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Proximate Causation, Group Selection, and the Evolution of Hierarchical Human Societies: System, Process, and Pattern

  • Michael Rosenberg
Chapter

Abstract

Social structure is an emergent property of a group; it cannot be the property of any single individual. It is an aspect of a culture and, as such, constrained by that culture’s Bauplan; and a Bauplan that incorporates egalitarianism will not permit hierarchy. Explanations for the evolution of complex societies at best pay lip service to these constraints, proceeding from the position that egalitarianism and hierarchy represent a social continuum capable of being readily traversed. This ignores the well-documented diligence with which egalitarian societies maintain their egalitarianism. They also proceed from the assumption that the organizational benefits of complexity are the reason it evolves. This essay proposes that complexity is a product of group selection. It proposes that the organizational benefits are exaptations, built on authority only after it already exists, and which first develops to provide a more primitive benefit, conflict resolution. It further suggests that in contexts where the maintenance of group unity confers a net top-down advantage to an egalitarian group’s members, even after factoring in loss of personal autonomy, egalitarian Baupläne will be abandoned and replaced by hierarchical ones.

Keywords

Group Selection Local Group Emergent Property Behavioral Ecology Social Complexity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Guillermo Algaze, James Chatters, Niles Eldredge, Stuart Fidel, Ian Kuijt, Anna Prentiss, Robert Graber, and Charles Spencer for taking the time to comment on earlier drafts of this article, sharing their expertise and their constructive criticisms with me, and generally acting as sounding boards for me as the ideas contained herein took shape. I would also like to thank the three reviewers, whose constructive criticisms greatly improved the presentation of those ideas.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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