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Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World Hardcover – November 30, 2007
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About the Author
Dario Maestripieri is associate professor of comparative human development and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago.
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Top Customer Reviews
The point of Dario Maestripieri's book is to give us an anthropological glimpse at rhesus macaques and their very Machiavellian behavior. And the point of doing that is to show that rhesus macaques are very, very similar to humans in certain, and not always good, ways. They are very territorial, trade favors for services, dislike "outsiders" (not of their group) with a passion, stage revolutions of the weak against the strong, etc, etc. Not to sound flippant, but the behavior of rhesus macaques is quite similar in kind to the behavior of human gangs (be they bloods, skinheads, motorcycle gangs, or la cosa nostra). Or to put it differently, rhesus society resembles a slightly less individualistic version of Hobbes's state of nature.
Maestripieri has spent decades looking at how rhesus macaques operate, and the book reads like an anthropology text. Behavior is explained and anecdotes are given to support these explanations. We see how macaques organize themselves into hierarchies (and hierarchies within hierarchies), how (fragile) bonds are formed by exchanging favors for...umm...services, and even how they play oligarchical politics.
To me, the big fault of the book is that the author never really argues the point that we should see rhesus behavior as an illuminator of our own behavior as much as he assumes it.Read more ›
In contrast, the current book is a totally fresh contribution to pop-science; the author is drawing parallels between (one race of) monkeys and humans. This might sound a bit trivial, because it is not driven by theoretical arguments. That might be, but the book is a delight to read. The author is funny and provocative at times. In addition he tells some anecdotes that are actually interesting. If you have at least some fascination for monkeys and care about human nature, I think you will love this book. You will learn both about monkey and humans. I feel uplifted after reading the book, for some reason. A clear five star book.
Yes, the book could use a writer's touch. But it is by no means difficult reading. Yes, some of the pop culture metaphors are a bit hokey. But it's a book that's meant to be fun, for people like me, who are new to primatology, and are curious as to what primate research is telling us about human nature. I thought the story of the social climbing female named Tequila was an absolute riot, whether or not it was tinged by anthropomorphism. As a layperson, I also understand that this is only one species, and only one window through which to look at primate behavior as a reflection of our own. I expect the experts to squabble over specifics - like a group of rhesus macaques.
But for anyone interested in the big picture of primate and human `culture', and for anyone who appreciates some insights and opinions rather than just facts, I strongly suggest they include this book in their reading along with a few books by Frans de Waal - and the somewhat outdated but still entertaining classic from the sixties by Desmond Morris titled "The Naked Ape".
The Rhesus Macaques Monkeys aren't the closest human relative, so you should expect an exact replica of human behavior. The Rhesus Macaques is close enough and simple enough that observing their behavior can inform assumptions about human behavior. Their strategies are simple enough that scientists like Dario Maestripieri are able to interpret them.
Is human behavior just a more sophisticated version of Rhesus Macaques behavior? Do we have the same motivations, just more complex strategies for achieving them?
Maestripieri's portrays the Rhesus Macaques as hierarchical and selfish. When Rhesus Macaques compete for power is direct and often physical. People are more subtle, but our intentions seem the same. The Rhesus Macaques for alliances based on heredity. When people form alliances outside their families, are they altruistic or trying to take advantage of the other members? Altruism doesn't possible for Rhesus Macaques. Is it possible for humans or is it all deception?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I came across this book in doing research for an article that I have been working on for some time. I needed more information about innate features of human social structure and... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Daniel Goldman
this is an in depth, quite serious, yet hugely readable book about rhesus monkey behavior, making the odd apposite comparison to other primates, humans in particular. Read morePublished 17 months ago by zatack
There's a lot of books out there that explain autism to normal people but this is the first book I have read that explains normal people to those with autism.Published on December 23, 2013 by Scott Israel
I have had dogs all my life. I go to a dog park regularly where I have to pick up my dog's s**t. This does not allow for much in the way of pretensions. Read morePublished on September 3, 2012 by tombarnes
I got this book hoping to gain some understanding of this evolutionary out group on the human tree of origin. Read morePublished on July 16, 2012 by jcrafts
People love Marx and they hate Machiavelli. Trouble is we probably all act much more by the guidelines and observations of the latter. Read morePublished on April 23, 2012 by James G. Dangelo
I'm not sure how the author got this book past the editors, but everything in it is brutally honest, as far as I can tell. Naturally, this upsets the PC crowd. Recommend.Published on January 10, 2009 by Pascallisch
As someone who has spent hundreds of hours observing, recording and discussing the behavior of rhesus macaques on the island of Cayo Santiago, I feel that Maestripieri's book... Read morePublished on March 21, 2008 by Jessica Pacione