Is Liberal Society a Parasite on Tradition?



Samuel Bowles, PhD., Sante Fe Institute

Date and Time

November 5, 2010 1:15 PM - 3:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Encina Ground Floor Conference Room

FSI Contact

Kathleen Barcos

SAMUEL BOWLES, (PhD, Economics, Harvard University) is Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program. He is also Professor of Economics at the University of Siena. He taught economics at Harvard from 1965 to 1973 and at the University of Massachusetts, where he is now emeritus professor. His recent studies on cultural and genetic evolution have challenged the conventional economic assumption that people are motivated entirely by self-interest. These have included the mathematical modeling and agent-based computer simulations of the evolution of altruistic behaviors and behavioral experiments in 15 hunter-gather and other small-scale societies. Recent papers have also explored how organizations, communities and nations could be better governed in light of the fact that altruistic and ethical motives are common in most populations. Bowles' current research also includes theoretical and empirical studies of political hierarchy and wealth inequality and their evolution over the very long run. 

His scholarly papers have appeared in Science, Nature, American Economic Review,Theoretical Population Biology, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Journal of PoliticalEconomy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Behavioral and Brain Science, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Journal of Public Economics, Theoretical Primatology, Proceedings of the National Academy (USA), Harvard Business Review, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, and the Economic Journal. 

His recent books include Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution(Princeton University Press, 2004), Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: the Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (MIT Press, 2005), Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success (Princeton 2004), Poverty Traps (Princeton 2006), Inequality, Cooperation and Environmental Sustainability (Princeton 2005), Globalization and Egalitarian Redistribution (Princeton, 2006), Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence in 15 Small-scale Societies. (Oxford University Press. 2004) and Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command and Change (Oxford 2004). 

He has also served as an economic advisor to the governments of Cuba, South Africaand Greece, to presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, to the Congress of South African Trade Unions and to South African President Nelson Mandela.

His next major work, A Cooperative Species: Human reciprocity and its evolution,co-authored with Herbert Gintis, will be published in 2011. Drawing on their recentresearch on cultural and genetic evolution and his empirical studies of behavior in smallscale societies, this work will explain why humans, unlike other animals, engage incooperation among large numbers of people beyond the immediate family. His CastleLectures at Yale University, Machiavelli's Mistake: Why good laws are no substitute forgood citizens, will be published in 2011 by Yale University press.