Monique Layton

Midwest Book Review

May 2021

Everyday Evil: Why Our World Is the Way It Is considers modern social issues and historical precedent, linking the two with discussions that delve into social values, moral considerations, and the events that have reinforced or changed both over the course of human history.

This discourse on human history and nature examines the evolution of human order and the barriers that have evolved over time to not only divide the sexes and different cultures, but create a special form of evil embedded in a blend of historical precedent and daily experience.

Monique Layton’s anthropology degree enables her to probe these connections with a deeper attention to cultural inspection than other authors might have done. She connects questions about the nature of good and evil with insights into the origins of heroism, moral and ethical perceptions, and the roots of evil deeds.

All these come into play in a complex and satisfyingly well-detailed survey of how popular opinion is built and changed, the origins of shifts in values and perception that have historically moved civilizations either towards or away from good and evil motivations, and how human nature has evolved – or not: “Human nature seems to have changed little when dealing with such basic emotions as anger at (or fear of ) the behaviour of others, followed by the urge to ‘correct’ them so they may act more conventionally and re-establish proper social or moral order, even when the methods of correction can be worse or far more violent than the acts to which the reformers object.”

As she surveys battles (both physical and mental) over human history, draws parallels between modern-day movements and their roots in past human affairs, and analyzes notions of right and wrong in cultural context, readers receive an involving series of interplays between past and present events that enlighten them about the origins of humanity’s pull to do either good or evil.

Her research was not without its lasting impact on the author, which is starkly noted towards the end: “At that point in my research, I still wondered whether we might progress over time, either by miraculous grace or natural evolution, hoping to see some improvement through the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and our modern humanism, despite mankind’s ever-present temptation (from Adam to Faust) to sell its soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power.”

Anthropology, history, psychology, and social issues students alike, as well as many a general-interest reader who enjoys facets and intersections of all four disciplines, will find Everyday Evil: Why Our World Is the Way It Is an outstanding consideration of how the world got to where it is today – and where it may be heading.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer