Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 1, 2011 - Political Science - 264 pages
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Charles Darwin changed the course of scientific thinking by showing how evolution accounts for the stunning diversity and biological complexity of life on earth. Recently, there has also been increased interest in the social sciences in how Darwinian theory can explain human culture. Covering a wide range of topics, including fads, public policy, the spread of religion, and herd behavior in markets, Alex Mesoudi shows that human culture is itself an evolutionary process that exhibits the key Darwinian mechanisms of variation, competition, and inheritance. This cross-disciplinary volume focuses on the ways cultural phenomena can be studied scientifically—from theoretical modeling to lab experiments, archaeological fieldwork to ethnographic studies—and shows how apparently disparate methods can complement one another to the mutual benefit of the various social science disciplines. Along the way, the book reveals how new insights arise from looking at culture from an evolutionary angle. Cultural Evolution provides a thought-provoking argument that Darwinian evolutionary theory can both unify different branches of inquiry and enhance understanding of human behavior.

  

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Review: Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences

User Review  - Paul - Goodreads

Not super gripping, but since I do this stuff, I found it a really good overview on the state of the field. Also, there is no greater cheerleader for the field of cultural evolution than Mesoudi, and it's nice to feel his enthusiasm. Read full review

Contents

1 A Cultural Species
1
2 Cultural Evolution
25
3 Cultural Microevolution
55
Archaeology and Anthropology
85
Language and History
111
6 Evolutionary Experiments
135
7 Evolutionary Ethnography
161
8 Evolutionary Economics
177
9 Culture in Nonhuman Species
189
10 Toward an Evolutionary Synthesis for the Social Sciences
205
Notes
221
Works Cited
239
Index
257
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About the author (2011)

 Alex Mesoudi is a lecturer in psychology at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author or coauthor of articles in such leading journals as Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Evolution, and Psychological Review.


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