Strategies of Females Are Central To Models of Human Origins

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(from the critique of Graeber & Wengrow's The Dawn of Everything)

Camilla Power:

"The strategies of females have now become central to models of human origins. Forget ‘man the hunter’, it’s hardworking grandmothers, babysitting apes, children with more than one daddy, who are the new Darwinian heroes. Man the mighty hunter comes as a late afterthought. And these are not just lean-in alpha females we are talking about, this involves collectivity in increasingly complex female coalitions, with the idea that the ‘social brain is for females’ extrapolated from primate studies.

The leading problem in sociobiology today, says evolutionary economist Herbert Gintis, ‘is explaining why we have such prosocial emotions’. The outstanding Darwinian feminist Sarah Hrdy cites this at the start of her Mothers and Others, the most important book on human evolution written this century. In political meetings, David Graeber argues that capitalism preys upon and parasitizes our instincts for cooperation. Without those instincts to help each other with our problems, it would simply collapse. I agree with him completely.

But isn’t Graeber interested in how we got such instincts? In a Darwinian world, they don’t come for free. None of our great ape relatives comes close. We regularly do something that no other complex social mammal does. We cooperate with strangers, people we’ve never seen before and will never see again. This is normal for both egalitarian hunter-gatherers and for people on the tube in London. So what made us, one of the African great apes, so different from the others?"