Injustice, inequality and Evolutionary Psychology
Bruce G Charlton; 1997
As biological knowledge of "human nature" continues to grow, political theory and public policy will increasingly need to take account of Evolutionary Psychology in order effectively to pursue its goals. This essay stands as an example. Socio-economic differentials are perceived to be unjust, but the reason for this is not obvious given the ubiquity of stratification. It is suggested that "the injustice of inequality" has an basis in social instincts that evolved to promote co-operation in small-scale, egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies with immediate-return economies. Modern Homo sapiens has been "designed" by natural selection to live in such societies, and has "counter-dominance" instincts that are gratified by equal sharing of resources and an equal distribution of resources. However, there are also phylogenetically older "dominance" social instincts (status-seeking, nepotism, mutual reciprocity) deriving from pre-hominid ancestors, and these tend to create inequality under "modern" conditions of economic surplus. Therefore human instincts and gratifications are intrinsically in conflict under contemporary conditions. The radical implications of this analysis are explored. These include support for a Berlin-esque view of politics as an endemic negotiation of irreducibly plural values; a clarification of the deficiencies of right- and left-wing political theory; and a rationale for politics to concentrate primarily on the "micro-level" psychology of subjective gratification of individuals in their local context, rather than the conventional emphasis upon macro-level policies based on abstract statistical analysis of aggregated population variables.