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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Anthropological Account of Rhesus Macaques
If chimpanzees and bonobos are our close evolutionary brothers and sisters, then rhesus macaques are, say, our step-brothers: not as genetically close as brothers but close enough to help plan the family reunion. Unfortunately, they are rarely talked about as related to homo sapiens. Maybe that is because, as will be seen in this book, they are so danged nasty...
Published on December 22, 2009 by Kevin Currie-Knight

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13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs editing
This book had some very interesting sections and some of the overall insights were thought provoking, but the book was just not organized well at all and it was filled with terrible metaphors. The overall affect of the organization of this work really made this book a disappointing read for me.

The author attempts to make comparisons between his subjects and...
Published on February 4, 2008 by Matthew Smith


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Anthropological Account of Rhesus Macaques, December 22, 2009
This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
If chimpanzees and bonobos are our close evolutionary brothers and sisters, then rhesus macaques are, say, our step-brothers: not as genetically close as brothers but close enough to help plan the family reunion. Unfortunately, they are rarely talked about as related to homo sapiens. Maybe that is because, as will be seen in this book, they are so danged nasty.

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. In one chapter, he demonstrates that rhesus males have no part in child rearing, at the very end of the chapter suggesting that fatherly instincts are a recent development in humans. While I have little problem with this assertion (and suspect it may be true), the author leaps from description of macaques to pontificating on implications for humans without going through the middle step of arguing why rhesus behavior is any better a guide to humans than, say, bonobo behavior. (One negative reviewer took issue with certain similar statements the author made suggesting that rhesus females' non-participation in politics gives reason to suspect that human females do not have as much political instinct as males. I suspect that had the author argued why his rhesus descriptions are connected with his human speculations, these "leaps" would be less problematic.)

The other slight problem I had was the authors tendency to confuse proximate with ultimate causal explanations for behavior. Several times he talks about several macaque behaviors, like females' having sex with weaker males only during times when they can't concieve, as cost/benefit analysis. Of ccourse, behaviors like this may have evolved because their benefits outweigh their costs, but the author often describes these acts as if they were MOTIVATED by cost/benefit analysis. (Occasionally, the author will correct himself here but go on in the same chapter to make the same linguistic conflation.)

All in all, I gave the book four stars because I found it extremely interesting (on a subject often overlooked) and very engaging. The author succeeds in giving us great description about rhesus macaques. Where the author does not succeed is in convincing us that rhesus macaques can really illuminate human behavior any better (or even as good as) bonobos and chimpanzees, who are much closer relatives and just as similar behaviorally. Yes, we are similar in ways to rhesus monkeys, but so are we to many animals, most of whom are not close relatives. Pointing out behavioral similarities do not themselves justify analogies; those must be argued for, which is what this book lacks. If you read this book solely as a study and explanation of rhesus macaque behavior, though, the book is illuminating and entertaining indeed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and funny - read this book!, May 30, 2012
By 
Jackal (New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
Within the category of pop-science books there is a lot of imitation. One interesting book on economy in daily life was published (Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)) and suddenly we had ten such books.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just what I was looking for, September 6, 2008
This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
"Humans can be quite flexible and adjust to their circumstances, but when all the outer layers of individualism and egalitarianism are peeled off, they have a despotic and nepotistic core that is not unlike that of rhesus macaques." - Dario Maestripieri (p164)

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".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Window Into The Life Of Rhesus Macaques., July 16, 2012
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This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
I got this book hoping to gain some understanding of this evolutionary out group on the human tree of origin. Rhesus macaques have a unique position on this tree being half way between the first primate species and modern humans. Dario Maestripieri delivered the goods. He did not write this book in obscure language for a peer review board, he wrote this book for the layman. It was interesting reading from cover to cover. He offers many insights into rhesus behavior derived from years of careful observation. He made some interesting parallels between despotic and nepotistic rhesus society and modern Italian society. He pens quite a case for equality with the force of Garibaldi's sword!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide for anyone with Asperger's, December 23, 2013
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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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A unique perspective on evolutionary psychology, March 29, 2013
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This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
What type of intelligence has enabled humans to dominate every ecosystem on Earth? Could it be our "Machiavellian Intelligence," a specific type of social intelligence that enables us to manipulate others to get what we want?

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?
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5.0 out of 5 stars We presume too much about ourselves, September 3, 2012
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This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
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. I would add that merely owning a dog and, if you are a generous owner just looking for a companion, and having to adjust to that dog's quirks generally precludes thinking of yourself as somehow wildly superior to that animal.
If you are familiar with this less-than-noble view of Humanity then you will enjoy this book. It is the animal interpretation of human actions particularly concerning rank and sex. It brings you the hard unvarnished truth of a lot of human actions but, I would add, without the added modern complexities of transience and anonymity. So many of these interactions described in the book depend on a stable population that does not move much throughout the years whereas modern life is pretty transient and anonymous. Nonetheless, it lifts the Veil of Maya on a lot of the euphemisms we feed ourselves to put a more elevated spin on our actions.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is your chance to enter the mind of a macaque... and learn something about yourself in the process, March 21, 2008
This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
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 provides a rare and accurate glimpse into the social lives of the members of this species.

Maestripieri's colorful and detailed description of rhesus macaque society is so authentic, that I found myself nodding my head and chuckling aloud as I recalled witnessing various storylines of the macaque "soap opera" play out before my eyes. I have unwillingly starred in the role of "scapegoat" (p. 52) as a monkey under attack attempted to redirect the aggression to me.

In response to a review that was previously posted, I found the pop culture references to be extremely helpful. Maestripieri has tackled some very complex concepts in ethology and has made them palatable for a general audience. Having given lectures on topics in animal behavior (and specifically, primate behavior), I was impressed with the explanations he offered for representational vs. non-representational communication (p. 134-139) and Trivers' coefficient of relatedness (p. 120), as well as the example he provided for how a rhesus acquires its rank in the hierarchy. That being said, I don't think that this is simply a "starter book." Even for those well-versed in ethology, it would be highly worthwhile to give Maestripieri's book a read, as it draws parallels between human and macaque society that have not been discussed elsewhere.

Some may find the parallels that Maestripieri has drawn between human and macaque society to be controversial or tough to digest. One reviewer seemed to be offended by Chapter 6- Sex and Business. Although my initial training was in anthropology, I am well aware that Maestripieri is presenting arguments that are discussed by evolutionary social psychologists on a daily basis- these are not simply his opinions on the benefits of "Sleeping with a stranger" (p. 92) and "What Females Want" (p. 99).

If you've ever wanted to get into the mind of a rhesus monkey- this is your book!
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13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs editing, February 4, 2008
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This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
This book had some very interesting sections and some of the overall insights were thought provoking, but the book was just not organized well at all and it was filled with terrible metaphors. The overall affect of the organization of this work really made this book a disappointing read for me.

The author attempts to make comparisons between his subjects and human beings but the reader never knows when the author is going to make these comparisons. They seem to come from nowhere and the reader just has to take the book as it comes. I would have much rather had the book broken down into cross sections that discuss Rhesus Macaque behavior and then a whole new section that compares that behavior with human behavior. This would have given the book a much firmer structure and would have broken down the information in a much more palatable way for the reader.

Next the metaphors the author used throughout this book were just terrible. For me these metaphors had the affect of dumbing down the content of this work. I'm sure this was not the intent of the author, but I felt as though I were being talked down to throughout this work. The author also uses mixed metaphors which really leaves a bad impression on the reader.

Next at the end of the chapter entitled Sex and Business the author makes some statements that seem extremely misogynistic. The author talks about how women have not learned to achieve political power and how they are much less adept at politics than their male counter parts. Of course the facts are that women have been playing at power politics since the Romans and Greeks and well before that. The author doesn't speak of the fact that the majority of the societies that have developed have formed highly patriarchal societies in which men have been the main beneficiaries and women for the most part have been oppressed. So it is not that women are not adept at power politics but instead they have never had the opportunity to fully participate in the systems. Not only that but women have been able to exert extraordinary influence on politics and the world through very narrow corridors of access.

The author also ignores the huge progress that has been made by women in really the last hundred years or so. For a group that has really only gained full access to the political spectrum (and of course the argument could be made they are still discriminated against) very recently in human history women have made huge impacts everywhere around the world and will continue to make even greater contributions as they are able to make even more gains in the political sphere.

I am sure the author's intent was not to come of as a misogynist but to me he did. He was only trying to make a comparison between Macaque societies and human society. This book would have been much better with some better editing and an additional rewrite, but unfortunately for the author many of the problems were not caught in the editing process and the work suffers terribly for it. The author is a Primatologist not an English Ph.D., but the author has written a book and must be judged on this effort. The author would be greatly served finding a new editor.

The book was not great and I have read works that I would recommend much more highly than this one. It had its moments but they were not enough to redeem this awkward book. If you are just getting into ethology then you may want to give this work a try, but if you are versed int the topic already just skip this particular work.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fun, jaw-dropping and light reading on HEAVY topics, April 23, 2012
By 
James G. Dangelo (Brookline, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World (Hardcover)
People love Marx and they hate Machiavelli. Trouble is we probably all act much more by the guidelines and observations of the latter. Maestripieri digs up phenomenally relevant data on human behavior by focusing on a primate that isn't half as related to us as chimpanzees. How is this possible? Well its not clear, but it does hint at the smoking gun, that perhaps most of our so called "uglier" characteristics (murder, greed, neoptism, capitalism) have been hardwired into us, since well, perhaps millions of years before we became human. Unsettling, definitely. Brutally honest, hell yeah. Beautifully written with pithy humor and a sharp eye for important detail, hell yeah. Great book.
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Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World
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