Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology

TítolCooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology
Tipus de publicacióJournal Article
Any de publicació2017
AutorsMolina, JL, Lubbers, MJ, Valenzuela-García, H, Gómez-Mestres, S
JournalAnthropology Today
Start Page11
Date Published01/2017
ISSNprint ISSN 0268-540X - online ISSN 1467-8322

The emergence of cooperation and altruism in human societies has received ample academic attention from different disciplines, and is usually considered as an adaptive response to competition over scarce resources. In this article, we review the specific contribution that social anthropology has made to this field of research. We propose that social anthropology has contributed to this field through the description of the systems that have regulated both cooperation and competition in traditional societies: (1) hunter-gatherer societies, where generalized reciprocity dominated, (2) prestige economies, which includes exchange of valuables in specific spheres, primitive money, agonistic institutions in tribes, and last, (3) " moral economies " in peasant communities, where cooperation and competition coexist but never at the cost of putting at risk the reproduction of the community itself or of some of its members. The three systems share the basic mechanism of reciprocity that allow for the maintenance of equality, and large social networks in foraging societies, as well as the very language for regulating competition in unequal prestige or moral economies. This pervasive presence of reciprocity either as actual behaviour or as a moral norm reveals its basic role in the human evolution, and, likely, its co-evolution with ritual forms of social exchange.

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