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Cooperation and Collective Action

Cooperation and Collective Action: Archaeological Perspectives

Richard E. Blanton
Benjamin Chabot-Hanowell
Jelmer W. Eerkens
Lane F. Fargher
Gary M. Felnman
Lisa J. Lucero
Thomas J. Pluckhahn
Paul J. Roscoe
Dean J. Saitta
Monica L. Smith
Charles S. Spencer
Charles Stanish
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 364
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  • Book Info
    Cooperation and Collective Action
    Book Description:

    Past archaeological literature on cooperation theory has emphasized competition's role in cultural evolution. As a result, bottom-up possibilities for group cooperation have been under theorized in favor of models stressing top-down leadership, while evidence from a range of disciplines has demonstrated humans to effectively sustain cooperative undertakings through a number of social norms and institutions. Cooperation and Collective Action is the first volume to focus on the use of archaeological evidence to understand cooperation and collective action. Disentangling the motivations and institutions that foster group cooperation among competitive individuals remains one of the few great conundrums within evolutionary theory. The breadth and material focus of archaeology provide a much needed complement to existing research on cooperation and collective action, which thus far has relied largely on game-theoretic modeling, surveys of college students from affluent countries, brief ethnographic experiments, and limited historic cases. In Cooperation and Collective Action, diverse case studies address the evolution of the emergence of norms, institutions, and symbols of complex societies through the last 10,000 years. This book is an important contribution to the literature on cooperation in human societies that will appeal to archaeologists and other scholars interested in cooperation research.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-208-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Part I: Theoretical Perspectives

    • 1 Cultural and Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation in Archaeological Perspective
      (pp. 3-34)
      David M. Carballo

      Humans are excellent but strategically contingent cooperators. How we cooperate and the boundaries of our cooperative relations are two of the most important organizing principles for social groups. Not surprisingly, the cultural and evolutionary dynamics of cooperation represent a fertile topic of research in social and behavioral sciences such as anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology (Axelrod 1997; Bowles and Gintis 2011; Boyd and Richerson 1992, 2009; Dovido et al. 2006; Fehr and Schmidt 1999; Gintis et al. 2005; Gurven 2006; Hammerstein 2003; Henrich and Henrich 2007; Marshall 2010; Ostrom, Gardner, and Walker 2003; Patton 2009; Willer 2009). From...

    • 2 The Emergence of Social Complexity: Why More than Population Size Matters
      (pp. 35-56)
      Gary M. Feinman

      The emergence and manifestation of socioeconomic complexity in human societies is one of those research questions that is big, intrinsically complicated, and important. It is a topic that has intrigued scholars from a broad range of disciplines for centuries, if not longer, and yet those of us interested in this issue remain far from an answer. In fact, there is no consensus concerning the most fruitful paradigms to employ in order to address this topic (e.g., Clutton-Brock et al. 2009; Fuentes 2004; Price and Feinman 1995, 2010; Spencer 1997; West, Griffin, and Gardner 2007; Wilson and Wilson 2007).

      In this...

    • 3 War, Collective Action, and the “Evolution” of Human Polities
      (pp. 57-82)
      Paul Roscoe

      There are no larger human groups nor any greater challenges to collective action theory than polities, the autonomous political communities that characterize human macrosociality. Their most recently emergent form, the nation-state, represents an especially acute problem because, in these colossal “imagined communities” (Anderson 1991), no member knows more than a tiny fraction of the rest, and yet somehow they manage to cohere and continue through time.

      In one guise or another, the nature of polities and the processes that propel their development have occupied anthropology and archaeology from their earliest days. Recent thought, however, dates to the 1950s and the...

    • 4 The Ritualized Economy and Cooperative Labor in Intermediate Societies
      (pp. 83-92)
      Charles Stanish

      What the collection of essays in this book represents, in my view, is a profoundly new and powerful way to understand what precisely evolves in human society from an anthropological and archaeological perspective. Based upon recent work in game theory, we can now reconceptualize the somewhat vague terms of “cultural evolution” and “adaptation” into the more specific one of the “evolution of cooperation.” By focusing on cooperation we immediately align ourselves with the latest and most exciting theoretical work in game theory in anthropology, economics, and economic history.

      Game theory and its allied disciplines of evolutionary game theory and evolutionary...

    • 5 Reconsidering Darwinian Anthropology: With Suggestions for a Revised Agenda for Cooperation Research
      (pp. 93-128)
      Richard E. Blanton and Lane F. Fargher

      We agree with Richerson, Boyd, and Henrich (2003: 361) that a well-formed evolutionary theory for cooperation will benefit humans as they adapt to rapid technological and economic change in the contemporary world, but what kind of evolutionary theory should this be? One candidate that has gained much recent attention in anthropology and sister disciplines (Aunger 2000) is a Darwinian approach, originally termed sociobiology, but now referred to variously as evolutionary psychology, evolutionary anthropology, Darwinian anthropology, and Darwinian social science, that aims to understand the bioevolutionary origins of what is considered to be, in part, an instinctive basis for human prosociality...

    • 6 Agency and Collective Action: Insights from North American Historical Archaeology
      (pp. 129-148)
      Dean J. Saitta

      The concept of human agency has been widely used in archaeology over the past twenty years, and especially in the last decade (for reviews see Barrett 2001; Dobres and Robb 2000; Dornan 2002; Johnson 1989; Knapp and van Dommelen 2008). Agency theories in archaeology developed, in part, as a corrective to the often bloodless models of social life and change produced by various systems-theoretical and other processual approaches. Their development has been a good thing for the discipline. Agency theories have put people back into culture along with the cognitive factors—for instance, the frameworks of meaning by which people...

  6. Part II: Case Studies

    • 7 Free-Riding, Cooperation, and Population Growth: The Evolution of Privatization and Leaders in Owens Valley, California
      (pp. 151-174)
      Jelmer W. Eerkens

      As discussed in the opening chapter (Carballo, chapter 1), the evolution of cooperation among humans is a topic that continues to receive intense research by social and evolutionary scientists alike. Many economic, biological, and political science models examine the evolution of cooperation from a theoretical viewpoint (e.g., Axelrod 1997; Axelrod and Hamilton 1981; Bird 1999; Bowles and Gintis 2004; Boyd, Gintis, and Bowles 2010; Boyd and Richerson 2009; Dawkins 1976; Gardner and West 2010; Henrich and Boyd 2001; Nowak 2006; Trivers 1971; Winterhalder 1986, 1997). These models provide testable hypotheses for social scientists involved in lab experiments and ethnographic research,...

    • 8 Cooperation and Competition among Late Woodland Households at Kolomoki, Georgia
      (pp. 175-196)
      Thomas J. Pluckhahn

      How do collective social groups form and persist in light of the obstacles posed by the pursuit of individual self-interests? The dynamic between competition and cooperation has emerged as a major topic of concern, as evidenced by its inclusion on a list of the “big questions” in contemporary science compiled by contributors to the journal Science (Pennisi 2005). It is one of only a few topics on that list that pertain specifically to the social sciences (Steckel 2007; see also Feinman, chapter 13).

      Given the attention archaeologists have devoted to the development of complex societies, one might imagine that the...

    • 9 The Competitive Context of Cooperation in Pre-Hispanic Barinas, Venezuela: A Multilevel-Selection Approach
      (pp. 197-222)
      Charles S. Spencer

      “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of evolution,” Martin A. Nowak commented in a recent paper (2006b: 1563), “is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive world.” Although the operation of variation-generating mechanisms combined with natural selection would seem to reward only selfish behavior—with each gene, cell, or organism shaped to pursue its own success to the detriment of its competitors—there is nonetheless abundant evidence of cooperation throughout the biological and cultural spheres, including the cooperation of genes in genomes, the cooperation of cells in organisms, and the cooperation of organisms in groups. Cooperation plays a key role...

    • 10 Water Control and the Emergence of Polities in the Southern Maya Lowlands: Evolutionary, Economic, and Ecological Models
      (pp. 223-242)
      Benjamin Chabot-Hanowell and Lisa J. Lucero

      In the southern Maya lowlands of present-day northern Guatemala, Belize, the Yucatán and southeastern Mexico, rulers reached their apogee in the Late Classic period (c. AD 550–850) (Figure 10.1). Several factors influenced the number of supporters at any given center, the main one being the prosperity of the royal court. Powerful kings emerged in areas with noticeable seasonal variability and plentiful fertile land (Lucero 2003, 2006). Powerful Maya polities did not emerge along rivers as one finds in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, the coastal Andes, and other regions throughout the world; nor did the Maya rely on massive irrigation systems....

    • 11 Labor Collectives and Group Cooperation in Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico
      (pp. 243-274)
      David M. Carballo

      Individuals cooperate as parts of communities all over the world, but the particular manner in which they do forms a central, determinative component of community structure and identity. As Cohen notes in the epigraph, individuals living in more rural parts of Mesoamerica reckon their particular nested scales of community based largely on cooperative relations, and the variable nature of these relations captures a significant portion of the heterogeneity between communities. Mesoamerican communities also share much in how they organize and sustain cooperative undertakings, attributable to entangled culture histories stretching back through pre-Hispanic times. Among these similarities, cooperation through group labor...

    • 12 Caste as a Cooperative Economic Entitlement Strategy in Complex Societies of the Indian Subcontinent and Sub-Saharan Africa
      (pp. 275-298)
      Monica L. Smith

      The development of complex societies generally is accompanied by an increase in craft specialization, a process that has social, economic, and political correlates. Many labor-intensive traditions of craftmaking such as pottery, metallurgy, and textile manufacturing encompass a long period of apprenticeship that requires the cooperation of group members for the successful transfer of knowledge. Cooperation also is required for the logistical components of manufacture including raw material acquisition, stages of material preparation, the cleaning of work surfaces and installations, and the distribution of finished objects. In many ethnographically and historically documented societies, crafts are learned and carried out by specific...

    • 13 The Dynamics of Cooperation in Context: Concluding Thoughts
      (pp. 299-308)
      Gary M. Feinman

      Potential for cooperation is one of our most distinguishing features as a species. And yet, as the chapters in this collection illustrate, the nature of human cooperation is both variable and contingent across space and time. In concluding this volume, my comments are not intended to arbitrate between the diverse perspectives on cooperation offered here, nor do they summarize synthetically the specific analyses and arguments that have been presented.

      My aim instead is to place these studies of cooperation in a broader theoretical context, specifically within anthropological archaeology, by stressing how the approaches offered here, though internally diverse, collectively differ...

  7. List of Contributors
    (pp. 309-310)
  8. Index
    (pp. 311-319)