Department of Political Science, Rutgers University | 89 George Street | New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation
Lee Cronk and Beth L. Leech
Princeton University Press, 2013

"This is a wonderful book. Ambitious and beautifully written, it unites our understanding of cooperation across disciplinary divides -- especially evolutionary biology and social science -- and offers extremely useful comparisons of the various theories of cooperation from different fields, describing their origins, advocates, and controversies." -- Dominic Johnson, University of Edinburgh

From the family to the workplace to the marketplace, every facet of our lives is shaped by cooperative interactions. Yet everywhere we look, we are confronted by proof of how difficult cooperation can be -- snarled traffic, polarized politics, overexploited resources, social problems that go ignored. The benefits to oneself of a free ride on the efforts of others mean that collective goals often are not met. But compared to most other species, people actually cooperate a great deal. Why is this?

Meeting at Grand Central brings together insights from political science, economics, anthropology, evolutionary biology, and other fields to explain how the interactions between our evolved selves and the institutional structures we have created make cooperation possible. The book begins with a look at the ideas of Mancur Olson and George Williams, who shifted the question of why cooperation happens from an emphasis on group benefits to individual costs. It then explores how these ideas have influenced our thinking about cooperation, coordination, and collective action. The book persuasively argues that cooperation and its failures are best explained by evolutionary and social theories working together. Selection sometimes favors cooperative tendencies, while institutions, norms, and incentives encourage and make possible actual cooperation.

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Academic Reviews
      Journal of Politics, 76(3): (2014), by William J. Berger
      Journal of Anthropological Research, 70: 479-80 (2014), by James L. Boone
      Review of Austrian Economics, 27(1): (2014), by Richard E. Wagner
      International Journal of the Commons, 7(1): 232-33 (2013), by Giangiacomo Bravo
      Current Anthropology, 54(5): 648-49 (2013), by Daniel Hruschka
      Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, (2013) by Julia Schindler

Blog Posts:
      Voting Matters Even If Your Vote Doesn't: A Collective Action Dilemma, by Lee Cronk and Beth L. Leech, Princeton
      University Press blog, Nov. 5, 2012
      Of Ballots and Battles: Voting's Coordination Problem, by Lee Cronk and Beth L. Leech, Princeton University Press
      blog, Aug. 23, 2012