Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 41–66 | Cite as

Love, war and cultures: an institutional approach to human evolution



Love, war and culture have all played an important role in the evolution of human institutions and they have been characterized by complex relationships. War can select unselfish groups ready to sacrifice themselves for the love of their communities that they recognize to be culturally different from the others. At the same time, horizontal cultural differentiation cannot be taken for granted. Culture is the outcome of long evolutionary processes. It requires some human specific characteristics, including a large brain, that are likely to have been influenced by sexual selection and by the peculiar structure of human love affairs. Thus, if war may have generated love, also the reverse may be true: by favoring the development of human culture, love may have produced the conditions for war among culturally differentiated groups. In turn, war may have co-evolved with group solidarity only under the prevailing social arrangements of hunting and gathering economies. In general, human relations have been influenced by the prevailing features of the goods (private, public and positional) that have characterized production in different stages of history. They have been embedded in institutions involving very different levels of inequality, ranging from mostly egalitarian hunting and gathering societies to typically hierarchical agrarian societies and to wealth-differentiated industrial societies. The perspectives of the present-day knowledge-intensive economy can also be seen through the same institutional approach to human evolution. The different nature of contemporary production processes involves a new set of alternative possible arrangements that have different implications for social (in)equality and different capabilities to satisfy basic human needs.


Evolution Complementarities Human capabilities Knowledge 

JEL Classification

B200 N400 P510 J16 J13 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Central European UniversityBudapestHungary

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