The right mix of popular science and snark. It's like mix of Frans De Waal's "Our Inner Ape", Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel"(but for sex) and...moreThe right mix of popular science and snark. It's like mix of Frans De Waal's "Our Inner Ape", Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel"(but for sex) and "The Third Chimpanzee", Frederich Engels "Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State", Dan Savage's "Savage Love", Laura Kipnis' "Against Love", Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt's "Ethical Slut" (but without the hippie vibe).
It combines many studies and articles I've been reading and taking note of for years, such as:
The writing also has some hilarious quips from "Darwin says your mother is a whore", to a discussion in comparison sexual practices between chimpanzees, bonobos and humans that usually found bonobos and humans sharing traits ending with this challenge: "Genital-genital (G-G) rubbing between female bonobos appears to affirm female bonding, is present in all bonobo populations studied (wild and captive), and is completely absent in chimpanzees. Human data on G-G rubbing are presently unavailable. (Attention: ambitious graduate students!)"
One large anthropological portion of the book goes into some depth about the "fierce egalitarian" economy of small bands of foragers.
An area where I think the book is lacking is in examining agricultural/horticultural societies that have relatively flat social hierarchy and still have communal economies; particularly those societies that are both matrilocal and matrilineal. They tease us with referencing Lewis Henry Morgan.
Among areas I would like to see some research is physical anthropology on skeletal height and age among agriculturalists that do not have stratified society that still make active use of hunting, fishing and foraging to supplement their agriculture. This is something of a tangent from the focus of their book, but I do think it's an important area to considering when examining agriculture. Also, writers like Joel Johnson are phrasing it as a choice "Orgies or Beer: You Only Get One" ( http://gizmodo.com/5609549/orgies-or-... ). Anthropology and history point out that often societies have had both.
This book is highly recommended to any human being who has sex or is otherwise interested in studying human sexuality. (less)
Better than Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. Diamond only mentioned bonobos in passing; while Frans de Waal discusses them as much as he discusse...moreBetter than Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. Diamond only mentioned bonobos in passing; while Frans de Waal discusses them as much as he discusses chimpanzees while only mentions gorillas, ourang-outang, baboons and various monkeys in passing. Frans de Waal's willingness to explore bonobo sexuality make Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee" seem prudish.
Studying the behavior of our closest species relatives provide a lot of insight into human social behavior.
Politically, Frans de Waal is a liberal social democrat and in the latter portions of that speculates more on modern human society that view becomes more apparent. It's not that I disagree so much with his motivations; but that it seems to not be particularly informed about actual social struggle. If anything, I think his primate studies imply even more radical conclusions the Dutch welfare state's mitigation of capitalist competition.
Frans de Waal writes plainly with many amusing personal anecdotes about both his life and more often about the primates that he has known. This nicely complements the results for more formal and rigorous studies.
I was very amused about the story of capuchin monkeys who went on strike because of unfair pay.
However, if you find yourself interested in primatology and evolutionary biology, I don't suggest you read Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. Instead, I recommend Frans de Waal's Our Inner Ape, unlike Diamond, de Wall doesn't ignore Bonobos.
I do have one significant disagreement with Diamond, the degree which he is a material determinist. While I agree with him that most (all?) government resembles a kleptocracy, I disagree with him that it is an inevitable consequence of agriculture. Let me quote something I wrote a while ago:
"Jared Diamond hypothesizes that when stateless egalitarian hunter-gather societies develop agriculture and experience population growth, blood feuds and new resource management problems challenge their ability to maintain horizontal political relationships and economic communalism. According to Diamond, the material transition itself leads inevitably to the State, which he refers to as "the kleptocracy," and the most the oppressed can hope for by revolting is for a change in the rate of exploitation and oppression by installing a new group of kleptocrats. In his view, "the kleptocracy" is ultimately a function of material culture.
"Some historical materialists claim a densely settled, agricultural population will inevitably develop into a hierarchically stratified society, with a centralized state and an exploitative economic redistribution system, in order avoid warfare while resolving blood feuds among its members. While this is a common occurrence, it is not the only way these issues have been resolved. Located along the southern banks of Kaniatarí:io (Lake Ontario), the traditional society of the Rotinonshón:ni (Iroquois), "The People of the Longhouse," was a densely settled, matrilineal, communal, and extensively horticultural society... these nations united through the Kaianere'kó:wa (“the Great Good Way”) into the same polity and ended blood feuding without economic exploitation, stratification, or the formation of a centralized state."