After the Santa Fe Reporter profile piece on Samuel Bowles was published, many economics bloggers have linked to the article which focuses on the work of Samuel Bowles, UMass Amherst professor emeritus and Arjun Jayadev ’01 MA and ’05 Ph.D.
A recent Santa Fe Reporter article, Born Poor? Santa Fe economist Samuel Bowles says you better get used to it, profiles UMass Amherst economics professor emeritus, Samuel Bowles. His ideas, sometimes described as radical, are gaining momentum in light of the current state of the economy. The implication of Bowles’ basic ideas is that New Mexico and the United States will continue to fall behind until they learn to share the wealth.
“Sam Bowles is somebody who straddles the boundary. He maintains the idea that there should be radical redistribution—that the current system is a terrible system in a variety of ways—but he’s also somebody who believes the methodological tools of economics have some real value,” GWU’s Farrell says. “I think what he’s doing is very smart. And it actually has some promise for a future, coherent research agenda.”
Professor Emeritus Samuel Bowles, whose continued close ties with the department include teaching his graduate course on competition, coordination, cooperation and conflict, has recently published an important article in the journal Science. “Did Warfare Among Ancestral Hunter-Gatherers Affect the Evolution of Human Social Behaviors?” asks whether between-group conflict between tribes of early humans may have rewarded substantial within-group cooperation.
Much of the coverage included a riff on “War, What’s It Good For?” Here’s a more serious excerpt from the Wired report,
According to his analysis of archaeological evidence from Stone Age sites and and ethnographic studies of remaining tribes, combat between groups accounted for about 14 percent of all deaths in hunter-gatherer societies. Composed of a few dozen people with no social institutions, such groups were the dominant community form for most of human history.
“These were not modern societies. As with chimpanzees going out on patrol, there was no leadership. You could stay home if you wanted,” said Bowles.
After estimating the rate that altruism would reduce an individual’s chances of reproducing, Bowles plugged the numbers into a model of intergroup competition where an individual’s altruism would also improve a group’s chances of combat triumph. Groups with selfless individuals eventually predominated, and altruism predominated within those groups.
In addition to Emeritus status at UMass, Sam Bowles is Professor at the Santa Fe Institute and the University of Siena.
In a panel discussion entitled “History of the UMass Economics Department and the Future of Radical Economics,” Professors Donald Katzner and Stephen Resnick and Professor Emeritus Samuel Bowles mixed personal reminiscence and economic analysis to describe the department’s trajectory over the past 40 years. UMass has broken important ground, but challenges remain for the next generation of UMass-trained economists.