. As with Morris's other books (especially _The Naked Ape_), it's profoundly helpful to step back and see ourselves as one biological species among others (whether or not that's _all_ we are).
Okay, maybe that's not all we are; maybe the fact that we _can_ thus step back from ourselves is the single most important fact about our species. If so, that makes this book more valuable, not less.
So think of this book (and Morris's others) as a way to give your "I" a little distance on your "me," if you know what I mean. And yes, that does mean that I'm recommending a couple of books on evolutionary anthropology as helpful to your spirituality.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A lengthy, backwards opinion piece
First of all this is not a "study." An anthropological study would involve observing, gathering data, perhaps setting up experiments. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Elise
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing.
I was referred to this book by my animation professor and it contains knowledge that everyone should know. Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2012 by karenwonderswhy
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating analysis of our species
I think this book is well worth reading, because it provides many insights into why we behave the way we do. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2010 by Nicolai Michel
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, insightful and novel
This book is completely absorbing. It begins, where else, but at the beginings of human civilization itself at the site of the first human cities. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2004 by Paul Jorgenson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Zoologist examining human "normal" behaviour
We are so embedded in our modern cities and modern way of life (digital communications, home deliveries, grocery stores... Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano
5.0 out of 5 stars thenakedape
i can't comment on the validity of the statements made in the book (so i wont), but as for the book itself, it doesn't take much to get into it, i naturally started by reading the... Read more
Published on May 19 2004 by basschicharrones
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
I read this book over 30 years ago and it remains one of the most impressive works I've ever read. It was actually I book I got from the book club because I forgot to tell them... Read more
Published on May 16 2004 by Randy Keehn
2.0 out of 5 stars Tainted by sexism
I read this when it came out, I was 10 years-old. I've since become a cognitive psychologist and am therefore in a position to appraise the book as an insider. Read more
Published on May 10 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about man: Like it or not
I don't know if our imagination is a curse, or a gift, but I believe in many ways it clouds our vision, clouds us from the truth, and clouds us from reality. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2003 by Dimitri McKay
5.0 out of 5 stars A Turning point
As a paradigm of the human race it depicts our most unique characteristics, lowest instincts and highest aspirations in a unique way. Read more
Published on June 17 2003 by Roberto Macías
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