Cover image for Darwinian politics : the evolutionary origin of freedom
Darwinian politics : the evolutionary origin of freedom
Rubin, Paul H.
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Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 223 pages ; 25 cm.

Format :


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JA80 .R93 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Darwinian Politics is the first book to examine political behavior from a modern evolutionary perspective. Here, Paul H. Rubin discusses group or social behavior, including ethnic and racial conflict; altruism and cooperation; envy; political power; and the role of religion in politics ¾ issues that have formed the hallmark of human social behavior.

Adopting a Darwinian perspective, Rubin demonstrates why certain political-moral philosophies succeed or fail in modern Western culture. He begins by showing relationships between biology and natural selection and the history of political philosophy and explains why desirable policies must treat each person as an individual. He considers the notion of group identity and conflict, observing a human propensity to form in-groups, a behavior that does not necessitate but often leads to deviancies such as racism. In discussing altruism, Rubin shows that people are willing to aid the poor if they are convinced that the recipients are not shirkers or free loaders. This explains why recent welfare reforms are widely viewed as successful. Envy, a trait that is often counterproductive in today's world, is also addressed. In comparing major moral philosophical systems, Rubin contends that utilitarianism is broadly consistent with our evolved preferences. He illustrates evolutionary premises for religious belief and for desires to regulate the behavior of others, and how in today's world such regulation may not serve any useful purpose.

Ultimately, Rubin argues that humans naturally seek political freedom, and modern Western society provides more freedom than any previous one. In light of his analysis, the author extrapolates that, while there are still areas for improvements, humans have done a remarkably good job of satisfying their evolved political preferences.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Darwinian Politics is another addition to the mushrooming literature of evolutionary psychology--in this case, by Paul Rubin, an economist. The central message of the book, according to the author, is that "the theory of evolution and the evolutionary history of humans are relevant for understanding contemporary political behavior." His thesis leads him through an interesting and often original discussion of various aspects of political behavior and how the findings and theories of evolutionary biology might be applied to them. Of course, the claims of evolutionary psychology to explain so much of human behavior have been criticized from different quarters, and the same criticisms could be leveled against this book. But precisely because it creates a new if controversial pathway toward understanding human nature, a study of this high caliber deserves to be in the social science collection of every college. It should be of special interest to political scientists. ^BSumming Up: Essential. General readers, upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. J. Stauder University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth