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The Biological Nature of the State

Roger D. Masters
World Politics
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Jan., 1983), pp. 161-193
DOI: 10.2307/2010269
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2010269
Page Count: 33
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The Biological Nature of the State
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Abstract

The origin of the state, long at the center of political science, can be greatly illuminated by the contemporary approach in evolutionary biology known as "inclusive fitness theory." Natural selection is now analyzed using cost-benefit models akin to rational actor models in economics, game theory, and collective choice theory. The utility of integrating these approaches is illustrated by using the Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons to outline a general model for the evolution of political and legal institutions. This perspective also shows how traditional political philosophers explored "archetypical" problems that are easily translated into scientific terminology. It is thus possible to link biology to the study of human behavior in a nonreductionist manner, thereby generating new empirical hypotheses concerning the environmental correlates of social norms. Ultimately, such a unification of the natural and social sciences points to a return to the classical view that law and justice are not matters of pure convention, but rather are grounded on what is right "according to nature."

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