Cooperation Commons: Interdisciplinary study of cooperation and collective action.
An Evolutionary Theory of Commons Management
Summary of: An Evolutionary Theory of Commons Management
The ability of humans to organize collective action on a scale much larger than would be predicted by theories of egocentric rationality can be perhaps best explained in an evolutionary context by the slow and uncertain process (not necessarily leading to a desired end) of group selection on cultural variation (distinct from group selection based only on genetic kinship), facilitated by humans' special skills at imitation and teaching.
A good evolutionary theory of cooperation would account for important role of institutions and the large variation in institutions in different countries. Evolutionary theories address the origin of preferences issue that is missing from rational action explanations. Explanations that include influence of cultural evolution on decisions regarding cooperation have multiple payoffs. These models can begin to answer questions about the long time-scale process of human cooperation (the rise of capitalist economies of the past 500 years, the rise of complex societies and agriculture of the past 10 millennia). Culture and institutions are a form of inheritance, subject to a process of selection influenced by and simultaneously influencing gene selection, and in both processes the time to reach any equilibria runs into the scale of millennia. Evolutionary theories are always systemic, integrating all changes happens from the scope of the biological to the ecological and social. Rapid cultural change and large variation among groups occur "whenever multiple stable social equilibria exist, due to conformist social learning, symbolically marked boundaries, or moralistic enforcement of norms."
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