1st Edition

The Genetics of Political Behavior How Evolutionary Psychology Explains Ideology

By Michael Ryan Copyright 2021
    204 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    204 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this unique amalgam of neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary psychology, Ryan argues that leftists and rightists are biologically distinct versions of the human species that came into being at different moments in human evolution.

    The book argues that the varying requirements of survival at different points in history explain why leftists and rightists have anatomically different brains as well as radically distinct behavioral traits. Rightist traits such as callousness and fearfulness emerged early in evolution when violence was pervasive in human life and survival depended on the fearful anticipation of danger. Leftist traits such as pro-sociality and empathy emerged later as environmental adversity made it necessary for humans to live in larger social groups that required new adaptive behavior. The book also explores new evolutionary theories that emphasize the role of the environment in shaping not only human political behavior but also humans' genetic architecture. With implications for the future of politics, the book explores how the niche worlds we build for ourselves through political action can have consequences for the evolution of the species.

    Proposing a new way of understanding human politics, this is fascinating reading for students and academics in psychology, the social sciences, and humanities, as well as general readers interested in political behavior.


    1. Political Adaptations

    2. Evolutionary Models

    3. Traits, Brains, Genes

    4. Art and the Origin of Civilization

    5. The Genetic Geography of Conservatism

    6. Religion as Adaptation

    7. European History in Light of Evolution

    8. Violence Against Others: Torture, Genocide, War

    9. The Psychology of Political Correctness

    10. Leftist Form and Rightist Substance

    11. Dominance and Deception in Economics

    12. Is Socialism Adaptive? The Future of H. sapiens


    Future Work



    Michael Ryan is professor emeritus at Temple University. He has published books in the fields of political philosophy, cultural politics, and literary studies. His web page can be found on Academia.edu.

    "Michael Ryan synthesizes an absolutely incredible amount of information to arrive at a provocative conclusion regarding the difference between rightists and leftists." -- John R. Hibbing, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA

    "This important book is a sparklingly original natural history of the age-old conflict between left and right." -- Richard Wrangham, Harvard University, USA

    "Do liberal forms of cooperation and pacifism and conservative forms of competition and authoritarianism have deep origins in our evolutionary history? In prose that is skilled and accessible, Michael P. Ryan makes a passionate, provocative argument that they do. He has read seemingly everything, and he pulls no punches. His book provides food for thought, worry, and, surprisingly, hope." -- John T. Jost, New York University, USA