The Biocultural Foundations of Socialism: Human Nature and Politics of the Future Open Access

Lizarzaburu, Jorge (Summer 2021)

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This dissertation examines the biocultural foundations of Western and non-Western socialism(s). Specifically, it argues that socialism (i.e., egalitarianism, absence of exploitative private property, ceilings for accumulation and floors for poverty) has been the most natural form of human socio-political organization throughout millennia. “Natural,” in this sense, means that it comes easily to humans by virtue of evolved, hence putatively natural capacities (e.g., cooperativeness, sociality, empathy, inequity aversion) that characterize our species. Tellingly, for at least 95 percent of their evolutionary history, humans have lived in egalitarian groups that successfully adopted practices such as common ownership and management of resources. In other words, long before industrial capitalism gave rise to protests articulated under the banner of socialism in the 19th century, non-Western societies had successfully enacted ideals that both liberal and socialist thinkers could only dream about (e.g., radical democracy, equality). Therefore, I suggest, notions about social and political equality cannot be ascribed only to Euro-American “enlightened” ideas and failed 20th century political experiments but have to be sought also within indigenous and non-Western philosophies and socio-political mechanisms and institutions. Admittedly, socialism’s naturalness does not entail that establishing an egalitarian society is an easy task in the modern world. Yet, the evolutionary success of socialism undercuts narratives that deem a society not characterized by rampant inequality either utopian or straightforwardly impossible.  

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction – Socialism and Human Nature. 1

Chapter One – A Biocultural View of Human Nature. 13

Nature and Natural 15

Dialectical Thinking and Scientific Methods. 24

Dialectical Cells and Dialectical Evolutionary Theory. 33

A Biocultural (Dialectical) Human Nature. 40

Chapter Two – Capitalism: Inhuman, Unnatural, Indefinable?. 53

Defining Capitalism.. 55

Capitalism Natural?. 73

Sociality. 93

Cooperation. 103

Fairness/Inequity Aversion. 109

Empathy. 113

Conclusion. 118

Chapter Three – Socialism: 200 years of history. 122

The Idea of Socialism.. 122

Social Democracy and Chinese Communism.. 153

The Other Side: “Third-world” Socialism(s) 160

Socialism: From Past to Future (Through the Past) 167

Chapter Four – Socialism: 170,000 years of Practice. 171

The Ju/’hoansi (!Kung San) 174

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) 189

The Inkas. 202

The Zapatistas. 217

Conclusion. 237

Chapter Five – WEIRD Minds, weird People, WEIRD Socialism.. 240

The Weirdest People. 242

WEIRD (Ideal) Socialism.. 248

Non-Ideal (WEIRD) Socialism: The Black Panther Party. 256

Conclusion – Why Socialism?. 277

References. 284


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