1st Edition

On the Origin of Societies by Natural Selection

ISBN 9781315633121
Published November 17, 2015 by Routledge
376 Pages

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Book Description

Kinship, religion, and economy were not "natural" to humans, nor to species of apes that had to survive on the African savanna. Society from its very beginnings involved an uneasy necessity that often stood in conflict with humans' ape ancestry; these tensions only grew along with later, more complex-eventually colossal-sociocultural systems. The ape in us was not extinguished, nor obviated, by culture; indeed, our ancestry continues to place pressures on individuals and their sociocultural creations. Not just an exercise in history, this pathbreaking book dispels many myths about the beginning of society to gain new understandings of the many pressures on societies today.


"No one is better than Turner and Maryanski at interpreting the evolutionary pathways from primates to humans and showing the long-term consequences of human origins for subsequent societies. The story integrates social network patterns, brain physiology, and humans’ uniquely broad palette of emotions; the result is the ability of humans to create strong ties among members of large and flexible groups, via emotion laden symbolism. What evolves is not just brain size, intelligence, or tool use, but a quasi-language of emotions which are read by others and which also reflexively organize the human self. The types of human societies over past thousands of years have been pulled between selective pressures of environment, institutional requirements, and ever-present human nature hard-wired during the divergence of humans from common ancestry with the apes. The openness of post-industrial market democracies, Turner and Maryanski argue, allow greater weight to the individualistic, mobility-prone, and community-choosing propensities of evolved human nature. This is evolutionary social science at its most sophisticated."
—Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania

“This provocative volume provides much food for thought.”

"This is a valuable book, clearly written, that deserves to be read by practicing sociologists and also would be eminently suitable for graduate classes in social theory or social change.”
—American Journal of Sociology