The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

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Princeton University Press, 2005 - Business & Economics - 304 pages
5 Reviews

Human beings are the only species in nature to have developed an elaborate division of labor between strangers. Even something as simple as buying a shirt depends on an astonishing web of interaction and organization that spans the world. But unlike that other uniquely human attribute, language, our ability to cooperate with strangers did not evolve gradually through our prehistory. Only 10,000 years ago--a blink of an eye in evolutionary time--humans hunted in bands, were intensely suspicious of strangers, and fought those whom they could not flee. Yet since the dawn of agriculture we have refined the division of labor to the point where, today, we live and work amid strangers and depend upon millions more. Every time we travel by rail or air we entrust our lives to individuals we do not know. What institutions have made this possible?

In The Company of Strangers, Paul Seabright provides an original evolutionary and sociological account of the emergence of those economic institutions that manage not only markets but also the world's myriad other affairs.

Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, history, psychology, and literature, Seabright explores how our evolved ability of abstract reasoning has allowed institutions like money, markets, and cities to provide the foundation of social trust. But how long can the networks of modern life survive when we are exposed as never before to risks originating in distant parts of the globe? This lively narrative shows us the remarkable strangeness, and fragility, of our everyday lives.

  

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Review: The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

User Review  - Fritz- Fritzson - Goodreads

In this book, Paul Seabright (a professor of economics) discusses a wide range of topics including how we have tamed our violent instincts, how human social emotions evolved, and the rise (and ... Read full review

Review: The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

User Review  - Ricardo R.cepeda - Goodreads

An excellent book!! itīsa must read for everyone interested in the dynamic of the relationship between our apparently simple life and the rest of society. As spicies, our success is completely due to ... Read full review

Contents

Whos In Charge?
13
Prologue to Part II
27
From Murderous Apes to Honorary Friends How Is Human Cooperation Possible?
29
Man and the Risks of Nature
31
Murder Reciprocity and Trust
48
Money and Human Relationships
67
Honor among Thieves Hoarding and Stealing
78
Professionalism and Fulfilment in Work and War
87
Families and Firms
153
Knowledge and Symbolism
174
Exclusion Unemployment Poverty and Illness
190
Epilogue to Part III
209
Prologue to Part IV
211
Collective Action From Belligerent States to a Marketplace of Nations
215
States and Empires
217
Globalization and Political Action
233

Epilogue to Parts I and II
99
Prologue to Part III
103
Unintended Consequences From Family Bands to Industrial Cities
107
The City from Ancient Athens to Modern Manhattan
109
Water Commodity or Social Institution?
123
Prices for Everything?
137
How Fragile Is the Great Experiment?
245
Notes
259
Bibliography
279
Index
295
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Paul Seabright is Professor of Economics at the University of Toulouse, France. Formerly a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and of Churchill College, Cambridge, he is a contributor to the "London Review of Books".

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