109th out of 380 books — 79 voters
Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior
Are humans by nature hierarchical or egalitarian? "Hierarchy in the Forest" addresses this question by examining the evolutionary origins of social and political behavior. Christopher Boehm, an anthropologist whose fieldwork has focused on the political arrangements of human and nonhuman primate groups, postulates that egalitarianism is in effect a hierarchy in which the w...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 2nd 2001 by Harvard University Press
(first published December 1st 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 119)
More than bloody marvelous. If you care about egalitarianism, and the earth-shattering question of whether our ancestors - stone age, hunter-gatherers - were fascists or lefties, and WHY and HOW, this book might change your life. Forgive my flippancy; that's me, not the book. He explains how freedom, as a value, is gained and maintained in early-style societies, with much use of evidence from hunter-gatherers who remain in the world for us to study. It's a very sensible book.
May 13, 2012 Adam Kranz marked it as abandoned
Recommended to Adam by: Pickett and Wilkinson, in The Spirit Level
Boehm clearly establishes the book's main thesis: that in nearly all nomadic forager societies, as well as in many horticultural and pastoralist societies, egalitarianism is established and maintained by a strong social ethic. The entire community is constantly vigilant against those who attempt to usurp authority over others, wielding various levels of ostracism to discourage would-be despots. Thus, he characterizes egalitarian societies as community-led, rather than without a leader. The domin...more
Hierarchy in the Forest was, for me, one of those happy and serendipitous circumstances when finding a book in a used book store changed my view of the world and my approach to research. Not only did it reframe how I understood political humor, and its role in egalitarian societies (the focus of my research), it changed how I viewed politics more generally. A good deal of research in political science, even that using evolutionary theory, tends to assume humans are ruled and defined by authorita...more