- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 25th anniversary edition (August 30, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801886562
- ISBN-13: 978-0801886560
- Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes 25th anniversary Edition
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The great apes, like humans, can recognize themselves in mirrors. They communicate by sound and gesture, form bands along what can only be called political lines, and sometimes engage in what is very clearly organized warfare. (Less frequently, too, they practice cannibalism.) In Chimpanzee Politics Frans de Waal, a longtime student of simian behavior, analyzes the behavior of a captive tribe of chimpanzees, comparing its actions with those of ape societies in the wild. What he finds is often not pleasant: chimps seem capable of astonishing deviousness and savagery, which has obvious implications for the behavior their human cousins sometimes exhibit. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
An excellent book... Just as fresh and thought-provoking in 2008 as it was in 1983.(Laelaps)
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Top Customer Reviews
One of the key themes in the book is that so called political behavior is rooted at a level of development that is below cognitive and is as much instinctive as it is learned. Learning about the male chimpanzee's quest for dominance, it makes one wonder how much our behavior is motivated by inherent drives that are not only irrelevant in modern cultures, but are unknowable by those who experience the motivation.
This book has changed the way I look at and understand the word around me.
I strongly recommend this book, but it is not for the faint-hearted.
The true strength of Chimpanzee Politics lies in de Waal's ability to guide the reader step-by-step through the complex social interactions of the chimpanzees, the story of the various dominance shifts and reconciliations being fairly easy to follow. Even when some of the interactions become a little confusing, the book includes a smattering of diagrams that help to show how the groups feelings toward a certain member oscillated back and forth over time, for example. These are especially helpful as de Waal shows that while physical strength or the ability to beat another chimpanzee in a one-to-one confrontation is important, coalitions and support from other members of the group can make or break dominance hierarchies in ways that we might not expect. Indeed, the males Luit, Nikki, and Yeroen are the main "characters" of this tale, each having their time at the top (but only through cooperation and coalitions). Ultimately, as reported by de Waal in the paper "The Brutal Elimination of a Rival Among Captive Male Chimpanzees" published in 1986, Luit was fatally injured by Nikki and Yeroen, a fact that is included in the epilouge as de Waal admits he did not want to initially end his book on a dark note.
The power shifts between the three males don't make sense without an understanding of the females in the group, however, and de Waal does spend some time describing the behaviors and social habits of the females. A little more explanation and detail in this area would have strengthened the book, especially since female chimpanzees in the wild disperse from their home populations and are not constantly in close contact with each other, but de Waal does spend some time talking about the rough time the male chimpanzees received when introduced to the group when it was dominated by a female named Mama. Eventually the males achieved dominance, but even so they still relied on the support of females during the periods when one male was on his way to displacing the dominant male as the alpha, so females are not merely relegated to the objects of the males sexual desires and nothing else. In fact, the younger sexually-mature females were sometimes so amorous that they "wore out" the adult males, the interactions between the sexes being just as compelling as the chapters featuring power struggles.
Given the close resemblances, both physical and social, between chimpanzees and our own species it is easy to draw comparisons between the two, but de Waal remains careful not to extend his observations of chimpanzees too far. Even when his writings might land on the anthropomorphic side of the fence, de Waal usually admits that he is doing so up front. Indeed, de Waal's unapologetic attitude for attributing names and personalities to each animal and up-front honesty in making the occasional comparison to human behavior makes Chimpanzee Politics a refreshing read, de Waal overcoming preconceptions that captive chimpanzees are not worth the time spent studying them. While it was right on-time to signal a changing view of primatology when it was first published, Chimpanzee Politics is just as fresh and thought-provoking in 2008 as it was in 1983.