chapter  5
20 Pages

The Social Construction of Cooperation: Egalitarian, Hierarchical, and Individualistic Faces of Altruism 1

Withwith Charles Lockhart

Hierarchists share with egalitarians a high-group position, but they are also high grid. Among the views arising from this difference is a belief in naturally flawed and unequal humans. So hierarchical social collectives are pecking orders of human differentiation. In contrast to egalitarianism, hierarchy does not deny inherent selfish motives in humans; rather, it seeks to overcome such motives by redeeming naturally flawed humans through social arrangements. The argument with respect to the individualistic perspective is apt to be approached with caution by contemporary American social theorists. This is due in part to the success of egalitarians in "authoritatively" defining altruism. In contrast to fatalism, individualism represents a familiar yet frequently falsely characterized approach to questions of human cooperation and altruism. Fatalists perceive nature as unpredictable and social relations among humans as capricious, so they lack faith in large-scale social interaction as a means for looking out for themselves.