Evolutionary Anthropology, Co-operation and Warfare

  • Robert LaytonEmail author
Part of the Advances in the Evolutionary Analysis of Human Behaviour book series (AEAHB, volume 1)


The chapter begins by reviewing recent work by Robert Kaplan and Steven Pinker, both of whom invoke Hobbes to support their argument that men are naturally violent or warlike. Kaplan and Pinker conclude that only ‘strong government’ can guarantee that society will not break down into anarchy. However, the failure of Western military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan to install strong government and enforce peace points to the need for a better understanding of the dynamics of conflict and co-operation. I therefore examine critically the anthropological evidence for violence among chimpanzees and in small-scale human societies that Pinker and others cite in support of their Hobbesian arguments and identify both inaccuracies in the data cited and problems in their interpretation. In the second part of the chapter, game theory and the concept of fitness landscapes are introduced to show how evolutionary anthropology can provide a more nuanced explanation for human competition and co-operation. These provide more accurate guidelines for practical application in forestalling civil disorder or restoring peace.


(Robert) Kaplan (Steven) Pinker (Thomas) Hobbes War Chimpanzees Game theory Fitness landscape Civil disorder 



The author thanks Jeremy Kendal, Sheelagh Stewart, Sean O’Hara, the anonymous reviewers and the editors for help and advice in preparing this chapter. Responsibility for any errors rests entirely with the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology DepartmentUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK

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