Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Cultures

by Marvin Harris. Random House, $10.00. Mr. Harris argues that all human societies, in all their complexity, have developed in response to the simple attempt to maintain living standards in the face of declining or depleted resources. With lively writing and a mass of evidence, he demonstrates that failing resources can account for the Neolithic Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and everything between, including the cannibal empire of the Aztec. It is a provocative case, particularly as the author applies it to currently failing energy sources, but it all stands on the claim that our Ice Age ancestors lived in happiness and leisure, ate like kings, and never fought because they had nothing to fight about. These amiable troglodytes sound like the old Noble Savage, and Mr. Harris has no more evidence for them than Rousseau did. Bibliography.