The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

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Princeton University Press, 2004 - Business & Economics - 304 pages
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"No one, economist or civilian, could turn the pages of this book without spotting, time and again, some unexpected and arresting idea that really wants to be thought about. Paul Seabright takes the evolutionary point of view seriously and asks how human institutions make social life possible at all, especially when the many people on whom we depend for our subsistence are strangers. From biology to banking, it is a lively landscape."--Robert M. Solow, Institute Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences

"For too long, economists have been talking only to each other. Paul Seabright's achievement is to locate economics firmly in the mainstream of modern intellectual life, and to do so with style and verve."--John Kay, author of "The Truth about Markets," columnist for the "Financial Times"

""The Company of Strangers" is a gem--an undiluted delight to read. It addresses some of the most central problems of social science with compelling arguments, lightly worn rigor and erudition, and utterly jargon-free language. Seabright has an amazing eye for the telling detail, whether drawn from fiction, biology, social science or current news. I can think of no better introduction to the problem of social order-how is it possible?"--Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science, Columbia University, author of "Alchemies of the Mind" and "Ulysses and the Sirens"

"The division of labor among strangers is humankind's most momentous invention, on which all modern society depends. Yet since Adam Smith pointed this out in 1776, the question of how such relations between strangers are possible has continued to puzzle us. Now Paul Seabright deepens, adjusts, and extends the idea in the light of what we now know from psychology, genetics, and economics about human motives. Drawing on an extraordinary breadth of study, he explains how, unique among species, we found ourselves with a nature that equipped us to build this division of labor and so come to treat strangers as honorary friends."--Matt Ridley, author of "Nature Via Nurture" and "The Origins of Virtue"

"Fascinating. If you really want to understand who we are today, and how we make a living, read "The Company of Strangers" to learn how, some 200, 500, even 140,000 years ago, we grew and evolved--in rather amazing ways."--Shlomo Maital, author of "Executive Economics: Ten Essential Tools for Managers"

"This is a wonderful book, very well written and accessible to a wide audience."--Diane Coyle, author of "Paradoxes of Prosperity" and "Sex and Drugs and Economics"


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jaygheiser - LibraryThing

Very interesting book about trust, how unnatural it is for human beings, and how modern society is made possible through trust. Read full review


Whos In Charge?
Prologue to Part II
From Murderous Apes to Honorary Friends How Is Human Cooperation Possible?
Man and the Risks of Nature
Murder Reciprocity and Trust
Money and Human Relationships
Honor among Thieves Hoarding and Stealing
Professionalism and Fulfilment in Work and War
Families and Firms
Knowledge and Symbolism
Exclusion Unemployment Poverty and Illness
Epilogue to Part III
Prologue to Part IV
Collective Action From Belligerent States to a Marketplace of Nations
States and Empires
Globalization and Political Action

Epilogue to Parts I and II
Prologue to Part III
Unintended Consequences From Family Bands to Industrial Cities
The City from Ancient Athens to Modern Manhattan
Water Commodity or Social Institution?
Prices for Everything?
How Fragile is the Great Experiment?

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About the author (2004)

Paul Seabright is the author of "The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life" (Princeton). He is professor of economics at the Toulouse School of Economics and has been a fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, and Churchill College, University of Cambridge.

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