Was Hayek Right about Group Selection After All? Review Essay of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior by Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson
- Author(s): Todd Zywicki
- Date Posted: 2000
- Law & Economics #: 00-03
- Availability: Full text (most recent) on SSRN
One of the most controversial aspects of Hayek's social theory was his acceptance of the concept of cultural group selection. The publication of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior provides an opportunity to revisit this much-maligned component of Hayek's thought. Sober and Wilson are concerned with biological group selection, but much of their argument is equally applicable to cultural group selection. This essay revisits Hayek's views on cultural group selection in light of the model proposed by Sober and Wilson. Comparing their model to Hayek's model suggests that group selection theories are more plausible than traditionally thought and that their viability in any given situation is an empirical, not an a priori, question. So long as there are benefits to a group from greater levels of altruism and cooperation, and so long as free rider problems can be mitigated, group selection models are plausible.