- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 20, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691151253
- ISBN-13: 978-0691151250
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.3 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,942,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution 1st Edition
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"The achievement of Bowles and Gintis is to have put together from the many disparate sources of evidence a story as plausible as any we're likely to get in the present state of behavioural sciences of how human beings came to be as co-operative as they are."--W.G. Runciman, London Review of Books
"In A Cooperative Species, economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis update their ideas on the evolutionary origins of altruism. Containing new data and analysis, their book is a sustained and detailed argument for how genes and culture have together shaped our ability to cooperate. . . . By presenting clear models that are tied tightly to empirically derived parameters, Bowles and Gintis encourage much-needed debate on the origins of human cooperation."--Peter Richerson, Nature
"An outstanding book that presents an important contribution and quite simply raises the scientific standard associated with the difficult and contentious problem of how human altruism evolved."--Charles Efferson, Economic Journal
"A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution states a clearly articulated gene-culture coevolution explanation for why we are a cooperative species. It is a read that will stretch readers' minds a bit, and I think it is an eminently valuable read. . . . I await with eagerness the next time Bowles and Gintis are out cooperating again."--Jonathan D. Springer, PsycCRITIQUES
"[T]he authors' systematic and mathematical approach will appeal to any reader seriously interested in learning about alternative theories of adaptive altruism, and their treatment of cultural inheritance using population-genetic models is first-rate. Although this book will by no means settle the debate surrounding the evolutionary origin of altruism, it is a worthy addition and is well worth reading."--P. William Hughes, Journal of Economic Issues
"Bowles and Gintis are clearly not short of ideas. The attention they draw to the role of conflict and coordinated punishment in the evolution of our cooperative and reciprocal species makes the book very much worth reading. Their focus on the evolution of human nature also paints a much richer picture of our behavior than traditional economics tends to do."--Journal of Economic Literature
"Bowles and Gintis are not the first to claim that competition, conflict, and war between human groups is the foundation of cooperation and of society. However, their integration of this insight into evolutionary game theory stands to increase the accessibility of this powerful idea to a large number of scholars working in a dominant theoretical perspective that spans the social and biological sciences. This is one reason why I recommend their new book A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution."--Noah Mark, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
"This book makes a strong case for returning as a discipline to this vexed theme. I can only hope we do so with the analytical ingenuity and empirical humility that Bowles and Gintis display."--Jacob G. Foster, American Journal of Sociology
"Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution should be of interest to individuals across multiple disciplines. The book provides a compelling argument supported by multiple kinds of theoretical and empirical evidence. Although the book does use some technical language and examples in places, the explanation is sufficiently clear to make the main ideas and arguments of the book accessible to individuals who were not previously familiar with these technicalities."--Christopher M. Caldwell, Metapsychology Online
"[This book] makes important contributions to our understanding of the nature and function of emotions in politics, including the evolution of emotion and cognition and their linkages to democratic governance. . . . [It] should become [an] important resource for students of politics who have the requisite background in the behavioral sciences and wish to develop an integrated, life science perspective in their own work."--Michael S. Latner, Politics and the Life Sciences
From the Back Cover
"A Cooperative Species is a fresh and pioneering entry into the pivotal field of human social evolution."--Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
"In A Cooperative Species, Bowles and Gintis draw on their own research and teaching about understanding the complex human being in the context of diverse ways of organizing life. They show that humans can evolve cooperative strategies when they participate in groups that share long-term similar norms and are willing to sanction those that do not follow group agreements. An important book for all social scientists."--Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate in Economics
"Why we form cooperative societies is not hard to understand given all of the advantages we derive, but how we do it is far less understood. Humans have powerful selfish tendencies, but Bowles and Gintis are not of the school of thought that everything can be reduced to selfishness. They muster all of their expert knowledge to make clear that evolution has produced a species with a truly cooperative spirit and the means to encourage cooperation in others."--Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy
"Bowles and Gintis stress that cooperation among individuals who are only distantly related is a critical distinguishing feature of the human species. They argue forcefully that the best explanation for such cooperation is altruism. Many will dispute this claim, but it deserves serious consideration."--Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in Economics
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Top customer reviews
The mathematical presentations and detailed discussions of theory will be too arcane and technical for most general audience readers and even undergraduates, but the early chapters are relatively clear and less dense.
My summary is that this is a hugely important academic book on a vital topic, and it persuasively shows that humans help each other with no regard to personal benefit and have since our earliest origins in Africa.
The way that B&G pull together material from the fields listed above (economics, biology, anthropology...) is very impressive. What is especially striking is the level of detail with which they draw on each field. The book is a coherent and argumentative synthesis of very diverse traditions of work. To me, the balance of the book was not quite right. The weight put on the models was a little excessive. There are just so many models developed, in considerable detail, and I think the book could have been a little stronger if a smaller number of models had been given more attention, and if a little more space was given to the empirical side. Some of the models belong in journal articles rather than this book. This is a minor complaint, but I worry that some readers might devour the first few chapters and then get bogged down in the middle, not making it to the end. This would be a shame, as some of the most interesting material comes at the end - including the very final pages. So if would recommend skipping rather than stopping, if the reader finds the middle of the book too model-heavy.
These people really know what is happening both in economics, antropology and evolutionary biology today, they strongly contribute to the development of both and they can convincingly make their point.
The discussion about the evolution of cooperation has certainly not yet come to a final conclusion. But on this stage it looks Bowles and Gintis are right when claiming:
"The view that early humans lived in worlds with little contact outside one's family--Dawkins' ideal conditions for self-interested cooperation to flourish--is difficult to square with what is known about the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophers, Dawkins, Huxley, and other biologists seem to have jumped on a faulty time machine, and have journeyed to an imaginary ancestral world...
We will see that neither the likely size of groups, nor the degree of genetic relatedness within groups, nor the typical demography of foraging bands is favorable to the view that Late Pleistocene human cooperation can be adequately explained by kin-based altruism or reciprocal altruism...
But our joint work with Stefany Moreno Gamez and Jon Wilkins of the Santa Fe Institute indicates that if ancestral groups indeed had been small and closed, the degree of differentiation among groups predicted by the standard model of equilibrium differentiation would be substantially greater than what we observe (Moreno Gamez et al. 2011). The genetic data thus are more consistent with ancestral groups being of considerable size and with ever-changing composition."
One issue came to my mind. Normally the efficiency of the market economy (with several companies offering alternative products) is said to be due to competition allocating productive resources to their most highly-valued uses. But maybe the efficiency is also due to competition causing the employees of the competing companies to act like a hunter-gather groups. The competition causes higher efficiency via the mechanism of heightened free-rider punishment by gossip etc.:
"A final experiment provides a possible link between group conflict and the evolution of cooperation based not on the fact that altruists, if parochial, are willing fighters but that group conflict stimulates altruistic punishment of free-riding fellow group members. Sääksvuori, Puurtinen and their coauthors (2011) implemented a series of eight-person public goods games with and without a punishment option and in which the payoffs of members of the groups playing these games either depended on the outcome of group competition or were independent of the performance of any other group.
In the treatments with group competition, the groups with the larger contribution to the public good won a prize that was twice the group difference in the level of public contributions. Group competition greatly heightened the punishment of shirking group members where this was possible, so that groups with the punishment option prevailed over groups without it."