A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution


But this book seems bound to have continuing importance. It certainly is true that the book is anything but light reading. It's a deep, dense book, but it well repays the effort involved. This book puts together an overall picture of human cooperation and its evolution, drawing on evolutionary theory, anthropology, experimental and theoretical economics, computer modeling, and much else.

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The book is also well-informed on the philosophical side too philosophy is my own field. A central role is played in the book by experiments which are taken to show that humans tend to have strong 'social preferences. It is a mistake to see human behavior as fundamentally self-interested - or self-interested except in contexts where our biological relatives are involved. This leads to them to argue for a central role for competition between groups in our evolutionary history - direct competition in warfare, and competition over resources.

A lot of the book is concerned with the construction of formal models of how various social behaviors could evolve in a context where both within-group and between-group interactions are important. What is especially striking is the level of detail with which they draw on each field.

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The book is a coherent and argumentative synthesis of very diverse traditions of work. To me, the balance of the book was not quite right. The weight put on the models was a little excessive. There are just so many models developed, in considerable detail, and I think the book could have been a little stronger if a smaller number of models had been given more attention, and if a little more space was given to the empirical side.

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Some of the models belong in journal articles rather than this book. This is a minor complaint, but I worry that some readers might devour the first few chapters and then get bogged down in the middle, not making it to the end.

The evolution of (un)fairness: the influence of inequity on cooperation

This would be a shame, as some of the most interesting material comes at the end - including the very final pages. So if would recommend skipping rather than stopping, if the reader finds the middle of the book too model-heavy.

Anybody with any interest in human nature or the social sciences has to read this book. One person found this helpful. See all 13 reviews. Most recent customer reviews. Published on April 19, Published on March 31, Published on January 19, Published on December 20, Published on July 24, Published on June 19, Published on August 14, Published on July 19, Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers.

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A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution by Samuel Bowles

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Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon. The Sociobiology of Human Cooperation pp.

A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution

Cooperative Homo economicus pp. Ancestral Human Society pp. The Coevolution of Institutions and Behaviors pp. Parochialism, Altruism, and War pp. The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity pp. Human Cooperation and Its Evolution pp. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. I think there were some good ideas here, but they were not well packaged. I found myself constantly confused throughout as to what work particular sections were supposed to be doing, as well as what was even being said I'm not a mathematician, and there was just so much formal modelling.

I'm not even sure there was much particularly new here - the underlying ideas regarding potential selective advantages for altruism seem fairly common, so perhaps it was only the models which were doing the ne I think there were some good ideas here, but they were not well packaged. I'm not even sure there was much particularly new here - the underlying ideas regarding potential selective advantages for altruism seem fairly common, so perhaps it was only the models which were doing the new work. Probably a useful book for those in the field, but not an easy read for others.

Oct 05, Clarence Williams added it. An outstanding book on the evolution of altruism. This book challenges kin selection theory as a basis for various forms of reciprocity and cooperation. The authors almost start with the fact that we cooperate for mutual benefit, that we will even extend benefits to non-related others at a cost to ourselves true altruism , and that such other-regardedness can and does extend to strangers.

Importantly - it seems to be seldom noted in the sociobiological literature - the authors note Darwin's observation Descent, about in-group cooperatio This book challenges kin selection theory as a basis for various forms of reciprocity and cooperation. Importantly - it seems to be seldom noted in the sociobiological literature - the authors note Darwin's observation Descent, about in-group cooperation versus out-group distrust and hostility, thereby highlighting Darwin's observation about tribalism and its implicit relevance to today.

The authors then take that insight to formulate a main thesis in this book: We promote in-group solidarity through cooperation and enforcement against those who violate cooperation norms and this enables us to outcompete other groups, leading to the evolutionary development of cooperation albeit, even for aggressive purposes. In addition to citing numerous studies to bolster their argument, the authors present extensive and complicated looking mathematical and logical formulas to lay a foundation for their arguments.

Whether those citations and formulas are credible I can't say. On the surface there are a few issues with this book. First, the authors take a cue from Darwin and say that this in-group norm enforcement and out-group hostility lead to "differential group success" so that the more cooperative groups prevailed over groups that were not so good at internal group solidarity. Over time, this has led to the propagation of altruism various forms and our development as a cooperative species.

No doubt, we have the capacity for cooperation and employ it for both the good within our group and toward aggressive and war-like behavior toward non-group members. But this line of argument more or less wipes out the possibility that relatively selfish i. Self-oriented people survive and thrive within a group through deception, manipulation and overpowering, particularly when cultural norms or institutions are weak or tolerate inequality.

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Moreover, self-oriented individuals can also promote group success relative to other groups through raw power and dominance alone, without relying on what we typically view as cooperative norms. Think of the various dictators throughout history.

How else is the age-old tension between selfishness and otherness, between children of light and children of darkness, between good and evil, explained? Regarding the genetic mechanism for genetic transfer of non-cooperative behavior, the implicit premise of the authors' argument is that the minimization or elimination of selfish behavior occurs before sexual reproduction, but this asks a lot of evolutionary theory. Assuming some degree of "like parent, like child" genetic propensity transfer, it seems plausible enough to speculate that "selfish genes" had ample opportunity, especially when combined with deception and dominance, to propagate i.

Interestingly, the same phenomenom could also help to explain tribalistic distrust of the non-group. Over time, suspicion and hostility to "non-kind" could easily have proved to be advantageous for survival because those who viewed non-kind with a jaundiced eye were more likely to have survived and propagated these genetic propensities.

Second, the authors comment that reciprocal altruism is a misnomer reciprocity provides mutual benefit whereas altruism provides a net loss without a benefit. While this suggests that altruism is not self-interested, it can be argued that altruism, like love and compassion, is not inconsistant with the selfish-gene theory. Not all or even most acts of altruism result in death before reproduction. If through random genetic factors altruistic traits arise and strengthen the group then altruism can also be seen to provide benefits for the individuals within the group i.

Third, while the authors do a good job clarifying the various forms that reciprocity takes, they do not explain its evolutionary logic. If self-interesed seeking is our primary motivation, then reciprocity is the only way collectives of self-interested individuals can survive together. Reciprocity is a balancing principle between self and other so that each may derive benefit. Evolution may have ended up with this implicit principle because it is the only way collective self-seeking could have occurred throughout evolutionary time without destroying group cohesion.

In ethical theory, such as the various formulations of the golden rule, that principle is then abstracted from nature to become a conscious principle that prospectively guides action and, as fairness, forms the essence of justice.