The Human Zoo

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The Human Zoo is a book written by the British zoologist Desmond Morris, published in 1969. It is a follow-up to his earlier book The Naked Ape; both books examine how the biological nature of the human species has shaped the character of the cultures of the contemporary world.

The Human Zoo examines the nature of civilized society, especially in the cities. Morris compares the human inhabitants of a city to the animal inhabitants of a zoo, which have their survival needs provided for, but at the cost of living in an unnatural environment. Humans in their cities, and animals in their zoos, both have food and shelter provided for them, and have considerable free time on their hands. But they have to live in an unnatural environment, are both likely to have problems in developing healthy social relationships, both are liable to suffer from isolation and boredom, and both live in a limited amount of physical space. The book explains how the inhabitants of cities and zoos have invented ways to deal with these problems, and the consequences that follow when they fail at dealing with them.

From this point of view, Morris examines why civilized society is the way it is. He offers explanations of the best and the worst features of civilized society. He examines the magnificent achievements of civilized society, the sublime explorations that make up science and the humanities. And he also examines the horrible behaviors of this same society like war, slavery, and rape. This book, and Morris's earlier book The Naked Ape, are two of the early works in the field of sociobiology.

A Personal Note from Robin

Several years ago, some asked me, “What does it take to become a really good Master?”

I remember a really good 'short list' of traits for being a good dominant.


  1. You must clearly display the trappings, postures and gestures of dominance.
  2. In moments of active rivalry, you must clearly threaten your subordinates aggressively.
  3. In moments of physical challenge, you (or your subordinates) must be able to forcibly overpower your subordinates.
  4. If a challenge involves brain rather than brawn, you must be able to outwit your subordinates.
  5. You must be able to suppress squabbles between your subordinates.
  6. You must reward your immediate subordinates by permitting them to enjoy the benefits of their high ranks.
  7. You must protect the weaker members of your group from undue persecution.
  8. You must make decisions concerning the social activities of your group.
  9. You must reassure your extreme subordinates from time to time.
  10. You must take the initiative in repelling the threats or attacks from outside your group.


The above list is from a book, "The Human Zoo" written by Desmond Morris. Morris had studied monkeys and chimpanzee in the wild. His book tries to draw parallels between humans and other animals on the planet.

I think that this list is a really good starting place for anyone who wishes to become a leader.

"Are you listening, Mr. President?"

– Annete Benning to Michael Douglas in "An American President"

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