The Morris Theorem

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

This profile of Ian Morris boils down his thinking to a simple Morris Theory of social behavior:

“Change is caused by lazy, greedy, frightened people looking for easier, more profitable, and safer ways to do things.” These people are much the same everywhere. Their societies develop along similar paths. Geography explains different outcomes. “Maps, not chaps,” as Morris likes to say.

“The agency of individuals actually matters much less than historians tend to assume,” Morris tells me. “It’s hard to find any examples of decisions made by single individuals that really changed the big story very much — until you get into the 20th century, when you’ve got nuclear weapons.”


  1. Ben says:

    Seems a bit glib; may well be a partial truth, but…what about happy accidents (like penicillin found in garbage from ‘failed’ experiment)) or dreams (like Kekule’s discovery of benzene ring structure) and the unbidden (albeit prepared-for) visions, like one of Henri Poincare’s mathematical discoveries, which he “failed” at, gave up pursuing and then went on vacation, only to discover what he sought, full-born, as he travelled around many days later?

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