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Cooperation and Collective Action

Archaeological Perspective

Edited by David M. Carballo

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

Part 1- Theoretical Perspectives

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1: Cultural and Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation in Archaeological Perspective

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pp. 3-33

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 ...

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2: The Emergence of Social Complexity

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pp. 35-56

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 ...

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3: War, Collective Action, and the “Evolution” of Human Polities

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pp. 57-82

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 ...

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4: The Ritualized Economy and Cooperative Labor in Intermediate Societies

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pp. 83-92

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 ...

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5: Reconsidering Darwinian Anthropology

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pp. 93-127

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 ...

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6: Agency and Collective Action

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pp. 129-148

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 ....

Part 2- Case Studies

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7: Free-Riding, Cooperation, and Population Growth

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pp. 151-174

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 ...

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8: Cooperation and Competition among Late Woodland Households at Kolomoki, Georgia

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pp. 175-196

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 ...

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9: The Competitive Context of Cooperationin Pre-Hispanic Barinas, Venezuela

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pp. 197-221

“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 ...

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10: Water Control and the Emergence ofPolities in the Southern Maya Lowlands

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pp. 223-242

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 ...

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11: Labor Collectives and Group Cooperation in Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico

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pp. 243-274

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 ...

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12: Caste as a Cooperative Economic Entitlement Strategy in Complex Societies of the Indian Subcontinent and Sub-Saharan Africa

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pp. 275-297

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 ...

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13: The Dynamics of Cooperation in Context

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pp. 299-307

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 ...


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pp. 309-310


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pp. 311-319

E-ISBN-13: 9781607322085
E-ISBN-10: 1607322080
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321972
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321971

Page Count: 364
Illustrations: 22 line illustrations, 6 maps, 13 tables
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 847550225
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cooperation and Collective Action

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Subject Headings

  • Commerce, Prehistoric.
  • Commerce, Prehistoric -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Economic anthropology.
  • Economic anthropology -- Cross-cultural studies.
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