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Coalitions and alliances in humans and other animals. Edited by Alexander Harcourt and Frans B.M. de Waal. New York Oxford University Press. 1992. x + 531 pp. ISBN 0-19-854273-9. $87 (cloth)

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ies, there are few novel criticisms and the
most recent research is not addressed, Although it may be true that no nonhuman
animal shows anything like full-blown human l a n g u a g e t h e conclusion Wallman
draws-the future of work in this area must
surely lie in describing the extent to which
human and nonhuman communication dif-
fer, and the mechanistic and adaptive reasons for such differences.
Edited by Alexander Harcourt and Frans B.M. de Waal. New York:
Oxford University Press. 1992. x + 531
pp. ISBN 0-19-854273-9. $87 (cloth).
vided into three sections. Editorial introductions provide a synopsis of the chapters in
each section and a review of the major
themes linking them. The chapters end with
summaries that permit the reader to identify material of greatest interest with ease.
The volume is heavily oriented toward cercopithecine monkeys and chimpanzees.
Chapters on two non-primate taxa (spotted
hyenas and bottlenose dolphins), human
groups, human children, international politics, and models of reciprocity provide comparative material and alternative perspectives.
The editors summarize their major
themes as the following: (1) How do cooperating individuals reap the benefits of their
cooperation? (2)Are complex cognitive abilities required or used in coalition formation?
(3) Under what environmental and social
conditions is it advantageous for individuals
to establish coalitions and alliances? (4)
How widespread are their effects on the nature of society? (p. 496).
Part I, “Coalitions, Alliances, and the
Structure of Society,”examines the relationship between individuals and societies. How
do coalitions and alliances influence social
structure and vice versa? The first three
chapters focus on macaques with matrilineal rink inheritance systems in which coalitions and alliances play a key role in shaping
social structure by influencing dominance
rank. Chapais (Chapter 2) provides experimental evidence demonstrating how alliances with kin and non-kin help determine
female rink inheritance. Datta (Chapter 3)
uses computer simulation models to show
that variation in demographic parameters
affects the availability of suitable female al-
Harcourt and de Waal compiled Coalitions and Alliances in Humans and Other
Animals to bring together different disciplines and levels of analysis used in studies
of cooperation and competition over the past
20 years. The volume represents a range of
proximate, developmental, functional, and
evolutionary approaches used to explain
why and how individuals or groups cooperate during conflicts. The editors hope to
stimulate interdisciplinary “cross-fertilization” by finding the common ground in the
approaches used by social scientists and zoologists.
Harcourt and de Waal are well known for
their studies of gorillas and chimpanzees,
respectively, and both have written extensively about animal coalitions and alliances.
They begin by pointing out “the profound
paradox (some would say irony) that cooperative tendencies are probably an evolutionary offshoot of competitive and aggressive
tendencies” (p. v). Coalitions, defined as “a
one-time cooperative action by at least two
individuals or units against at least one
other individual or unit,” and alliances, defined as “partnerships that form coalitions
on a regular basis” (p. vi), are set apart from
other forms of cooperation by their “us
against them” nature.
The volume contains 18 chapters by contributors from departments of anthropology,
biology, ethology, psychology, zoology, and
international relations. The volume is di-
Departments of Biological Anthropology
(M.D.H., J.H.J.) and Psychology (M.D.H.)
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts
lies for coalitions. Ehardt and Bernstein
(Chapter 4) compare conflict intervention
during intra-group aggression by male and
female cercopithecines. Rabbie’s contribution (Chapter 7) provides a different perspective by reviewing theories from social
psychology about the relationship between
in-group cohesion and inter-group competition in humans.
Part 11, “CooperativeStrategies in the ‘Political’ Arena,” focuses on the functions, motivations, and immediate payoffs underlying
cooperative behavior and intervention in
conflicts.Alliances are interpreted as a form
of altruism in bonnet macaques (Silk Chapter 81, reciprocal exchange in chimpanzees
(de Waal: Chapter 9), and selfish-altruism
in children (Grammer: Chapter 10). In contrast, Noe (Chapter 11) disputes the view
that reciprocal altruism and the prisoner’s
dilemma paradigm apply to alliances in
male savanna baboons. Falger (Chapter 12)
reviews similarities in international political alliances and animal coalitions.
Part 111, “Coalitions and Alliances: Evolutionary Considerations,” looks at evolutionary and developmental determinants of coalition formation. Van Hooff and van Schaik
(Chapter 13) attempt to develop a set of
principles about the relationships between
types of resource competition (i.e, scramble
vs. contest competition), alliance formation,
and social bonds in primates. Lee and
Johnson (Chapter 14)look at sex differences
in alliances and dominance relations in immature cercopithecine monkeys. Connor et
al. (Chapter 15) analyze coalitions in bottlenose dolphins: males cooperate in alliances
to aggressively herd apparent estrous females, and to “steal” and defend females
from other alliances.
Two chapters in the volume provide a
striking contrast in their approaches to analyzing coalition formation in animals. Zabel
et al. (Chapter 5) describe coalition formation in a colony of captive 2-year-old spotted
hyenas. This species, like some cercopithecine primates, exhibits a matrilineal rank
inheritance system. In the captive colony,
coalitions reinforced existing dominance relations: dominant individuals were more
likely to initiate and support group attacks
while subordinates were more likely to be
targets. Zabel et al. do not believe that hyenas use cognitively based assessments of
others’ relative ranks or of potential costs
and benefits during coalition formation.
Rather, they conclude that coalitions in hyenas and other social carnivores may reflect a
general tendency to exhibit socially facilitated and coordinated behavior (which
would be advantageous during cooperative
hunting). Hyenas may join attacks against
lower ranking individuals simply “to do
what other group members are doing” (p.
The weakness in Zabel et al.’s conclusions
is that they are based entirely on data from
a colony of juveniles in which the influence
of mothers, kin, adults, demographic variation, and environmental parameters was absent. Yet, these variables can have a strong
influence on dominance relations and coalition formation in cercopithecine primates
(see Chapters 1, 2, 14). The results of field
studies of dominance relations in free-living
spotted hyenas will be essential in evaluating the basis of hyena coalitions.
Zabel et al. minimize the role of cognition
in animal coalitions and suggest that “one
must be cautious about inferring complex
cognitive processes when simpler explanations will suffice” (p. 129). At the other extreme, Boehm (Chapter 6 ) views coalition
formation in chimpanzees as a “political process,” and uses theories from ethnology and
political anthropology to compare conflict
management and macro-coalition formation
in chimpanzees and adult men in patrilineal, non-literate, war-like societies. Both
groups live in male-bonded, xenophobic societies with “segmentary-tribal political systems.” While Boehm recognizes major interspecific differences (e.g., chimpanzees lack
moral control, language, technology, ideology), he suggests that male chimpanzees
and humans exhibit many homologous behaviors, such as forming fraternal interest
groups, stalking and killing conspecifics,
and patrolling.
Harcourt and de Waal are sensitive to the
resistance many social scientists have toward accepting biological explanations for
human behavior. A converse problem appears to arise in this volume. Many of the
contributions suggest that highly intelli-
gent, gregarious, group-living mammals use
the same kinds of strategies and processes,
including evaluating information about
companions and the potential costs and benefits of a situation, exhibited by humans
during coalition formation. Harcourt (Chapter 16) explores whether coalitions and alliances are more complex in primates than in
non-primates, and concludes that information-processing ability constrains the use of
cooperation as a competitive strategy among
vertebrates. The processes involved in animal and human coalitions seem most similar at the functional level, “the level of payoffs or consequences of action” (p. 495).
Universally, individuals cooperate for the
mutual advantages gained during intergroup competition. According to Harcourt,
primates are unique among vertebrates in
that they attempt to cultivate and compete
for powerful, “useful,” allies. Those who object to applying sociobiological explanations
to human behavior may protest the implication that there is biological basis to a primate ability to manipulate others.
Coalitions and alliances have been reported in less than 5% of primate species
(Chapter 16) and in only a few non-primate
taxa. Although coalitions and alliances are
“one of the most conspicuous and ubiquitous
types of cooperation observed in primate so-
cieties” (p. v), the volume pays little heed to
whether other group-living primates, such
as gorillas, arboreal old world monkeys, new
world monkeys, and diurnal lemurs, also exhibit this form of behavior. If not, it may be
that environmental constraints restrict the
use of coalitions in forest-living andlor arboreal species: low visibility might prevent individuals (or human observers) from detecting the often subtle visual clues used in
coalition formation. It is not clear whether
the volume’s bias toward chimpanzees,
macaques, and baboons indicates that relatively few other primates and non-primates
form coalitions and alliances or that there is
simply a paucity of detailed studies on this
phenomenon in other species,
This book makes a strong contribution to
the literature on mammalian social behavior. It should serve as an excellent resource
for primatologists, zoologists, and others engaged in research on animal cooperation
and competition. It also might be a useful
text for graduate seminars in zoology, physical anthropology, and some courses in social psychology and political science.
By Alec L. Panchen. New York:
Cambridge University Press. 1992.
xi + 403 pp. ISBN 0-521-30582-9. $80
into being if not for the human drive to classify. Panchen states:
This highly ambitious book attempts to
disentangle the complex historical web that
surrounds evolutionary theory and its relationship to methods of classification. The
author intends the book “to be one long logical argument” (p. 5 ) in which he seeks to
convince his audience that phylogeny is the
“explanans” of which natural classification
is the “explanandum.” In other words, Darwinian evolutionary theory with its ancillary premise of the inter-relatedness of all
living organisms would never have come
Madagascar Fauna Group
c/o Central Park Zoo
New York, New York
“the only way in which members of our species, Homo
supiens, can order their perceptions of the world and
the ideas to which they give rise is to produce a classification.”(p. 1)
Panchen may be right, but due to the poor
organization and often extraneous detail included in this book, the force of his argument was lost on this reader.
The book is organized into fourteen chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the intent and
scope of the book and conveniently includes
a brief preview of the subject and conclusions of each of the subsequent chapters.
Chapters 2 4 are primarily historical treatments and deal with the concepts of classifi-
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cloth, 531, alexander, 1992, university, coalition, alliance, isbn, waal, human, new, frank, 854273, harcourt, york, animals, edited, pres, oxford
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