Evolution, systems of interdependence, and social values


  • This article was written while the author was a Visiting Professor at the University of Leuven, and subsequently at the University of Athens. Support for this activity was received from NSF (Grant BNS 8214500), the Fulbright Foundation, the Cattell Foundation, and a University Faculty Research Grant. Special thanks are due to Professor Daniel Katz for his succinct and cogent criticisms of the present paper. The author would also like to express his appreciation for the critical commentaries received from Professors Nuttin, Jr., VanAvermaet, Liebrand, and Griesinger, as well as from Evie McClintock, James Beggan, Judi Misale, Michael Platow, Lisa Sproat, and a reviewer wise in his/her knowledge of game theory.


Human social behavior is strongly conditioned by the interdependence relationships that actors, be they individuals or groups, share, as well as the outcomes or values they pursue for self and/or for interdependent others. The economist Kenneth Boulding (1978) has recently set forth a theory of human social behavior that considers the role of biological and cultural evolution in the development and functioning of three major systems of human interdependence. The present paper first briefly describes Boulding's theory in terms of his characterization of the evolution of threat, exchange, and integrative systems of relationship. Subsequently, social values are conceptually defined in terms of actors' preferences for differing distributions of resources for self and/or others. An evaluation is made of threat, exchange, and integrative systems, first in terms of the relative dominance of the particular values that are observed within particular interdependence systems, and second in regard to how cultural norms evolve to control the expression of values within each system. Then, the ways in which various social and behavioral scientists have conceptualized the structures and processes of interdependence are summarized. Finally, two examples are used to illustrate the kinds of issues that emerge when one considers the possible relationships that may obtain among evolution, systems of interdependence, and social values.