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The Pleistocene Social Contract – Culture and Cooperation in Human Evolution - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Pleistocene Social Contract: Culture and Cooperation in Human Evolution

Kim Sterelny


No human now gathers for himself or herself the essential resources for life: food, shelter, clothing and the like. Humans are obligate co-operators, and this has been true for tens of thousands of years; probably much longer. In this regard, humans are very unusual. In the living world more generally, cooperation outside the family is rare. Though it can be very profitable, it is also very risky, as cooperation makes an agent vulnerable to incompetence and cheating. This book presents a new picture of the emergence of cooperation in our lineage, developing through four fairly distinct phases. ... More

Keywords: human cooperation, immediate return mutualism, direct and indirect reciprocation, transegalitarian culture, evolution of inequality, human uniqueness, cumulative cultural learning

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2021 Print ISBN-13: 9780197531389
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2021 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780197531389.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Kim Sterelny, author
Professor of Philosophy, Australian National University

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