, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 125-135
Date: 05 May 2011

Evolution and the loss of hierarchies: Dubreuil’s “Human evolution and the origin of hierarchies: the state of nature”

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Benoit Dubreuil’s Human Evolution and the Origins of Hierarchies, according to the jacket cover, is intended to provide “a natural history of [human social] hierarchies”, and in particular to explain two transitions in the history of those hierarchies. The first transition is one that moved humans from social groups characterized by dominance hierarchies (such as those presumably had by our common ancestor with chimpanzees) to social groups characterized by egalitarian social relations (such as those in which all humans lived at one time and which still characterize modern foraging societies). The second transition is from such egalitarian foraging societies to modern state societies with their hierarchies of wealth and power. This second transition is particularly puzzling—why, given Homosapiens evolved to live in egalitarian societies and apparently prefer egalitarian social relations, did we end up with social hierarchies again? Dubreuil’s purpose in his book is to describe the sequ