Week 10 Reading B

Week 10 Reading B - Solving the Puzzle of Human Cooperation...

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Unformatted text preview: Solving the Puzzle of Human Cooperation Robert Boyd Department of Anthropology University of California Los Angeles, CA 90095 rboyd@anthro.ucla.edu Peter J. Richerson Department of Environmental Science and Policy University of California Davis, CA 95616 pjricherson@ucdavis.edu Draft 1.2: Do not cite in any context without permission of authors. 1 No consensus on cooperation Is society an organic whole with each of its many components working together like the organs in a body? Like organisms, societies are composed of many parts which seem to work together enhance their survival. Different people fulfill different, necessary rolesubsistence, reproduction, coordination, and defense. Regular exchange of matter and energy guarantees that each component has the resources it needs. Norms, laws and customs regulate virtually every aspect of social interaction, who may marry who, how disputes are resolved, and how verbs should be conjugated. Ritual and religion provide comfort to the sick and fearful, maintain a feeling of solidarity and belonging, and serve to preserve and transmit knowledge through time. Even the simplest human societies seem like complex machines designed for growth and survival. People have long been divided about whether this metaphor is useful or misleading. Many believe that the appearance of design is real. Functionalism, an old and still influential school in anthropology and sociology, holds that beliefs, behaviors and institutions exist because they promote the healthy functioning of social groups. (Spencer, 1891; Radcliffe-Brown, 1952; Malinowski, 1922; Aberle et al., 1950). Such functionalists believe that the existence of some observed behavior or institution is explained if it can be shown how the behavior or institution contributes to the health or welfare of the social group. The conviction that people are selfish drives others to argue that the appearance of design is an illusionthe complex structure merely reflects a standoff in a struggle among selfish individuals. Such rational individualists, mainly economists, political scientists and philosophers, hold that human choices must be explained in terms of individual benefits; any group benefits are an accidental side effect of selfish individual choices. This conflict remains unresolved because the competing protagonists espouse irreconcilable views about the causes of human action. Functionalists view people as being shaped by their society. People acquire a belief in the rightness in the norms and customs of their culture as a result of growing up in that society. Believers in the rational individualism see people as choosing how to behave based on their own interest. People are bound by custom only to the extent that it serves these interests....
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Week 10 Reading B - Solving the Puzzle of Human Cooperation...

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