Cover image for Second nature : economic origin of human evolution
Second nature : economic origin of human evolution
Ofek, Haim, 1936-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
254 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Introduction -- Exchange in human and nonhuman societies -- Classical economics and classical Darwinism -- Evolutionary implications of division of labor -- The feeding ecology -- The origins of nepotistic exchange -- The origins of market exchange -- Baboon speciation vs human speciation -- Tool making and food sharing -- The global environment -- The Upper Paleolithic and other creative explosions -- The rise of agriculture.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN281.4 .O35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This book spans two million years of human evolution and explores the impact of economics on human evolution and natural history. The theory of evolution by natural selection has always relied in part on progress in areas of science outside of biology. By applying economic principles at the borderlines of biology, Haim Ofek shows how some of the outstanding issues in human evolution, such as the increase in human brain size and the expansion of the environmental niche humans occupied, can be answered. He identifies distinct economic forces at work, beginning with the transition from the feed-as-you-go strategy of primates, through hunter-gathering and the domestication of fire to the development of agriculture. This highly readable book will inform and intrigue general readers and those in fields such as evolutionary biology and psychology, economics, and anthropology.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Ofek (economics, Binghamton Univ., New York) synthesizes an enormous range of research on human origins to advance the key role of exchange of goods and services in the evolution of distinctively human species. Deftly describing scientific results in comparative physiology, ecology, anthropology, evolutionary theory, and more, diverse and even disparate concepts support the book-length argument that economic exchange drove human capacity to specialize and consequently human groups' division of labor to dramatically increase efficiency and accumulation of value. In scope and breadth it is comparable to Steven Pinker's Language Instinct (CH, Jul'94), Matt Ridley's Origins of Virtue (1996), or Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel (CH, Jun'97). It also shares with these works exceptional clarity and precise writing, careful expositions of outstanding issues and comparison of alternative explanations, and the compounding of evidence throughout. Alternative human traits that may have triggered the development of homo sapiens (e.g., upright posture, tool use, language) are more familiar. Other writers will undoubtedly find omissions and argue for alternative interpretations. But this superb book seems poised to be a touchstone for work in prehistory and human origins for the foreseeable future; essential for all academic libraries; highly recommended for others. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. D. Bantz University of Alaska

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
Part I Bioeconomics
2 Exchange in human and nonhuman societies
3 Classical economics and classical Darwinism
4 Evolutionary implications of division of labour
5 The feeding ecology
6 The origins of nepotistic exchange
7 Baboon speciation versus human specialization
Part II Paleoeconomics
8 Departure from the feed-as-you-go strategy
9 The origins of market exchange
10 Domestication of fire in relation to market exchange
11 The Upper Paleolithic and other creative explosions
12 Transition to agriculture: the limiting factor
13 Transition to agriculture: the facilitating factor