Darwinism, Dominance, and Democracy: The Biological Bases of Authoritarianism

Darwinism, Dominance, and Democracy: The Biological Bases of Authoritarianism

Darwinism, Dominance, and Democracy: The Biological Bases of Authoritarianism

Darwinism, Dominance, and Democracy: The Biological Bases of Authoritarianism

Synopsis

Somit and Peterson seek to explain an incontrovertible, though hardly welcome fact: throughout human history, the overwhelming majority of political societies have been characterized by the rule of the few over the many, by dominance and submission, by command and obedience. Evolutionary theory provides an important part of the explanation: humans have been subject to natural selection and one result is that the species tends to feature dominance hierarchies, obedience to authority, and indoctrinability as various means of maintaining social order. These evolution-based behavioral tendencies help to explain the success of authoritarianism and the relative lack of success of democracy over time.

Excerpt

Humans worldwide belong to one species, Homo sapiens, the
product of a particular evolutionary history.
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered, 1992

FROM ROUSSEAU TO REALITY

Few passages in political philosophy are better known than the opening sentences of Rousseau Social Contract. With characteristic confidence in his own judgment, he proclaims that "man is born free but is everywhere in chains. How did this come about? That I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That I believe I can explain."

Regrettably, Rousseau was wrong, dead wrong. We are not born free. On the contrary, we come into the world bearing the shackles of our evolutionary past. What can make this legitimate? That, alas, we do not know. How did this come about? That, we believe, we can now explain.

As 6,000 or so years of recorded history testify, from the emergence of the "state" to the present, the vast majority of mankind have lived under one form or another (the descriptive terms vary, the essence remains much the same) of authoritarian rule. Democracies have been notably rare; most have been endangered almost from the moment of their birth; most have been depressingly short-lived.

Why, to repeat, have authoritarian governments been so much the rule and democracies so much the exception? A variety of factors, varying from one country to another, have indubitably been operative. But taking the . . .

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