Evolution of Cooperation - Haskell

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We are summarizing the view of Edward Haskell on the evolution of cooperation.


Here is an explanation from our Foundational Essay:

Edward Haskell on the Evolution of Cooperation:

Using Edward Haskell’s triune categorization of human cooperation (adversarial, neutral, synergetic, Haskell, 1972): It was a win-lose game, which inevitably led to the monopolization of power (either in land and military forces in precapitalist formations, or in the commercial sphere, as in capitalism). Tribute was exacted from losers in a battle (or freely offered by the weak seeking protection), labor and produce from slaves and serfs. In forced, adversarial cooperation, in this win-loose game, cooperative surplus is less than optimal, it is in fact negative: 1 + 1 is less than two. Productivity and motivation are relatively low. Nevertheless, the ability to commandeer and organize vast resources, and a further division of labor, increased the productivity of such societies, as compared with the tribal economies, and they could sustain a class society with a vast army of warriors and spiritual leaders. But the competitive game was not geared on increasing the productivity of existing resources, but on the control of a bigger scope of resources, i.e. land and people, through military conquest.

In capitalist society, neutral cooperation is introduced. In theory, free workers exchange their labor for a fair salary and producers and consumers exchange products for a ‘fair’ amount of money. In neutral cooperation, the result of the cooperation is average. Participants give just their money’s worth. Neither participant in a neutral exchange gets better, 1 plus 1 equals 2. We can interpret this negatively or positively. Negatively, capitalist theory is rarely matched in practice, where fair exchange is always predicated on monopolization and power relationships, not in the form of direct coercion (except in the phase of 'primitive accumulation' of capital, in the 16th and 17th century, where coerced power was still very prevalent). The situation is therefore much darker, more adversarial and less neutral, than the theory would suggest. Nevertheless, compared to the earlier feudal models, marked by constant warfare, the monopoly of violence exercised by the capitalist state model, limits internal armed conflicts, and adversarial relationships are relegated to the sphere of commerce, or 'externalized'.

The system has proven very productive, and coupled with the distributive nature of the welfare state which was imposed on it, has dramatically expanded living standards in certain areas of the world. Seen in the most positive light, a positive feedback loop may be created in which both partners feel they are winning, thus it can sometimes be seen as a win-win model. But what it cannot do, due to its inherent competitive nature, is transform itself into a win-win-win model (or in the formulation of Timothy Wilken of synearth.net, a win-win-win-win model, with the biosphere as fourth partner). A capitalist relationship cannot freely care for the wider environment, only forced to care. (This is the rationale for regulation, as self-regulation generally proves even more unsatisfactory in terms of the general interest of the wider public and the survival of the biosphere)

Here peer to peer can be again defined as a clear evolutionary breakthrough. It is based on free cooperation. Parties to the process all get better from it: In Wilken's formulation: 1 plus 1 gives a lot more than 2. By definition, peer to peer processes are mobilized for common projects that are of greater use value to the wider community (since monetized exchange value falls away). True and authentic P2P therefore logically transforms into a win-win-win model, whereby not only the parties gain, but the wider community and social field as well. It is, in Edward Haskell’s definition, a true synergetic cooperation. It is very important to see the ‘energetic’ effects of these different forms of cooperation, as I indicated above: 1) forced cooperation yields very low quality contributions; 2) the neutral cooperation format of the marketplace generates average quality contributions; 3) but freely given synergistic cooperation generates passion. Participants are automatically drawn to what they do best, at the moments at which they are most passionate and energetic about it. This is one of the fundamental reasons of the superior quality which is eventually, over time, created through open source projects.

More Resources

Here are some resources:

Haskell's ideas are very well summarized by Timothy Wilken, see especially chapter five, in http://www.synearth.net/UCS2-Science-Order.pdf ; http://www.synearth.net/Order/UCS2-Science-Order.html

The full text of the book of Haskell's book Full Circle, can be read at http://www.kheper.net/topics/Unified_Science/index.html ; other relevant texts are:

The evolution of humanity, at http://www.synearth.net/Haskell/FC/FCCh4.htm

The basics explained, at http://futurepositive.synearth.net/2002/07/02