This talk develops a theoretical approach to the origin and spread of complex stateless societies known broadly as evolutionary game theory. Evolutionary game theory applies the principles of economic game theory to evolutionary questions. When dealing with cultural evolution, we understand this to be a type of collective action problem. Central to collective action theory is the issue of cooperation-how do non-related people develop sustainable norms of cooperation? The key to the social organization of complex stateless societies, as distinct from simple ones, is that they effectively deal with the “free-rider” problem inherent in groups made up of non-related people. This talk addresses this question in societies without mechanisms of coercion, including policing power, markets, classes, governments and the like. As such, a model that can successfully address this issue is useful for understanding the origin and spread of complex society in the archaeological record.


Charles Stanish

Synthesis of Ecology, Biology and Ethnographic Data e-session