Are humans by nature hierarchial or egalitarian? By examining the evolutionary origins of social and political behaviour, the author, an anthropologist whose fieldwork has focused on the political arrangements of human and non human primate groups, postulates that egalitarianism is in effect a hierarchy in which the weak combine forces to dominate the strong.
The Question of Egalitarian Society Hierarchy and Equality Putting Down Aggressors Equality and Its Causes A Wider View of Egalitarianism The Hominoid Political Spectrum Ancestral Politics The Evolution of Egalitarian Society Paleolithic Politics and Natural Selection Ambivalence and Compromise in Human Nature References Index
Christopher Boehm is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California.
This well-written book... raises two general questions: 'What is an egalitarian society?' and 'How have these societies evolved?'... [Boehm] takes the reader on a journey from the Arctic to the Americas, from Australia to Africa, in search of hunter-gatherer and tribal societies that emanate the egalitarian ethos-one that promotes generosity, altruism and sharing but forbids upstartism, aggression and egoism. Throughout this journey, Boehm tantalises the reader with vivid anthropological accounts...An interesting and thought-provoking book that is surely an important contribution to perspectives on human sociality and politics. -Ryan Earley, American Scientist; "[The arguments] are original, persuasive and richly supported by examples from Boehm's personal experience, observations, and mastery of ethnographic literature." -Adrienne Zihlman, Nature