The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life / Edition 1

The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life / Edition 1

by Paul Seabright
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691124523

ISBN-13: 9780691124520

Pub. Date: 07/18/2005

Publisher: Princeton University Press

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

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Overview

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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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691124520
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/18/2005
Edition description:
First Paperback Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

Foreword xi
Acknowledgments xv
Trust and Panic: Introduction to the Revised Edition 1

Part I: Tunnel Vision 15
Chapter 1: Who's in Charge? 17

Prologue to Part II 33
Part II: From Murderous Apes to Honorary Friends: How Is Human Cooperation Possible? 35
Chapter 2: Man and the Risks of Nature 37
Chapter 3: Our Violent Past 55
Chapter 4: How Have We Tamed Our Violent Instincts? 65
Chapter 5: How Did the Social Emotions Evolve? 80
Chapter 6: Money and Human Relationships 91
Chapter 7: Honor among Thieves: Hoarding and Stealing 106
Chapter 8: Honor among Bankers? What Caused the Financial Crisis? 116
Chapter 9: Professionalism and Fulfillment in Work and War 134
Epilogue to Parts I and II 147
Prologue to Part III 151

Part III: Unintended Consequences: From Family Bands to Industrial Cities 155
Chapter 10: The City, from Ancient Athens to Modern Manhattan 157
Chapter 11: Water: Commodity or Social Institution? 172
Chapter 12: Prices for Everything? 186
Chapter 13: Families and Firms 204
Chapter 14: Knowledge and Symbolism 226
Chapter 15: Exclusion: Unemployment, Poverty, and Illness 244
Epilogue to Part III 263
Prologue to Part IV 265

Part IV: Collective Action: From Belligerent States to a Marketplace of Nations 269
Chapter 16: States and Empires 271
Chapter 17: Globalization and Political Action 288
Chapter 18: Conclusion: How Fragile Is the Great Experiment? 302

Notes 317
References 343
Index 365

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