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Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution

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Abstract

24 hunter-gatherer ethnographies across four continents establish meat sharing as universal among hunter-gatherers. Sharing was accompanied by vigilance against unfairness and cheating. Those who tried to establish dominance brought consistent 'counter-dominant' reactions, escalating step-by-step from ridicule to execution. A model of human evolution is proposed in which humans became too clever to dominate effectively, leaving sharing as the only viable strategy.
... When a group of people make a living, one of the decisions that has to be made continuously is how to allocate the new wealth they have created. From the original sharing of meat by hunter-gatherers in camp (Erdal and Whiten 1996), through the forced collection of produce from peasants by feudal lords (Bloch 2014(Bloch [1940) and the build up of capital by owners of businesses in the industrial revolution (Allen 2005), to the extraction of cash from corporations in the modern financialised economy (Lazonick 2014) this process has to be solved continuously. ...
... Several features of life as hunter-gatherers share striking similarities with democratic companies (Erdal and Whiten 1996;Boehm 1999). The hunter-gatherer band is the social environment in which we evolved to be Homo sapiens sapiens, and therefore the one to which we are tuned by evolution. ...
... Individuals in groups that succeeded in sustaining sharing will have flourished better than those in groups where the battle for dominance prevailed in the manner of chimpanzees and gorillas. For a more extended discussion see Erdal and Whiten (1996) and Whiten and Erdal (2012). ...
Chapter
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Neoliberal predictions for democratically structured businesses are contrasted with empirical evidence showing them to be false. The case of the democratic constitution of the John Lewis Partnership, and the wider economic effects of its implementation are examined. Working in a democratic business seems to have positive effects on social life and health. Economic democracy is significantly closer than the modern corporation to the social environment to which we are tuned by evolution. Wider economic democracy is likely to produce excellent results, both economically and socially. Theory and Empirical Tests We swim in a sea of concepts, theories and institutions inherited from our forebears. It is a constant battle for us to gain a clear understanding of the extent to which our self-evident truths, our intellectual paradigms, are ideological rather than accurate reflections of empirical evidence (Kuhn 1962). Our very perceptions are shaped by the theories we hold, and nowhere is this more evident than in the development of economic democracy. In 1978 the neoliberal wing of the Conservative Party geared up for the 1979 election under their unexpected new leader
... However, because little attention is paid to differences, it is very difficult to falsify even widely divergent theories. For instance, Washburn and DeVore's (1961) baboon model emphasises the importance of male dominance relationships, while Erdal and Whiten's (1996) hunter-gather model stresses the importance of cooperation and lack of a dominance hierarchy. It is very difficult to falsify either of these models, since they are both correct with respect to their chosen analogue species. ...
Thesis
Humans are social animals. Human societies emerge from vast networks of cooperative interactions between many different individuals. In this respect, humans are similar to most other primates. However, human societies are unusual among primates in the number of different types of cooperative relationships that are involved. In humans, males and females form strong pair bonds within large multimale, multi-female societies in which many other cooperative relationships are also important. How and when did human social systems arise? Do males and females use different types of cooperative strategies? Under what conditions does paternal care evolve? Do males and females have different constraints, and how do these affect the types of social strategies they employ? How do factors such as environment quality and seasonality modify these strategies? This thesis seeks answers to these questions using computer simulations based on the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. The hypotheses generated by these models are tested using data from living primates. They are then used to investigate the kinds of societies that our hominid ancestors may have lived in. The theoretical and empirical evidence presented in this thesis suggests that sex differences in the energetic cost of reproduction determine the cooperative strategies, and ultimately the types of social groups, that evolve. It is proposed that during hominid evolution female energetic costs increased greatly, in comparison to male energetic costs, due to changes in body size dimorphism, diet and brain size. A two-stage model of hominid social structure is developed. The first stage, at the transition from the australopithecines to Homo erectus, would have involved an increase in female cooperation, especially food sharing. The second stage, occurring between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago, would have involved male care giving, the formation of pair bonds and the sexual division of labour within the context of a wider cooperative network.
... Egalitarianism is therefore not inherent, but is learned behavior, where subdominant and low status individuals combine in alliances to prevent otherwise dominant individuals taking power, a form of behavior that has been observed in chimpanzees (Boehm 1999). Modern hunter-gatherers have to enforce their egalitarian behavior (Woodburn 1982), and maintaining an egalitarian society requires considerable effort through systems of sanctions, rewards and prestige (Ames 2007;Artemova 2016;Erdal, Whiten 1996;Hayden 1995;Trigger 2003). The effort requires long-term commitment, egalitarian societies have to stay small, and they may always have been rare ( Artemova 2016). ...
Chapter
Inequitable distribution of land has been a perennial problem for human societies. Corrections have often been difficult and involved bloodshed, and they have rarely provided lasting relief. Thomas Paine struck upon a permanent, fair solution in the 1790s, drawing on the natural law tradition associated with Grotius and Locke. He proposed that landholders compensate the landless by paying into a trust fund. In Paine’s vision, the trust fund would issue universal dividends in the form of seed capital for young adults and pensions for the elderly and disabled. Paine’s 1797 pamphlet Agrarian Justice had little contemporary impact, but others worked out variants of the idea, most notably the American reformer Henry George. George left a lasting legacy in scholarship and policy. Although George is on record as approving a limited issuance of dividends, he is primarily known for proposing that land tax revenue be used to fund government. A useful distinction can be made between a “Paineite” approach of taxing land to fund dividends and a “Georgeist” approach of taxing land to fund government.
Chapter
That the economy grew so large because of a self-reinforcing cycle of credit, technology and population growth does not answer the question of why it grew so large. To answer that question, it becomes necessary to understand modernity: people’s attitudes toward both nature and the economy in the modern world. The establishment of an economy and culture of growth worldwide over the past 200 years has proceeded hand in hand with the spread of modernity as a worldview. Its presumption of mastery over nature, and possession of it, was the critical cognitive misstep that led to the economy’s relentless expansion. Pre-modern and indigenous worldviews, in contrast, are participatory: ‘ownership’, for instance, means ‘belonging to’ rather than possessing. Among Western philosophies in tune with this worldview ‘planetarianism’ holds particular promise for the future.
Article
Societal income inequality has been associated with worse health outcomes, including a greater burden of mental illness. However, validated individual measures of relative income are scarce and rarely included in mental health assessments. The psychometric properties of the British Perceived Inequality in Childhood Scale (PICS) were examined in an American college student sample. Eight hundred graduate- and professional- level students at a public university participated. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses supported the PICS three-factor structure measuring childhood deprivation relative to a United States reference group and neighborhood reference group as well as family social capital. Additionally, the internal consistency was high and the concurrent validity of the PICS was supported by positive correlations with the MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status in childhood and objective measures of parental income and education. These findings replicate prior research supporting the validity and reliability of the PICS, now in an American college student sample.
Chapter
This chapter examines the nature of culture in the broad evolutionary context of animal behavior, thus delineating the ancient foundations of the series of steps that eventuated in hominin culture. Focusing then on primates , further conclusions are drawn about the direct evolutionary antecedents of hominin culture in the most recent ancestors that humans share with great apes . Hominin cultural evolution is finally examined in the context of a complex of advances in social and technological cognition and other features that include unprecedented encephalization and extended childhood . The ‘nature of culture’ is dissected through two complementary conceptual schemes: a broad pyramidal evolutionary model extended in other chapters in this volume, and a three-element comparative analysis considering in turn social learning processes, cultural contents and the spatio-temporal distribution of traditions.
Thesis
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In humans, influence power can be freely given to highly skilled individuals. In this study, two evolutionary theories on the origin of this type of power are considered: the information goods theory (Henrich and Gil‐White 2001), and the social exchange theory (Chapais 2012). Based on this theoretical framework, five main hypotheses were extracted and tested: 1) individuals with higher competence in specific domains of activities have a superior status; 2) an individual's higher competence is evaluated through social comparison; 3) highly skilled individuals are useful to others because they constitute better models to imitate and better partners to cooperate with; 4) followers defer to experts in exchange for their partnership ; 5) as a result, individuals compete for status by exhibiting their competence and attempting to improve their reputation. Those predictions were tested by using the eHRAF of World Cultures database and analysing the data relating to ten relatively egalitarian hunter‐gatherer societies. The results strongly support all predictions and indicate that status asymmetries are ubiquitous in the sampled societies. This suggests that the underlying psychosocial mechanisms constitute human universals.
Chapter
In view of the spectacular recent progress in modern genetics, molecular neurobiology, and evolutionary neuroscience, the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) is no longer tenable from a scientific perspective. Inevitably the social sciences will, however incrementally and tentatively, be motivated to find an accommodation with the new advances in the natural sciences. Unfortunately, the resistance of social scientists to biological explanations has been stiffened by the growing pains of the biological approaches themselves. For reasons unclear, mainstream biological writings have persistently overemphasized the negative aspects of emerging consilience with the social sciences (see Panksepp and Panksepp, 2000), exacerbating concerns about genetic determinism, unmitigated selfishness, virulent competition, inevitable conflict, invidious gender, and racial differentials—raising the specter of eugenics and other forms of social Darwinism. The positive messages from the biological sciences for a better society have not shared equal time. This chapter aims, in part, at redressing the imbalance.
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