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Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,575 ratings  ·  122 reviews
In this revised edition, de Waal expands and updates his story of the Arnhem colony of chimpanzees. De Waal reminds readers through his account of the chimps' sexual rivalries and coalitions, and intelligent rather than instinctual actions, that the roots of politics are older than humanity. ...more
Paperback, 235 pages
Published April 10th 2000 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1982)
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David
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
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
...more
Artur Olczyk
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chimpanzee Politics by Frans de Waal is an attempt to provide a valid overview of what the author believes can be coined as politics among our closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees. He does an excellent job, mostly.

By following a popular definition of politics, he describes it as a social process determining who gets what, when, and how, and further says that
there can be little doubt that chimpanzess engage in it.
Subsequent chapters describe a chimpanzee colony in the Arnhem Zoo, the Neth
...more
Scriptor Ignotus
Mar 15, 2013 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
...more
rachelm
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Justin
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
"If we look straight and deep into a chimpanzee's eyes, an 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 wit
...more
David Olmsted
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Alok Sharma
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
striking similarities between apes and sapiens
this book can have wide range implication
freedom for sex is a necessity for peace within modern society
weird restriction put by the ideological and religious institutions are all reason for perverted sexual encounters observed in societies .
how rape and such equivalent crimes are not observed in apes substantiate the argument .

Politics should always be done keeping the view of tit for tat.
The imperative of reconciliation in contemporary politics is
...more
Carl
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephen
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Graham
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
jg
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
William
Apr 28, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have read other works by de Waal and really liked them. For me, this one falls a bit short in terms of enjoyability. It's impressive in many ways. The observations of the chimpanzees in the Arnhem zoo are meticulous and the conclusions de Waal draws are convincing. The chimps also come through as individuals. But the book seems more appropriate for sociologists and/or anthropologists, even if the author was aiming for readability. It probably falls a bit short of a scientific work, but it also ...more
Caroline
Jan 15, 2008 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
Joe Iacovino
Nov 17, 2011 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
Dale
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
...more
James Specht
Feb 13, 2008 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
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.
Vasha7
May 28, 2011 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. ...more
Andrea
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Merredith
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading this book during a class, perhaps my physical anthropology class. From what I remember, it read more like a cultural ethnology than an animal study. I still recall the plotting and murder. Great book!
Kate
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
The title says it all except this: chimpanzees are people who don't pretend to be civilized. It's fascinating, disturbing, and hilarious. ...more
Stephanie
Sep 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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!
AC
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Annelie Wendeberg
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
That book will give you some fundamental insight into ape (=human) behaviour.
Ellen Whyte
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Behaviourists rarely write like human beings but Van de Waal is an exception. Brilliantly written and thought provoking.
Paul Browne
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Striking parallels with human interactions that caused me to reconsider my perspective of forming and re-forming coalitions.
Poppy
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
People are just like apes. Over and over this is made clear to me.
Ken Lenoir
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a really enlightening book! full disclosure, I read this on recommendation from a few politicians who said it gives some insight into human behavior. I have no interest in chimpanzees in particular, but in how similar their social system is to humans and what that means to us from our "base" motives up.

Some interesting takeaways:

grooming is the most frequent social activity in chimps, and the calming affect is has on them could easily be likened to, in human relations, "emotional grooming" or s
...more
Jane
Jan 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
As always I am so grateful I had the time to read this book...It’s one of the rare times I did not save a document full of quotes because the book is more of a tale on the struggles for power between chimps. That does not mean it was not one of the most fascinating things I have found in my life. And yes, even though I read some books my Goodall I realized that Frans de Waal comes with even more information (much much much more) in his books, especially in this one. Like Jane, he names the chimp ...more
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Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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“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.” 3 likes
“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.” 1 likes
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