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Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes
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Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  649 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews

The first edition of Frans de Waal's Chimpanzee Politics was acclaimed not only by primatologists for its scientific achievement but also by politicians, business leaders, and social psychologists for its remarkable insights into the most basic human needs and behaviors. Twenty-five years later, this book is considered a classic. Featuring a new preface that includes recen

Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published (first published 1982)
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Interesting book. The more scientifically-inclined should note this is more like an anthropologist's report on observing a remote culture than a popular science description of the collective results of scientific studies.

In order to get a better idea of chimp group behavior than is possible with small numbers of chimps in zoos or living in people's home, they wanted to watch a sizable group. It's difficult to see all the interactions that occur in the wild. So, they put a group in a large enclos
David Olmsted
Apr 13, 2012 David Olmsted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animal-behavior
This book covers the introduction of a chimpanzee colony into a large Arnhem zoo habitat during the late 1970’s. Because the zoo provides food and a safe territory it is not natural environment but it allows for close observations of internal group dynamics. The core of the colony are the females with their offspring who above all seek stable peaceful internal group dynamics along with good food and secure territory. Chimps (but like humans and baboons) are unique among the great apes in that th ...more
Fascinating narrative about social interactions and power struggles in a chimpanzee colony in a Dutch zoo.

This book is at its strongest when chronicling events dispassionately and allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions about analogues to human behavior, and weaker when the author draws heavy handed explicit comparisons and ventures into sociological studies on human gender and hierarchy. The author references Machiavelli several times, and I think this book is well read in conjunctio
Justin Heyes-jones
"If we look straight and deep into a chimpanzee's eyes, and intelligent, self-assured personality looks back at us."

The author, Frans de Waal, is a primatologist who for several years studied a colony of chimps in Arnhem zoo. Although studying them out of the wild like this is not an entirely natural setting, the zoo visitors are kept well back, and the chimps have been found to act very much like they do in the wild in most respects. In addition the setting allows them to be watched close up wi
Jun 21, 2013 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the 1970s, primatologist Frans de Waal conducted one of the first extensive studies into the social structures of chimpanzees. Chimpanzee Politics is the result, establishing facts now taken for granted, namely that chimpanzee populations are organized by rank, which for males influences how successful they are are spreading their genes. It also illustrates their startling intelligence, both social and physical; de Waal witnessed chimpanzees collaborating to overcome obstacles, like elec ...more
Steven Peterson
Aug 11, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a revised version of Frans de Waal's widely read work "Chimpanzee Politics." At the outset, de Waal notes that he uses the term "politics" very consciously. He says: "If we follow Harold Lasswell's famous definition of politics as a social process determining 'who gets what, when, how,' there can be little doubt that chimpanzees engage in it. The events depicted in this volume come from the Arnhem Zoo chimpanzee colony. That itself is problematic, since chimpanzees (and other animals) in ...more
Apr 25, 2012 Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chimpanzee Politics is a narrative about the social interactions of a group of chimpanzees in a Dutch zoo monitored by primatologist Frans De Waal in the late 70s. Although chimpanzees have no verbal language, their social interactions are very complex. The majority of the book focuses on the dynamics of how alliances are forged and broken. Many of the males strive to become the alpha male, however this is not a feat that is possible without support, including the females, as even a very strong ...more
Juliusz Gonera
Jul 07, 2012 Juliusz Gonera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chimp social organisation is much more intricate than you think.

Memorable quotes:
"Nikkie is the highest-ranking ape but he is completely dependent on Yeoren.
Luit is individually the most powerful. But when it comes to who can push
others aside, then Mama is the boss"

"[..] this would suggest that reciprocity among chimpanzees is governed by the
same sense of moral rightness and justice as it is among humans"

"When Aristotle referred to man as a political animal he could not know just
how near the mar
Joe Iacovino
Jul 16, 2012 Joe Iacovino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great look at a chimpanzee life. De Waal notes that obviously there will be some differences in the wild versus his observations of the chimp colony at Arnhem, but the vast majority will be similar. This is an informative and enthralling look at chimp life (and none to subtly our own) among the leaders and absolutely delivers on the title with no deviation from the topic. This edition includes a heartbreaking epilogue and I highly recommend it. Simply an outstanding treatment and good ...more
Jan 15, 2008 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is such an amazing classic. If you want to know about primate behavior Frans de Waal from Emory and the Yerkes Primate Center is the ultimate authority! A lot of his students and other scientists frequently work with us. At any rate, this guy has done nothing but live and breathe primates his entire life and WOW did he get this thing started! I don't even adhere to the normal rules of people primate society anymore....once you work with Chimps its Chimpanzee Politics man.....that's all ...more
James Specht
Mar 03, 2008 James Specht rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read in months. Its very scientific and informative without being dry and too academic. I enjoyed the book on that level of curiosity about how similar we are to apes on how some so called "Human" traits are older than humans themselves. To be honest, the real reason I enjoyed this book is how like a Soap Opera it is... I got totally wrapped up in the stories of power struggles between the Alpha Males of the group and the dynasty powerful female chimps. Utterly fascina ...more
May 29, 2011 Vasha7 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly fascinating elucidation of the mechanisms of power, affinity, aggression, reconciliation, and manipulation among a colony of chimpanzees at a zoo. What struck me was the flexibility and calculation of the interactions. Socialization and learning also played a large part. Also, there was remarkable flexibility in gender roles, as particularly illustrated by the story of Mama; to say that males "naturally" rule is oversimplified.
Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer
Now this is a must for managers and anyone in politics. Newt Ginwrich used to give this book to all incoming freshman to Washington. This book tells you about alliances, paranoia and how to make peace at the basic level.
If you are the boss, and you rule like a tyrant, watch your back. Someone is always ready to take you down.
Read this book and use his conclusions to modify your body language and establish alliances with others.
Apr 03, 2008 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I work with chimps so its no surprise Id find this interesting. However, de Waal writes in a way that makes even non-primate oriented folk enjoy and learn. Chimps are pretty fascinating in that they seem to just incautiously DO what humans use words to describe. Often quite ugly to watch, but unavoidably recognizable.
Paul Browne
Jun 11, 2014 Paul Browne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Striking parallels with human interactions that caused me to reconsider my perspective of forming and re-forming coalitions.
Ellen Whyte
Oct 13, 2012 Ellen Whyte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Behaviourists rarely write like human beings but Van de Waal is an exception. Brilliantly written and thought provoking.
Sep 04, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this for a Sociology class. I was very surprised to find that it was actually a good book. Who knew chimpanzee politics would be fascinating!
Jun 19, 2012 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous book that really gives you an interesting look into the complexities of chimpanzee social dynamics. Highly recommend for anyone interested in our closest relatives.
Oct 15, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Ben W
The title says it all except this: chimpanzees are people who don't pretend to be civilized. It's fascinating, disturbing, and hilarious.
Jun 03, 2008 Poppy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People are just like apes. Over and over this is made clear to me.
Annelie Wendeberg
That book will give you some fundamental insight into ape (=human) behaviour.
Nov 27, 2016 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that a lot of people outside of the intended field has claimed as influential. Reading it, I could see why; there are a lot of parallels between chimpanzee behavior and human behavior. Looking at chimpanzees, we see ourselves, but without all the rationalizations and justifications, making it easier to understand.

But in the end, I feel like the book may have been oversold. It was fascinating, but it wasn't anything that I hadn't read before. Maybe it was just a matter
Tory White
Oct 26, 2016 Tory White rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have never found this book on my own if it hadn't been for my Small Group Dynamics class. Compared to the other articles we had read for the class, this book was an easy read with a clear theme, argument, and flow. Written in 1982, I can believe how radical this book would have been to those who believe humans to be morally superior over other creatures. Morris makes one understand that the human species is much more like chimps than we think. I applaud his ability to make me feel more h ...more
Nov 25, 2016 Muwaffaq rated it liked it
I am not sure what the fuss is all about with this book. Perhaps it is a a favourite of zoologists or anthropologists but I just found it a mildly interesting account of a bunch of chimps engaged in politics. There was no practical information that I could see - other than our chimpanzee cousins are programmed to play politics and try and dominate one another so perhaps we are the same way ?
interesting -In see a lot of myself and my relatives in this book
Pedro Cabiya
Dec 11, 2016 Pedro Cabiya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, ethiology
Suddenly, retroactively, blindingly... I have understood high school.
Jul 28, 2015 Dionysus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This book was recommended reading by an old college professor of mine; a politics professor. I never had a course with him in which he used this book, but he referred to it all the time, eliciting my interest as well as attracting the derision of other faculty members, who referred disparagingly to his love of "the chimp book." I've been out of college for a while now, but when I saw a copy in the library I knew it was finally time.

Chimpanzees are considered by many to be the species closest to
Feb 24, 2008 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lots of people, particularly those that read
This is apparently a huge business classic, which is funny because it was written about chimpanzees. The author studied a chimpanzee colony in the Netherlands and found that chimpanzees exhibit social behaviors that are very similar to humans, and his observations (if correct) get us quite close to all of the theories about man in his natural state from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, et. al. I think if I manage to say "et. al." in a review, it's a sign that I haven't slept enough.

Anyway, it's not quit
Blake Borgeson
How in the world did humans end up so smart? I mean, cats are smart, right? Lions and tigers seem pretty much at the top of the heap in a pre-human world. How did we end up getting so much smarter than them that we figured out all the stuff that let us take over the world? This book offers some hugely telling insights. Watching the group dynamics and politics of a chimpanzee community of 30 unfold over a period of years, the author unveils a level of social sophistication that goes a long way to ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Horia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would classify this as a fascinating read.
The first part presents the story of the life of a chimpanzee colony. It's a light and engaging read as I was not expecting to discover that chimps have such a rich social life.
The second part is what got me hooked: the author analyzes the observation made in the first part. His hypotheses and ideas are so much more interesting because chimps are "our closest alive relatives".
Personally, I'll want to reread the chapter on Differences between the Sexes
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"Frans B.M. de Waal, PhD (born 29 October 1948, 's-Hertogenbosch), is a Dutch psychologist, primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and author of numerous books including Chimpanzee Politics an ...more
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“Harold Laswell's famous definition of politics as a social process determining "who gets what, when, and how," there can be little doubt that chimpanzees engage in it. Since in both humans and their closest relatives the process involves bluff, coalitions, and isolation tactics, a common terminology is warranted.” 0 likes
“This book [...] demonstrates something we had already suspected on the grounds of the close connection between apes and man: that the social organization of chimpanzees is almost too human to be true.” 0 likes
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