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  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#35: Ethnogenesis pt. 2: Evolutionary Anarchism

(08/18/2021) In this episode, we examine not how biology pervades politics, but how politics pervades biology: how the course of evolution has been shaped by millions of years of what can only be described as political struggle. We examine two types of ethnogenesis in human ancestors and other primates, fissioning events and internal changes in social structure, and how the formation of new cultures is sometimes equivalent to what we call in the modern world political revolution. Along the way, we see the evolutionary trajectory away from certain forms of hierarchy and aggression in humans and bonobos as the result of conscious agency exerted by ancestors of those species, present a bimodal view of aggression, and examine how even in despotic species (and human social arrangements) power is ultimately highly distributed. Finally, we examine more evidence for the inverse relationship between aggression and social cognition, framing egalitarian political struggle as a struggle for comprehension.

Bibliography for episode 35:

Boem, C. (2001) Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. Harvard University Press.

Clastres, P. (1987) Society against the State. Urzone Books.

De Waal, F. (2007) Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes. The John Hopkins University Press.

Goodall, J. (1986) Chimpanzees of the Gombe: Patterns of Behavior. Belknap Harvard.

Gordon, A. D., Green, D. J., & Richmond, B. G. (2008). Strong postcranial size dimorphism in Australopithecus afarensis: Results from two new resampling methods for multivariate data sets with missing data. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 135(3), 311–328. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20745

Hare, B., Plyusnina, I., Ignacio, N., Schepina, O., Stepika, A., Wrangham, R. & Trut, L. (2005) Social Cognitive Evolution in Captive Foxes Is a Correlated By-Product of Experimental Domestication. Current Biology 15:226–30.

Hare, B., Melis, A., Woods, V., Hastings, S. & Wrangham, R. (2007) Tolerance Allows Bonobos to Outperform Chimpanzees on a Cooperative Task. Current Biology 17:619–23.

Hare, B., Wobber, V., & Wrangham, R. (2012) The self-domestication hypothesis: evolution of bonobo psychology is due to selection against aggression. Animal Behaviour 83:573-85.

Hare, B. and Woods, V. (2020) Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity. Random House.

LaBounty, J., Bosse, L., Savicki, S., King, J., & Eisenstat, S. (2016). Relationship between Social Cognition and Temperament in Preschool-aged Children. Infant and Child Development, 26(2), e1981. doi:10.1002/icd.1981

Wellman, H. M., Lane, J. D., LaBounty, J., & Olson, S. L. (2011). Observant, nonaggressive temperament predicts theory-of-mind development. Developmental Science, 14(2), 319–326. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.00977.x

Wrangham, R. W. (2017). Two types of aggression in human evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(2), 245–253. doi:10.1073/pnas.1713611115

By Wcalvin at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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