Bloomsbury has acquired a "major work of non-fiction" that examines how work has shaped human civilisation.
Social anthropologist James Suzman charts the natural and cultural history of work, from the primordial era to the digital age, and looks at how automation could enable us to change our relationship with it for the better.
Publishing director Alexis Kirschbaum bought UK & Commonwealth rights from Chris Wellbelove at Aitken Alexander Associates. North American rights went to Penguin Press in a pre-empt. Auctions are ongoing in Holland and Spain, with offers in Greece, Portugal and Russia.
Suzman, a fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge who has studied southern Africa’s indigenous peoples for over two decades, said: "There has never been a more important time for us to be able to step out of ourselves and recognise the historical roots of our contemporary culture of work. I am very excited to help bring these ideas to a public that is already struggling to come to terms with the potential implications of automation and the ongoing consequences of our species' preoccupation with productivity."
Kirschbaum said: "James Suzman impressed us all with his academic authority and fascinating research into native tribes in Africa. With his gift for storytelling and scientific acumen, he will show us that there are real alternatives to how we construct society now and in the future."
Bloomsbury will publish in 2020, and will support with a major marketing and publicity campaign.