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Human Evolution and the Origins of Hierarchies: The State of Nature Paperback – July 25, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (July 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107670365
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107670365
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,263,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

In this book, Benoît Dubreuil explores the creation and destruction of hierarchies in human evolution. Combining the methods of archeology, anthropology, cognitive neuroscience, and primatology, he offers a natural history of hierarchies from the point of view of both cultural and biological evolution. This volume explains why dominance hierarchies typical of primate societies disappeared in the human lineage and why the emergence of large-scale societies during the Neolithic implied increased social differentiation, the creation of status hierarchies, and, eventually, political centralization.

About the Author

Benoît Dubreuil is a postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy of the Université du Québec ... Montréal. His work on moral philosophy and philosophy of science has been published in Biology and Philosophy, Philosophical Explorations, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, and Review of Philosophy and Psychology.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Small on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Benoît Dubreuil says that he agrees with an anthropological view that `political hierarchies have followed a U-shaped trajectory during human evolution, disappearing during the Palaeolithic and reappearing during the Neolithic.' His detailed argument, though, shows that the second type of hierarchy emphatically was not a reappearance of the first type but an analogous product of a different mechanism, and that it emerged before the Neolithic. This detail does not affect his mission, which is to resolve the apparent paradox that the hominid brain, increasing in capacity over a period of two million years could at first find hierarchy to be necessary, then abolish it, then find it to be essential again.

His chronology starts with the common ancestor of chimpanzee and man, which by wide agreement was an animal with a social structure based on overt physical aggression in which group members enforced their privileged access to food and mating rights. It is this bullying that disappeared in the Palaeolithic. He produces evidence that by the time of Homo erectus, about 1.8 mya (million years ago) man was a cooperative hunter-gatherer systematically sharing food. His evidence comes from studies of recent pure hunter-gatherer communities, and from tool use and cranial development (which he has studied in detail) in the archaeological record. He proposes that what caused our pacification was the increase in cognitive ability that allowed the group to share goals and `sanction' alpha males or would-be contenders for the title -a chilling hint at assassination for those who remember The Eiger Sanction. In a striking phrase Dubreuil says that until further development of the brain mankind was `condemned to equality' by limited cognitive ability.
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