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Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  235 ratings  ·  37 reviews
The first book to tell the natural history of political orientations. 

     Our Political Nature is the first book to reveal the hidden roots of our most deeply held moral values. It shows how political orientations across space and time arise from three clusters of measurable personality traits. These clusters entail opposing attitudes toward tribalism, inequality, and d
Hardcover, 543 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
"Our Political Nature shows us that there are evolutionary underpinnings to our political attitudes, and that being liberal or conservative may reflect much deeper tendencies than we are inclined to think. This book is important reading for anyone trying to understand the sources of our present-day political world."

- FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, New York Times-bestselling author of The Origins of Political Order


"In a remarkable interdisciplinary tour de force, evolutionary anthropologist
Teresa Buczinsky
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I will not be surprised if this book makes many readers uncomfortable. There will be accusations of "biological determinism" and "scientific reductionism" that will allow some to dismiss Tuschman's approach altogether. But that would be a shame. This book's conclusions about our political nature, drawn from wide-ranging research in anthropology, evolutionary biology and political history, acquaint readers with human nature in all its shame and glory. Here we see ourselves as a species behaving i ...more
Katie W
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book attempts to find the evolutionary or biological reasons for varying politican dispositions. It does this extremely well. This book is one of the most illuminating I have ever read. It's one of those books that make you wish that everybody would read it. I like how the author refuses to dismiss either side of the political spectrum as 'evil' or 'naive', which so many do. He encourages both sides of the spectrum to try and see the validity in the others' side.

As others have said, it can
Igor Faynshteyn
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it
The thesis of the book is that the genes play as important a role, if not more important, in determining our politics (i.e. party affiliation, ideology, etc.) as does our upbringing, social interactions, education, etc. - the environment, generally speaking. The underlying presumption here is that in mature democracies there develops an ideological coherence, where people unite behind common political principles and goals, and share common beliefs and stances on political and social issues. It i ...more
Bradley Jarvis
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
"Our Political Nature" is a sweeping survey of the current state of knowledge and understanding about what shapes people's political orientations and behaviors. Informative and authoritative, it probes basic questions and the consequences of their answers, while assessing and testing the validity of what results.

Written in an accessible, engaging narrative, it does an excellent job of weaving together research from several disciplines, describing basic concepts, relationships, and the chains of
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Very hard to rate this book. I think the subject matter is fascinating and not seriously written about enough.Tuschsman has clearly worked hard on this book and has done a ton of academic research for it, and he's not a bad writer. But... I think he's overly ambitious with the scope of the book, and it shows, because some sections are very weak. In some parts he seems scrupulously scientific, but in other parts he makes sweeping statements based on what seems like little evidence. Also, the copy ...more
John Grange
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I truly enjoyed the detail and breadth of information and analysis that went into this book. The author teaters on the edge of bilogical determinism, which will draw criticism from some. I absolutely recommend this book.
Don-E Merson
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, probably the best I read this year.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My review on this book is up on my YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure, as I don't like writing book reviews:
Jurij Fedorov
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After having read a ton of books that are half personal opinions half science this is a breath of fresh air! It's not a must-read-right-this-moment for all people as there are a few experiments and findings that are not as conclusive as they are presented in the book. But it's a great book for sure. Anyone with a working brain should have this book on their "to read" list. Until it is replaced by something even better that is. Which hopefully will be in the next 10 years.


There are a lot of g
Lee Alexander
I will admit that I didn't read every page of this book. At first, I was fascinated by the information provided. Then I started to come across information that just seemed too biased or used as universals when they are not. For example, he writes: "scientific anthropologists all agree that patriarchy is a human universal; matriarchy has never existed outside of politically motivated ideology." I decided to fact-check that and found it to be completely untrue. Fact-checking other statements also ...more
Paige McLoughlin
Best book I have seen on the topic of the political psychology of political orientation and how it relates to personality. Explains the differences between people and the left and right in big five personality traits especially the important factors of Openness and Conscientiousness and the remarkable differences in personality between the left and right of the political spectrum Left (is more open) the Right (shows more conscientiousness). The book explains details of these differences and com ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was genuinely surprised at how much I learned from this book, considering I have read some of the material this one pulls from. Instead of a rehash, Tuschman put his own polish on the information gleaned and gives us a well written tome. The interesting tug-of-war of different aspects, biological and environmental, that shape everyone's political nature is clearly conveyed. It helped me understand people I disagree with better, especially parents and siblings. The conclusion was an excellent s ...more
Pavlo Illiashenko
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Everybody is expert regarding politics, right?

With all my modesty, I can say that I knew at least something about politics because of exposure to behavioral and cognitive science of decision making more broadly, and because of my exposure to modern studies of morality, values, evolution, human origins and history. However, after reading the book I felt that I knew almost nothing.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting look into liberalism and conservatism from biological, psychological and evolutionary roots, and how similar the extremes really are. A bit dry in the middle, but overall a great book
Daniel Hageman
Interesting enough for a day-long road trip. Felt a little disorganized at times, but the content was at least a solid amalgamation of some other really great resources. If it's true that we evolved as children to fight our parents to stay up late to subtly prevent them from having sex and making more siblings for us to compete with for resources..I need to rethink life. ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crystal-clear, fact-based explanation of evolutionary psychology for everyday people--arguably the best popular, non-partisan book on this topic since Robert Wright’s “The Moral Animal," which remains a classic in the popular science literature. Narration of the audiobook version is brilliant.

“Our Political Nature” is not only about politics, but it is definitely essential reading for everyone who wants to understand the measurable factors that compel us to vote the way we do. Most people will b
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Considering what we have just gone through, this book might help in understanding human nature and political practices which seem difficult to understand on the surface. I can’t say I am enough of an expert on the subjects to evaluate each and every point made in the book, but it is surely thought provoking. An important read for academics but it would also of interest to intelligent and thoughtful people who are not involved in social science research. Although the author might show a little an ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The author provides convincing explanation of human nature, and argues that a population of humans with some having a "liberal" outlook and others having a "conservative" outlook is inevitable.

The insights I've gained echo in my mind whenever I watch the News, and I feel like an ancient chemist who's been presented for the first time with Mendeleev's Periodic Table of the Elements. What used to seem like random bickering among factions now appears to make sense, to the extent that it all arises
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've now read this book twice. I'm looking to find it in Spanish, and will read it again when I do.

It has changed the way I understand the world. Things that did not always make sense, like the black conservative sheriff who fights the white more-liberal police chief in his town, or poor people who support tax cuts for the rich (as well as rich people who support higher taxes).

This book is a real eye-opener, backed by science—particularly genetics.

I sure hope I can find it in Spanish!
Leif Denti
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was hard to rate this book. Subject matter is well researched and presented, however I felt many times that the book dragged on with "padding" text. The book could have been stronger with some editing. Also, Tushman's own conclusions and parallels were a bit under developed (his arguments not presented very coherently, I thought). So, not a true five star rating perhaps but a strong four. I still found it fascinating so I can definitely recommend the book. ...more
Mar 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is long and dense; it's not for the faint of heart. Of books I've read on related matters, this is not my favorite, but it's good. The author is clearly quite the scholar, sprinkling in a mix of social sciences (political science, sociology, anthropology, history), and tackles a tremendous breadth of topics, sometimes to his detriment.

The book attempts to explains the roots of left-right political ideology. He uses a cross-cultural measure called the RWA score to approximate that spec
Kathy Jo
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Given the incredible breadth covered in this book, and the effort it must have taken to bring it together into a coherent whole, I can somewhat forgive the author for various leaps in logic, questionable assertions of cause vs. effect, and even monumental oversimplifications of the nature of religion and our relationships with it. Fueled by various studies and wide-ranging research, the author is successful in making the case that, among a complex variety of factors, our genetics plays a signifi ...more
Yanick Punter
I'm excited about this book and the research around it. I've read a few other books and this review is an excuse to think about those as well. Tuschman says:

"Openness and Conscientiousness, as we've learned, are the personality dimensions that best correlate with left-right voting in human beings."

When I think openness, I quickly think of schizotypy, creativity and what Bernard Crespi calls the psychotic-affective spectrum. That is not to say that all those within those high on openness are inde
Paige  McLoughlin
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this book shortly after it came out and is the best book probably the most comprehensive and speculatively risky look into political psychology and the left-right spectrum. Essentially political orientation tends to line up with the big five personality traits of openness and conscientiousness more open and less conscientious are leftwing and the opposite tends towards the right. Tuschman surveys the literature around these traits and even ventures and Evo/psych explanation for it. The Ev ...more
Hemen Kalita
Apr 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
The book proposes and explores the idea that our political orientations are actually our natural dispositions, molded by evolutionary forces.
The author divides the book into three clusters based on our views on 1)Tribalism ( ethnocentrism vs xenophilia),
2)Inequality ( hierarchical vs liberal), and
3)Human nature ( cooperative vs competitive). He then explores each cluster by drawing on various disciplines like neuroscience, primatology, genetics, anthropology and evolutionary psychology. I found
Noah Graham
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
According to this book most political conflict boils down to 2 competing instincts; ethnocentrism (including a desire to keep ones tribal blood pure)on the right, and xenophilia (a contradictory desire to mix ones blood with members of other tribes) on the left. If the NDPs secret agenda was in fact to help guys like me connect with ethnically diverse women then I seriously voted for the wrong parties in most elections.
Corey Astill
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Tuschman presents some fascinating research related to voting patterns. But he bites off much more than he can chew. Every sub-chapter seemed to dive down yet another obscure rabbit hole.
Seth Gibson
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, favorites
Achieves what it says it does
Jovany Agathe
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The fact that this kind of division is universally present in all cultures hints at a deeper grounding in human nature.
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Avi Tuschman is an expert on the hidden roots of political orientation. He began his career in politics as the youngest advisor in the government palace in Lima, at age 23. While serving as the senior writer to President Alejandro Toledo (Peru, 2001-2006), Tuschman produced numerous articles and speeches designed to shape public opinion. In 2009, Dr. Tuschman joined with Toledo and seventeen other ...more

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“The Biology of Tribalism concerns pushes and pulls between populations, which primarily occur due to tradeoffs between inbreeding and outbreeding. Ethnocentrism and other tribalistic personality facets have evolved to influence mate choice and encourage “optimal outbreeding.” The book will explore these and other tribalistic political phenomena that impact the evolution of populations, including gender inequality, warfare, and genocide.

The Biology of Family Conflict (Parent-Offspring Conflict) is the field of evolutionary theory that explains why the interests of the most closely related individuals do not always align, and thus why different family disciplinary strategies exist. The two opposed disciplinary models are based on egalitarian and hierarchical moralities. These conflicts are linked to the variation in people's tolerance of inequality.

The Biology of Altruism and Self-Interest is the area of evolutionary theory that describes how and why people cooperate with and betray one another; this field sheds light on why some people perceive human nature so differently than others.”
“From different perspectives, I will show how political orientations across space and time arise from three clusters of measurable personality traits. The three clusters entail opposing attitudes toward tribalism, inequality, and differing perceptions of human nature. Together, these traits are by far the most powerful cause of left-right voting, even leading people to regularly vote against their economic interests.” 2 likes
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