Between Kin Selection and Cultural Relativism: Cultural Evolution and the Origin of Inequality

Perspectives on Science 27 (2):278-315 (2019)
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Abstract

Cultural anthropologists and sociobiologists developed initially incommensurable approaches to explaining cooperation and altruism in human societies. When understood as complex cultural adaptations, however, scientific research programs are subject to piecemeal changes in the research programs driving scientific research. The emergence of new research programs in cultural evolution and group selection resulted. This transformation is examined with a focus on explanations for the origin and maintenance of human inequality. The transmission, modification, and selection of the complex cultural packages underlying egalitarianism and hereditary inequality challenge both the focus on biological roots of hierarchy and the autonomous construction of cultures.

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