Mark R. Rank
This concluding article proposes a new paradigm in which to understand poverty, focusing primarily on the United States even as several dimensions of the paradigm apply globally across other countries. It first considers the major tenets of the “old” paradigm, which is to a large extent a reflection and affirmation of both the free market economic structure and the culture of individualism that have profoundly shaped the American ideology. It then introduces the new paradigm, which aims to stimulate a fundamental shift in how we conceptualize and act toward the problem of poverty, and some of its major themes: poverty results from structural failings; poverty is a conditional state in which individuals move in and out; poverty constitutes deprivation; poverty as injustice; the condition of poverty affects and undermines each one of us.
Jonathan H. Turner
Cladistic analysis is employed on behavioral and organizational patterns among present-day great apes that, because of their genetic closeness to humans, can be used as a surrogate for making inferences about the behavior and organizational propensities of the last common ancestor to great apes, hominins, and humans. A series of preadaptations among great apes for language, emotionality, mother–infant bonding, life history characteristics, propensities for play, and nonharem/promiscuous mating represents one source of information on the nature of the last common ancestor. Moreover, a set of behavioral propensities among all great apes adds to the body of information that can be used to make inferences about the nature of the last common ancestors, hominins, and humans. Thus, it is now possible to make inferences about the biological nature of human behavior and organizational tendencies that are less speculative than earlier analyses of human nature.
During its emergence as a new academic discipline in the late 19th century, sociology was influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. By the mid-20th century, however, biological thinking in general and evolutionary theory in particular had waned in influence in American sociology. This began to change during the last quarter of the 20th century—a development due in large part to the work of Edward O. Wilson, a prominent biologist and one of the founders of sociobiology. By the dawn of the 21st century, evolutionary thinking had again gained a foothold in the social sciences, including sociology. However, full consilience between evolutionary biology and sociology has not yet been achieved. This chapter reviews issues in terms of which evolutionary biology and sociology converge in some instances and diverge in others. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the prospects for the development of a robust evolutionary sociology.
Stephen K. Sanderson
The first sociobiologist was not Edward O. Wilson but, rather, the Finnish sociologist Edward Westermarck. Far ahead of his time, at the turn of the 20th century, Westermarck presented Darwinian natural selectionist theories of numerous social phenomena, especially marriage and family practices across a wide range of societies and the evolution of moral emotions. Westermarck was revered in his time, and yet despite his brilliance and extraordinary erudition, by the 1930s he was almost completely forgotten outside of Finnish sociology due to the rising tide of social environmentalism and determinism that was inhospitable to biological explanations of human behavior. However, with the revival of Darwinian thinking in the social sciences in the past four decades, Westermarck deserves to be rehabilitated. In sociology, he needs to be considered one of the great founding fathers of that discipline even by those who may not be receptive to Darwinism.
Genuinely evolutionary explanations of human social behavior are only dimly grasped by most social scientists. However, with increasing frequency, such approaches are yielding remarkable insights. In view of these considerations, this chapter isolates and briefly reviews the core principles of the evolutionary behavioral sciences. Specifically, attention focuses on the theory of kin selection, the maximization principle, the theory of reciprocity, and the theory of relative parental investment. These theoretical tools have been demonstrated to be extraordinarily productive in explaining various aspects of animal, including human, social behavior. Still, many social scientists continue to misconstrue or misrepresent the basics of evolutionary behavioral science. The chapter addresses some of the more common misunderstandings and, in the process, emphasizes the manner in which the social sciences may benefit from developing more explicit logical linkages with the fundamental principles of evolutionary biology.
Rosemary L. Hopcroft
This chapter provides an overview of The Oxford Handbook of Evolution, Biology, and Society. Chapters in the first part of this book address the history of the use of method and theory from biology in the social sciences; the second part includes chapters on evolutionary approaches to social psychology; the third part includes chapters describing research on the interaction of genes (and other biochemicals such as hormones) and environmental contexts on a variety of outcomes of sociological interest; and the fourth part includes chapters that apply evolutionary theory to areas of traditional concern to sociologists—including the family, fertility, sex and gender, religion, crime, and race and ethnic relations. The last part of the book presents two chapters on cultural evolution.
Reward Allowances and Contrast Effects in Social Evolution: A Challenge to Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity
Our evolutionary heritage of different reward allowances for different interests leaves us very responsive to social creations offering certain types of contrast effects. Zygmunt Bauman’s model of liquid modernity and its impact on more “solid” traditional cultures are examined in terms of changes in the use of these reward allowances on a mass scale as social structures offering the contrast impact of serial novelty are substituted for structures rooted in fixed high contrasts. From this perspective, liquid modernity may have a much deeper and lasting appeal than Bauman and other postmodern critics wish to be the case. Serial novelty is part of a pattern of social evolution rooted in our biological heritage of reward allowances and contrast effects.
Satoshi Kanazawa and Norman P. Li
This chapter describes the savanna theory of happiness, which posits that it may not be only the consequences of a given situation in the current environment that affect individuals’ happiness but also what its consequences would have been in the ancestral environment. The theory further suggests that the effect of such ancestral consequences on happiness is stronger among less intelligent individuals than among more intelligent individuals. Consistent with the theory, being an ethnic minority, living in urban areas, and socializing with friends less frequently all reduce happiness, but the effects of these conditions are significantly stronger among less intelligent individuals than among more intelligent individuals. The theory can further explain why some individuals suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and why women’s level of happiness has steadily declined in the United States in the past half-century.
Douglas A. Marshall
Sociology’s attitude toward biology has varied greatly during the course of their relationship. Initial infatuation gave way to disillusionment and estrangement, followed, in turn, by hotly contested attempts at reconciliation and reunion. This chapter fleshes out the trajectory of their alliance with a brief and not-unopinionated history of sociology’s relationship to biology in hopes of rendering the story coherent and memorable, of gleaning what insights it offers about the obstacles and virtues of their relationship, and of forecasting the future of their association. Based on recent developments within both sociology and biology, and, more importantly, in light of their essential unity, the chapter concludes that their future is bright indeed.
Rosemary L. Hopcroft
Sociology has long been dominated by descriptive studies of social phenomenon, and theory in sociology has been characterized by myriad small theories of limited scope. Incorporation of method and theory from biology can change that. Theory from evolutionary biology has the potential to unify much sociological theory and become the central paradigm of sociology, much as it has unified biology, and to unify all the disparate threads of the current discipline of sociology into a fully fledged science. This chapter explains why sociologists should be doing more research that incorporates biology and biological theory into sociology. Although disentangling the social and biological is difficult because of the complex interactions between them, the fact that the interactions exist is indisputable, and sociology can benefit from examining them.