Darwin, Disasters & Prosociality, John Protevi


The talk discusses three concepts before ending on a question. 1) It begins with “disaster politics”: the difference between imagined individualist and violent responses (“necessitating” the securitization of relief efforts) and the reality of cooperative or “prosocial” behavior that sociologists have documented to be the overwhelmingly prevalent response to disasters. 2) The talk then moves to the biology (mirror neurons, empathy, sympathy) and evolution (altruism, kin selection, reciprocal aid, and so on) of prosocial behaviors and emotions. 3) The third topic is the claim that prevalent pre-State war was a selection pressure for group selection of prosocial behaviors and emotion, resulting in face-to-face in-group altruism. 4) The talk concludes by posing “The Spinoza Question”: why do people fight for their servitude, or, less melodramatically put, how do hierarchical systems maintain the loyalty of those at the bottom?


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