Handbook of Biology and Politics
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Handbook of Biology and Politics

Edited by Steven A. Peterson and Albert Somit

The study of biology and politics (or biopolitics) has gained considerable currency in recent years, as articles on the subject have appeared in mainstream journals and books on the subject have been well received. The literature has increased greatly since the 1960s and 1970s, when this specialization first made an appearance. This volume assesses the contributions of biology to political science. Chapters focus on general biological approaches to politics, biopolitical contributions to mainstream areas within political science, and linkages between biology and public policy. The volume provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to the subject.
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Chapter 5: The evolution of politics: a biological approach

Peter A. Corning


Much can be gained by viewing politics as a product of the evolutionary process. From the perspective of the growing body of theoretical and research literature in the biological sciences on the ‘progressive’ evolution of complex living systems over time, as well as the science of cybernetics (communications and control processes), politics in human societies represents a variation, and elaboration, on a major evolutionary theme. Political processes have played an indispensable functional role in goal-oriented cooperative systems at all ‘levels’ of biological organization. This view of politics is also consistent with a causal theory – known as the Synergism Hypothesis – which seeks to explain the rise of complexity in evolution over time and, equally important, the frequent examples of ‘devolution’ and dissolution. In addition to a brief explication of this theory, the evolution of political systems in humankind will be briefly described, from its possible origins among our remote australopithecine ancestors to the emergence of complex modern civilizations. Some observations about the future of politics will also be provided.

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