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A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution

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3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  47 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews

Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin.
In "A Cooperative Species," Samuel Bowles and Her
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Hardcover, 262 pages
Published June 20th 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published May 1st 2011)
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Usfromdk
Mar 24, 2016 Usfromdk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Conclusive evidence about the origins of human cooperation will remain elusive given the paucity of the empirical record and the complexity of the dynamical processes involved. As in many problems of historical explanation, perhaps the best that one can hope for is a plausible explanation consistent with the known facts. This is what we have attempted to provide."

The authors did a good job. These guys really know their stuff. If you know and/or are interested in the works of people like Robert
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Clarence Williams
An outstanding book on the evolution of altruism. Most notably, Bowles & Gintis help us understand the role of punishment and inter-group competition, two necessary elements that many other theorists omit.
Bob Nichols
Jan 09, 2013 Bob Nichols rated it liked it
This book challenges kin selection theory as a basis for various forms of reciprocity and cooperation. The authors almost start with the fact that we cooperate for mutual benefit, that we will even extend benefits to non-related others at a cost to ourselves (true altruism), and that such other-regardedness can and does extend to strangers. Importantly - it seems to be seldom noted in the sociobiological literature - the authors note Darwin's observation (Descent, 1871) about in-group cooperatio ...more
Heather Browning
I think there were some good ideas here, but they were not well packaged. I found myself constantly confused throughout as to what work particular sections were supposed to be doing, as well as what was even being said (I'm not a mathematician, and there was just so much formal modelling). I'm not even sure there was much particularly new here - the underlying ideas regarding potential selective advantages for altruism seem fairly common, so perhaps it was only the models which were doing the ne ...more
Dan Gibbons
Feb 12, 2012 Dan Gibbons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While it is quite mathematical and thus partly inaccessible to the lay reader (for whom I would recommend The Company of Strangers, which treads much of the same ground in a more accessible format), this book is an incredibly important work. The central thesis is twofold: that humans have social preferences as well as self-regarding ones (including punishing defectors even when this lowers their own payoff, maintaining reputation even in one-shot games and parochial attitudes to in-group members ...more
Bart
Oct 05, 2015 Bart rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too many assumptions to be compelling. Too much math to be readable.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

Samuel Stebbins Bowles is an American economist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he continues to teach courses on microeconomics and the theory of institutions. His work belongs to the Neo-Marxian/Post-Marxian tradition of economic thought; however, his perspective on econo
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“Optimizing models are commonly used to describe behavior not because they mimic the cognitive processes of the actors, which they rarely do, but because they capture important influences on individual behavior in a succinct and analytically tractable way.” 0 likes
“... the idea that selfish genes must produce selfish individuals is false.” 0 likes
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