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Man Is by Nature a Political Animal: Evolution, Biology, and Politics Paperback – September 22, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A major paradigmatic contribution relevant well beyond political science, Man Is by Nature a Political Animal provides a primer of what has been happening at the intersection of political science, biology, and cognitive neuroscience for the past twenty years. Hatemi and McDermott have put together a formidable group of the most creative scholars in the discipline, each of whom has attempted to show how the various methodologies and theoretical frameworks operate.”
(John M. Orbell, University of Oregon)

“In Man Is by Nature a Political Animal, Hatemi and McDermott present the first serious attempt to provide a systematic overview of new developments [in political psychology] in a book that may appeal to both scholars and general readers. They bring together the most up-to-date theoretical, methodological, and empirical frameworks and perspectives on political attitudes and behaviors, including evolutionary biology and psychology, genetics, physiology, and neuroscience. Their book calls for real crossdisciplinary work on political behavior that will resonate within intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary discourse. . . . Not only does this book contribute to the field in making its recent achievements and advances known to both scholars and the general public, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it goes a long way in guiding its future research.”
(Political Psychology 2013-12-02)

About the Author

Peter K. Hatemi associate professor of political science, microbiology, and biochemistry at Pennsylvania State University and a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
 
Rose McDermott is professor of political science at Brown University. She is the author of numerous books, including Presidential Leadership, Illness, and Decision Making.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226319105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226319100
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nicholas Creel on February 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ts is a great introduction to biology and politics. Each chapter is a different take on how to approach this emerging line of research. Great read, really good option for a political behavior course.
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The most important fact about political theory is that there really is none. Or, rather, political theory generally takes almost everything as given, including the fact that human society has a political sphere, and pontificates on the merits of various political organizational structures. If you Google Political Theory, you mostly come up with political philosophy, plus the "political theory" of random outstanding thinkers (Aristotle, Dewey,...). There is simply no coherent body of general political theory.

This exploratory volume advocates grounding general political theory in evolutionary biology. I think this is a great idea, and if you have never thought much about the relationship among evolution, human nature, biology, and political life, this is a useful way to start. The editors seem to think that genetics and neuroscience should be included in evolutionary theory, so there are several chapters that simply analyze genes, neurons, and hormones. These are useful in their own right, but they have little to do with an analytical core for political theory.

The contributors to this volume simply miss the most basic facts about political theory. The most important fact is that the public sphere is the area of human social life where the rules of the game are made, stabilized, evaluated, debated, and transformed. This is important because, while many animals play games, humans alone can conceptualize the notion that games have rules, these rules can be violated or respected, and that we can agree to play by certain rules with the expectation of achieving certain social regularities thereby. Homo sapiens is thus "Homo ludens": Man the game player. This is the central fact of political theory.
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If one is interested in exploring the linkage between biology (in its many manifestations) with politics, this is a fine starting point. The editors, Peter Hatemi and Rose McDermott are accomplished scholars in this arena. They are good stewards of this volume.

There is a growing literature in this specialization within political science. There are academic organizations focused on this realm. The discipline of political science is increasingly open to this perspective.

The various chapters provide a sense of the scope of biology and politics:

1. Evolution as a theory for illuminating political behavior;
2. Knowledge of primates and the implications for understanding politics;
3. Evolutionary models for the study of politics;
4. Twin studies and political behavior;
5. Genes and political participation;
6. Hormones and politics;
7. Testosterone and politics;
8. The brain and politics.

Et cetera.

The reader might not be convinced by all chapters, but the volume does a nice job of introducing this specialization to a broader audience, without compromising the intellectual approach. All in all, a welcome volume. . . .
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The message of this ten-chapter book is this; it is time for scientists to make a serious effort to cross disciplines. The editors Peter Hatemi and Rose McDermott did a good job pointing this out and made a fine effort in gathering authors to do just that. The difficulty of the task was specifically illustrated by the chapter dealing with Modeling the Cultural and Biological Inheritance of Social and Political Behavior in Twins and Nuclear Families; cold hard scientific reporting dealing with the unity of genetics and political science knowledge written in stilted scientific journal format. The forward, introduction, conclusion, and chapters like Hormones and Politics, and SCAN to Neuropolitics written more in review format left me looking for more chapters like them.

This book shows that a library is a verifiable gold mine of information lost to scientists in disciplines other than their own. My hat is off to scientists who go to scientific journals dealing with perhaps one or two unfamiliar disciplines and struggle though those papers as the authors in this book have done or are willing to seek co-researchers in other discipline. It is no easy task dealing with the boring details of unfamiliar material and methods and standards for presenting results. In addition, as Hatemi and McDermott pointed out, there must be a fear of professional embarrassment if one publishes, or tries to publish, without an understanding of the basics if a “new” discipline. For example, a political scientist using genetics in their research, a geneticist applying a political science research approach to his or her material and methods, or an endocrinologist apply their craft to political science.
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