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Zoon Politikon


Gintis, Herbert; van Schaik, Carel P; Boehm, Christopher (2015). Zoon Politikon. Current Anthropology, 56(3):327-353.

Abstract

We provide the most up-to-date evidence available in various behavioral fields in support of the hypothesis that the emergence of bipedalism and cooperative breeding in the hominin line—together with environmental developments that made a diet of meat from large animals adaptive as well as cultural innovation in the form of fire and cooking—created a niche for hominins in which there was a high return for coordinated, cooperative scavenging and hunting of large mammals. This was accompanied by an increasing use of wooden spears and lithic points as lethal hunting weapons that transformed human sociopolitical life. The combination of social interdependence and the availability of such weapons in early hominin society undermined the standard social dominance hierarchy of multimale/multifemale primate groups. The successful sociopolitical structure that ultimately replaced the ancestral social dominance hierarchy was an egalitarian political system in which lethal weapons made possible group control of leaders, and group success depended on the ability of leaders to persuade and of followers to contribute to a consensual decision process. The heightened social value of nonauthoritarian leadership entailed enhanced biological fitness for such leadership traits as linguistic facility, ability to form and influence coalitions, and, indeed, hypercognition in general.

Abstract

We provide the most up-to-date evidence available in various behavioral fields in support of the hypothesis that the emergence of bipedalism and cooperative breeding in the hominin line—together with environmental developments that made a diet of meat from large animals adaptive as well as cultural innovation in the form of fire and cooking—created a niche for hominins in which there was a high return for coordinated, cooperative scavenging and hunting of large mammals. This was accompanied by an increasing use of wooden spears and lithic points as lethal hunting weapons that transformed human sociopolitical life. The combination of social interdependence and the availability of such weapons in early hominin society undermined the standard social dominance hierarchy of multimale/multifemale primate groups. The successful sociopolitical structure that ultimately replaced the ancestral social dominance hierarchy was an egalitarian political system in which lethal weapons made possible group control of leaders, and group success depended on the ability of leaders to persuade and of followers to contribute to a consensual decision process. The heightened social value of nonauthoritarian leadership entailed enhanced biological fitness for such leadership traits as linguistic facility, ability to form and influence coalitions, and, indeed, hypercognition in general.

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6 citations in Web of Science®
9 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:01 Feb 2016 16:32
Last Modified:04 Jun 2016 00:00
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0011-3204
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1086/681217

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