Cranfield School of Management
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L.Markoczy@cranfield.ac.uk - Jeff Goldberg
Cranfield Computer Center
In reviewing Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue we do five things: (1) Discuss and challenge the basic assumptions of the Standard Social Sciences Model which permeates management scholarship. (2) We present some alternatives to this model, particularly Evolutionary Psychology. (3) We look at how these alternatives provide a framework for understanding cooperation; (4) We enumerate some of the difficulties (both real and imaginary) with Evolutionary Psychology. (5) Finally, we suggest that management scholars work more closely with scholars from the many other disciplines that are developing solid theories of cooperation.
Throughout the 20th century, one general model of human societies and cultures has come to dominate the way scholars in America--including management scholars--have come to think. This model is so pervasive and dominant and alternatives have so rarely and meekly been considered that the adherents of the model (which has lately been dubbed the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM)) have not explicitly recognized that they all adhere to any model at all.
In this essay we look at Matt Ridley's new book, The Origins of Virtue ([Ridley1996]), to see how one alternative to the SSSM, evolutionary psychology (EP), can help us to get a better understanding of why people cooperate with other people, and why by doing so we can achieve so much. Although Ridley builds on EP, he does not spend much time arguing explicitly against the SSSM in detail. For the most part he assumes that his reader will suspend belief in the SSSM long enough to see the pay-off. The SSSM has been given an extremely thorough going over by [Tooby and Cosmides1992] who analyze its history, motives (always well meaning) and deep and ultimate failures. Among others who have made explicit challenges to the SSSM are the anthropologist Donald Brown ([Brown1991]), the linguist Steven Pinker ([Pinker1994]), Matt Ridley in his previous book [Ridley1993], and the anthropologist/philosopher Dan Sperber ([Sperber1996]). All of these tend to cite each other and present various portions of the case against the SSSM (as we do below). Any scholar seriously interested either in challenging the SSSM or defending it against a challenge should read [Tooby and Cosmides1992]. Ridley's book demonstrates some of the value of rejecting the SSSM, and despite its extremely useful and pertinent view of human cooperative behavior, its challenge to the SSSM may be its most important feature for management scholars. Because we cannot expect that you will rush out this instant and read [Tooby and Cosmides1992], we briefly present our own take on the SSSM below.