Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation

Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation

by Lee Cronk, Beth L. Leech


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From the family to the workplace to the marketplace, every facet of our lives is shaped by cooperative interactions. Yet everywhere we look, we are confronted by proof of how difficult cooperation can be—snarled traffic, polarized politics, overexploited resources, social problems that go ignored. The benefits to oneself of a free ride on the efforts of others mean that collective goals often are not met. But compared to most other species, people actually cooperate a great deal. Why is this?

Meeting at Grand Central brings together insights from evolutionary biology, political science, economics, anthropology, and other fields to explain how the interactions between our evolved selves and the institutional structures we have created make cooperation possible. The book begins with a look at the ideas of Mancur Olson and George Williams, who shifted the question of why cooperation happens from an emphasis on group benefits to individual costs. It then explores how these ideas have influenced our thinking about cooperation, coordination, and collective action. The book persuasively argues that cooperation and its failures are best explained by evolutionary and social theories working together. Selection sometimes favors cooperative tendencies, while institutions, norms, and incentives encourage and make possible actual cooperation.

Meeting at Grand Central will inspire researchers from different disciplines and intellectual traditions to share ideas and advance our understanding of cooperative behavior in a world that is more complex than ever before.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691166599
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 06/23/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Lee Cronk is professor of anthropology at Rutgers University. He is the author of That Complex Whole: Culture and the Evolution of Human Behavior. Beth L. Leech is associate professor of political science at Rutgers University. She is the coauthor of Basic Interests: The Importance of Groups in Politics and in Political Science (Princeton).

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1 Cooperation, Coordination, and Collective Action 1

  • Box 1.1
  • Experimental Economic Games 15

Chapter 2 Adaptation: A Special and Onerous Concept 18

Chapter 3 The Logic of Logic, and Beyond 47
  • Box 3.1
  • Types of Groups 49
  • Box 3.2
  • Types of Goods 53

Chapter 4 Cooperation and the Individual 72
  • Box 4.1
  • The Reciprocity Bandwagon 75
  • Box 4.2
  • The Prisoner's Dilemma Game 79

Chapter 5 Cooperation and Organizations 101

Chapter 6 Meeting at Penn Station:
Coordination Problems and Cooperation 124
  • Box 6.1
  • Coordination Games 150

Chapter 7 Cooperation Emergent 151

Chapter 8 Meeting at Grand Central 169

Notes 189

References 207

Index 23

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Cronk and Leech argue for greater cross-fertilization between evolutionary biology and the social sciences in the study of cooperation, coordination, and the provision of collective goods. Meeting at Grand Central has the potential to serve as a catalyst that helps bring such interdisciplinary work into the mainstream."—Amy R. Poteete, coauthor of Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice

"An evolutionary psychologist and a political scientist somehow accomplish the spectacular feat of explaining human cooperation by delineating diverse accounts of the roadblocks to it. Cronk and Leech persuasively argue that cooperation is based in complicated emergent institutions surrounding indirect reciprocity but also in basic individual biological and evolutionary realities. They are a great team."—John R. Hibbing, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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