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The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  223 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
What do Wikipedia, Zip Car's business model, Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and a small grou....
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 9th 2011 by Crown Business (first published 2011)
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Dec 26, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it
This is a good an important book. Benkler's first(?) book, "The Wealth of Networks", was too dense to be accessible, and "The Penguin and the Leviathan" is much better in that regard.

Benkler's key claim is that people are motivated much more by non-monetary influences than we thought. We have always known that people aren't fully self-serving, but we treated homo econimicus as a close enough approximation to reality. Benkler claims that systems and organizations that reject this premise not only
Jul 13, 2012 Book rated it really liked it
Shelves: neuroscience
The Penguin and the Leviathan by Yochai Benkler

"The Penguin and the Leviathan" it's the interesting book about the dynamics of cooperation and working in collaboration in the 21st Century. The main thesis of this book is to debunk the notion of a selfish human nature and how this knowledge can better serve our societies. Israeli-American author and professor of Law, Yochai Benkler, uses the latest in multiple converging scientific fields and a variety of examples to illustrate the power of coope
Jun 05, 2013 Christoph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since the early 1980s, there has been an aggressive attempt to frame cultural tradition towards the neoliberal ethic of self-interest and greed in the late stage of capitalist triumph. Similarly, the Go-Go generation has been remembered as such a time, turning hippies into yuppies, but then, as the notion goes, a rejection of this perspective occurred in Generation X and this is true as it pertains to popular culture. But in elite circles the culture of "I built it" and all that comes with it ha ...more
Duncan Mclaren
Jun 17, 2014 Duncan Mclaren rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an extremely well written and easy to read book - which I stress because reading some of Benkler's earlier work was like wading through treacle. It covers all the main scientific debates about cooperation as a social, cultural and evolutionary process, leaving the reader optimistic, but with no misconceptions about the challenges we face to release our innate potential for collaboration. His conclusions will - no doubt - be dismissed by vested interests and their apologists in political ...more
Christopher Mitchell
Jun 02, 2017 Christopher Mitchell rated it it was amazing
A very good and quick read that explores how people act in more complicated ways than are normally assumed by economists and also policy-makers. Systems have to take into account the ways different people will cooperate or act more in self-interest (though these can often overlap) when designing rules and incentives for action.
Murali Neelakantan
Nov 02, 2015 Murali Neelakantan rated it really liked it
I have been lucky to have been surrounded by people who love reading. My maternal grandfather would always been seen reading- it often did not matter to him that he was reading the same newspaper more than once in the day or that it was an old paper that he found many days or weeks after it was published and used as wrapping by the local grocer. It took me many years to understand that he derived more meaning every time he read the same text and my favourite books are always close to me so that ...more
Danu Poyner
Yochai Benkler's brief and approachable book takes issue with the founding premises of many of our institutions that humans are in general not to be trusted and that we need strong authority and incentives to keep us in line lest we run amok. He seeks to show us that our basic nature, though far from perfect, is far more cooperative and altruistic than is commonly thought.

Benkler makes his case using a range of detailed examples, many of which will be familiar to readers of other work of this na
David Dinaburg
Mar 07, 2012 David Dinaburg rated it really liked it
The title acts as a Rorschach test of sorts: while I recognized the allusion to Hobbes' regulatory leviathan, the titular "Penguin" left me mystified. CompSci wonks, at least the ones I know, recognized Tux, the Linux mascot, but assumed the leviathan referred to Microsoft. Before the first page, the breadth of upcoming data that will be comfortably dissected and relayed is artfully signaled.

The book, with its overarching narrative bolstered by particular examples, felt like an academic article
Nov 05, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
This is a very provocative book that tries to find a scientific basis for cooperation in individuals and society. He takes issue with views of society from Adam Smith to interpretations of "The Selfish Gene" that assume that self interest is the primary evolutionary determinant in society. This is a fascinating review of the popular and academic use of these ideas. He believes legal, economic, political and social decisions that are made using this mistaken view has led to unworkable solutions l ...more
Benkler writes a very detailed and example rich argument against the rational-actor theory. Counter to the idea that humans will always act in their short-term best interest, Benkler provides a wealth of examples from evolutionary biology, psychology, anthropology, and computer science to show how other motivations often surpass self-interest in guiding our decision making.

Notes on finishing the book:
This is a timely and important book. Benkler presents a unceasingly rational argument for cooper
Roy Kenagy
Oct 19, 2011 Roy Kenagy marked it as to-read

For centuries, we as a society have operated according to a very unflattering view of human nature: that, humans are universally and inherently selfish creatures. As a result, our most deeply entrenched social structures – our top-down business models, our punitive legal systems, our market-based approaches to everything from education reform to environmental regulation - have been built on the premise that humans are driven only by self interest, programmed to respond
Jun 30, 2015 Edmund rated it really liked it
This book's thrust is that people are motivated by more then just financial reward, and that a systems designed to take advantage of such intrinsic motivations as cooperation, social recognition and reputation, autonomy and so forth, may in fact provide a superior system design model. He does not declare we use one over the other, but that both can be used if done carefully. Careful design is important because it's possible to "crowd out" the social and cooperative strategies from an individual' ...more
Apr 16, 2013 Jon rated it liked it
Shelves: law-policy
While this book makes some fascinating points and makes a good argument for collaboration as a better model than typical top-down directives as a model for motivating people to do better work and the right thing, it was not compelling enough to receive five stats.

I debated between giving this three and four stars—after all, I did enjoy it—but I opted to go for three stars for three reasons. First, I felt that his book was a bit outdated, which, given that it was written in the late Aughts, is no
Ernst Hafen
Dec 20, 2014 Ernst Hafen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business, science
Yochai Benkler draws together the emerging strong evidence from psychology, neuroimaging, evolutionary biology and behavioral economics that humans are not primarily self-interested individuals that only look out for their personal gains. This was largely the doctrine of the 20ties century economic and management schools and directly contributed to the inflation of executive pay and the financial crisis. He discusses counter examples of Toyota, Wikipedia, Open Source software, the music industry ...more
Dec 09, 2011 Chad rated it it was ok
This book seemed like it would be really interesting. But it felt more like a short article that had been stretched out into a book. I know the author is a serious academic, and this was his attempt to present his work to a broader audience. But it almost felt too dumbed down. His points seemed more like casual observations than conclusions based on extensive scientific research. And because this book uses a lot of internet-age examples of cooperation, it almost feels outdated already. Wikipedia ...more
Sep 07, 2011 Nilagia rated it really liked it
How would work, life and society be better if we trusted people a little more, gave them more autonomy over their own choices, and generally encouraged people to be their best selves rather than motivating them solely with money or punishment? With examples ranging from the 30 year success of Toyota to Wikipedia and open source software development, Benkler explores this question in an easy-to-read style. While a lot of it may seem like common sense to anyone who has a proclivity to ask for buy- ...more
Karsten Busby
May 30, 2013 Karsten Busby rated it really liked it
So I received this book with a personalized message signed by Yochai Benkler himself, which may sway my opinion a little bit, but here goes:
I thought this book overall was very interesting. There were some great ideas and examples thrown in there. I haven't read a lot about economic theory or social psychology of any kind, so most of it was new to me. However, it did seem little "light" in that it lacked a lot of specific data, didn't cite a lot of specific studies (it just mentioned a couple i
Leader Summaries
Desde Leader Summaries recomendamos la lectura del libro El Pingüino y el Leviatán, de Yochai Benkler.
Las personas interesadas en las siguientes temáticas lo encontrarán práctico y útil: management, mejora de procesos, mejorar el clima laboral.
En el siguiente enlace tienes el resumen del libro El Pingüino y el Leviatán, Por qué la cooperación es nuestra arma más valiosa para mejorar el bienestar de la sociedad y la eficacia de las empresas: El Pingüino y el Leviatán
Jim Duncan
Mar 27, 2015 Jim Duncan rated it liked it
Had hoped that is would be companion to Elinor Ostrum's Governing the Commons. It does touch on the subject but this book tends to focus on ideas from the psychology literature. My viewpoint is that the experimental evidence in that field tends to arise from small, short term but well controlled experiments and it is difficult to extrapolate those results to real world situations. I tend to agree with Richard Dawkins in his view that what we consider altruistic acts are often motivated by selft ...more
Apr 10, 2012 Matthew rated it it was ok
Shelves: media-and-it-law
While I really liked the Wealth Of Networks, I am afraid that this volume The Penguin and the Leviathan lacks its grandeur and its complexity. Benkler pursues the theme of co-operation versus self-interest rather single-mindedly in this work. As a result, the text never really progresses far beyond its basic argument. The examples tend to be deployed to prop up this thesis. There is a lack of light and shade in the book. This is a shame - as Benkler still is a mighty philosopher of open innovati ...more
Apr 22, 2014 Aagave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easiest to describe this as a Western liberal arts lens on the dynamics of Internet based businesses.

Lucidly written and argued.

Only problem is how Benckler uses psychological studies as evidence: after reading Kahnemann, one can get the sense that psychological studies have a structure to them. There's a problem the psychologists sought to study, and the data told them a story they share. Here, it reads like Benckler is trying to bend the outcome of these studies into reflections of his argumen
Margaret Heller
This is the fun breezy version of The Wealth of Networks for the non-scholar. Has many of the same examples and theories, but with a Malcom Gladwell-esque air. Yochai Benkler knows what he is talking about, and this book also makes him sound fun. This makes an interesting companion book to Drive. This is the psychology of cooperation written by economist, and Drive was the economy of cooperation written by a psychologist.
Mar 09, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
An easy to read review of the literature about cooperation rather than competition as a model of human behavior.
Incidentally, my own idea, Social Darwinism is not only an incomplete model of human behavior, it's not Even Darwin's idea. He thought there had been a moral evolution whereby men gradually adapted to the demands of the community and learned to live in harmony in social groups. This book proves him right.
Nov 24, 2011 Grace rated it really liked it
I was never a believer in rational economics so my liking for this well thought out book by Benkler is perhaps partly due to that personal cause of mine, but Benkler provides interesting case studies and examples to prove his point of how cooperation could lead us to greater heights not only as an economy, but as a community altogether. All in all, a solid read.
Amanda Eckler
This book has some interesting anecdotes, but I found it lacking in substance. I was very skeptical at the outset, but I was glad to see that the author didn't necessarily prescribe a "one size fits all" approach to cooperation and did in some instances acknowledge the portable of culture and history.
Ryan Bell
Mar 26, 2012 Ryan Bell rated it really liked it
Had the privilege of spending two days with Yochai and a small group of scholars and activists talking about the implications of his research for community organizing. It was a rich conversation. He has a very positivist outlook on technology for the purposes of human progress. Not sure I can go all the way with him, but he provides compelling evidence for an optimistic view of human nature.
Aleksander Skjæveland Larsen
A well written discussion of how - and why - modern, online collaborative projects work. Reads like an essay, but still contains well sourced information. Contains little new if you already are well versed in these environments, but may be the best source for everyone else.
Oct 18, 2011 Hank rated it liked it
I think he's onto something. I like cooperative systems much more than non-cooperative ones. A bit heavy on the game theory, but the chapter on business applications was really interesting (especially pertaining to Open Source).
Mark Isaak
Dec 23, 2016 Mark Isaak rated it liked it
A readable and reasonably in-depth look at the science and economics of cooperation. My rating went down a star, though, because it did not give references.
Jeevan Arakal
Mar 27, 2013 Jeevan Arakal rated it really liked it
A must read for all those interested in the sphere of human cooperation.
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Yochai Benkler (born 1964) is an Israeli-American author and the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. He is also a faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

From 1984 to 1987, Benkler was a member and treasurer of the Kibbutz Shizafon. He received his LL.B. from Tel-Aviv University in 1991 and J.D. from Harvard L
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