EP100 Sam Bowles on Our Cooperative Nature

Sam Bowles talks to Jim about his book, A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution: competition, hierarchy, game theory, and much more…

Sam Bowles

Sam Bowles talks to Jim about his book, A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution, co-authored with Herbert Gintis. They start by exploring cooperation in hunter-gatherer living: how human cooperation is different from other species’, collaboration needed for big game hunting, egalitarianism & competition, hierarchy myths, impacts of weapons, how far cooperation goes back in history, the size & make-up of cooperative groups, altruism, and prerequisites for group selection. They then talk about collaboration in cultures more broadly: the wonder of nationalism, the pros of external threat, cultural progress, leadership, paradoxes of the prisoner’s dilemma, differences in cultural cooperation, the “civilizing force of markets”, game theory, punishing free-riders, the limitations of unconditional generosity, and more.

Episode Transcript

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Samuel Bowles, (PhD, Economics, Harvard University) is Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program. He taught economics at Harvard from 1965 to 1973 and since then at the University of Massachusetts, where he is now emeritus professor and at the University of Siena from 2002 to 2010 where he continues to occasionally teach. Bowles’ current research also includes theoretical and empirical studies of political hierarchy and wealth inequality and their evolution over the very long run.

His most recent book is The Moral Economy: Why good laws are no substitute for good citizensOther recent books include A Cooperative Species: Human reciprocity and its evolutionThe new economics of inequality and redistribution, and Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution. He has also served as an economic advisor to the governments of Cuba, South Africa and Greece, to U.S presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, to the Legislature of the State of New Mexico, to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and to South African President Nelson Mandela. With the CORE Project he has produced a new free online introductory etext, The Economy.