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The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life (英語) ハードカバー – 2004/3/1

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A brilliant book. -- Martin Wolf Financial Times A very unusual new book about economics, and much else besides... Elaborate co-operation outside the family, but within the same species, is confined to humans. The requirements for such co-operation, and hence for modern economic life, which is founded on specialization and an infinitely elaborated division of labor, are more demanding than you might suppose... The fact that things could have turned out so differently makes the modern global economy, with all its awesome productivity, seem even more miraculous. The Economist A welcome and important contribution... The Company of Strangers exemplifies a new breed of economic analysis, seeking answers to fundamental questions wherever they are found and ignoring disciplinary boundaries... [It] is highly readable and will be accessible to a wide audience. bert Gintis," Nature In his absorbing book, Seabright ... marvels at how easily we 'entrust our lives to the pilot of an aircraft, accept food from a stranger in a restaurant, enter a subway train packed full of our genetic rivals.' It's not often that an economist provides nuggets for cocktail party conversation. -- Peter Young Bloomberg News A clear, thought-provoking and elegant book. -- Howard Davies Times Higher Education Supplement An important and timely book. -- Giles Whittell The Times (London) We now depend on the efforts of many strangers for our lives. In these days of terror and conflict, Seabright's stunning exploration of this human social experiment is timely... This is a book every concerned citizen should read, along with anybody in business who ever has to tangle with government regulations or the law, and who wants to understand why those relationships are so complex. -- Diane Coyle Strategy and Business An entertaining, wide-ranging account about how the economy evolved in a way that allowed strangers, even potentially hostile strangers, to cooperate and even collaborate within market-based institutionsS. Seabright tells the story of how human beings, despite their genetic predisposition toward violent and even murderous behavior, have managed to produce a complex civilization through market-based institutions. Choice


Paul Seabright is Professor of Economics at the University of Toulouse, France. Formerly a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and of Churchill College, Cambridge, he is a contributor to the "London Review of Books".


  • ハードカバー: 320ページ
  • 出版社: Princeton Univ Pr (2004/3/1)
  • 言語: 英語
  • ISBN-10: 0691118213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691118215
  • 発売日: 2004/3/1
  • 商品パッケージの寸法: 23.9 x 15.7 x 2.5 cm
  • おすすめ度: 5つ星のうち 4.0  レビューをすべて見る (1 件のカスタマーレビュー)
  • Amazon 売れ筋ランキング: 洋書 - 370,161位 (洋書の売れ筋ランキングを見る)
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5つ星のうち 4.0


9 人中、9人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。 投稿者 shorebird 投稿日 2006/3/7
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50 人中、47人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
The Great Experiment -- Trade and Trust 2004/6/2
投稿者 Celia Redmore - (
形式: ハードカバー
The Company of Strangers starts with the purchase of a shirt. How is it that exactly the item we want is available in our local store, when we didn't know the farmer who grew the cotton, the dyer who dyed the thread, the tailor who sewed the pieces, nor the shipper who shipped the shirt? Nor did most of these people know each other. Of all the things that might puzzle a Neanderthal who wandered into our time zone, this would be one of the strangest.
In this wonderfully readable book, subtitled "A Natural History of Economic Life", Paul Seabright follows the story of what he calls the "shy, murderous ape" from lonely hunter to homo economicus, confidently mingling with crowds of strangers and daily dependant on numerous people whom he has never met. Amazingly, to our Neanderthal, we have learned to trust strangers.

The question asked in the second half of the book is how far we should rely on such leaderless chains. Some items, such as airline travel and hospital care, don't lend themselves to blind trust. And who is to stop the cotton farmer from polluting the river that the dyer downstream drinks from, or the dyer from polluting the air that the tailor breathes? At what point do the connections between countries or companies become impossibly fragile?
Finally Professor Seabright dismisses recent talk about globalization as "excitable" and dismisses it as a mere continuation of a trend of "at least the last ten thousand years." That does imply that, as far as economics is concerned, camels and the Silk Road are no different from container ships and the internet highway. This is one of several topics in the final chapters of the book which are only touched upon and which would repay our closer attention. Perhaps we can hope that The Company of Strangers is only the first volume in a story to be continued.

Kudos also to Leslie Flis, Tim Flach and Augustin de Berranger for the stunning dust jacket. They too were part of the chain in the production of this highly entertaining and likable book.
35 人中、33人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
A Bioeconomic Masterpiece 2005/7/11
投稿者 Herbert Gintis - (
形式: ハードカバー
Despite the rough treatment handed to Edward O. Wilson's call for a unification of biology and the social sciences some three decades ago, and despite the hostility still aroused by the notion of "sociobiology" by some traditionalists, the process of integrating social science into natural science appears to be in full swing. Paul Seabright's new book is a welcome and important contribution to this process.

The idea behind sociobiology is that there are many social species, and our understanding of ourselves will be enhanced by analyzing the similarities and differences between human and non-human social systems. The main title of Seabright's book, "In the Company of Strangers" isolates a unique characteristic of human sociality: while several species evolved a highly complex and decentralized division of labor, humans are the only species with extensive cooperation among unrelated individuals.

The maturation of sociobiology since E. O. Wilson's call to arms has included several key strands of research. One is a broadened concept of sociality, in which it is recognized that from the emergence of multi-cellular organisms to the rise of Homo sapiens, major evolutionary transitions have required novel mechanisms facilitating the cooperation among the complex parts of biological wholes. It is now routine, for instance, to note that the disciplining of an aberrant cell in an organism, an ovipositing worker in a bee hive, and a shirking worker in a business enterprise are modeled in a similar manner. A second contribution is gene-culture coevolutionary theory, important because human sociality has been far more cultural than that of any other species.

Seabright's book exemplifies a new breed of economic analysis, seeking answers to fundamental question wherever they are best found, ignoring disciplinary boundaries. A transdisciplinary approach to economics life is nothing new. Adam Smith, for instance, not only wrote The Wealth of Nations, but also The Moral Sentiments, which is perhaps the greatest work of psychology prior to William James. But this tradition was all but buried in the early years of the Twentieth century, only recently to be rediscovered.

Seabright provides elementary, but nonetheless richly fascinating, introductions to such standard economic topics as the division of labor, prices, money, and firms, and addresses such perennial economic problems as unemployment, poverty, environmental destruction, and economic instability. The novelty is that he consistently does so from a long-run evolutionary perspective. This is decidedly not a book on economic policy. Even such traditionally central questions as capitalism versus socialism, the balance between competition and regulation, and the distribution of wealth and income are mentioned only in passing.

The innovation in this book lies in its treatment of the psychological prerequisites of modern economic life. As Seabright notes, "[M]odern society is an opportunistic experiment, founded on a human psychology that had already evolved before human beings ever had to deal with strangers in any systematic way." (p. 4) This psychology has two elements, one of which is well known and the other relatively novel in behavioral science. The well known is what Seabright calls "rational calculation," by which he means a capacity for logical reasoning, information processing, and technique mastery that far exceeds that of any other of Earth's creatures. The novel is what he calls "reciprocity," which is "the willingness to repay kindness with kindness and betray with revenge, even when this is not what rational calculation would recommend." (p. 27)

Two terminological issues are important to set straight from the outset. First, by "reciprocity" Seabright means what has been called "strong reciprocity" (Bowles and Gintis, Nature 415 Jan 2002). The "strong" adjective is meant to distinguish the behavior from the self-interested notion of reciprocity common in the biological literature. Second, Seabright follows a long tradition in economics of considering reciprocity to be non-rational, using the term "rational" when one means "caring only about oneself" as though the terms were synonymous. There is nothing "irrational" about such other-regarding elements of strong reciprocity as returning kindness with kindness and retaliating against someone who has harmed one, even when these behaviors involve net material costs.

Seabright's treatment of human society is innovatory because both biologists and economists have long maintained both that humans are selfish when dealing with non-kin, and their cooperation can be explained by long-term self-interest. Moreover, there is a long tradition, especially on the Left, of faulting capitalism for promoting greed and selfishness, which is at best a partial truth, since market economies at least tolerate, and probably promote, strong reciprocity. Experimental economics, as described by Seabright, has shown that most people are indeed reciprocal and in fact neither economic nor biological models of self-interested cooperation are rarely plausible when they involve groups of more than a few individuals.

Seabright also analyzes the "dark side" of strong reciprocity, which is the tendency to exhibit hostility to "outsiders" in the name of "insider" cooperation. "Cooperation within a group," he observes, "can make the group more lethally aggressive in its dealing with outsiders... [the] systematic killing of unrelated individuals is so common among human beings that... it cannot be described as exceptional, pathological, or disturbed." (pp. 209,53). He concludes that "what Adam Smith famously described as the human propensity to 'truck, barter and exchange' has always coexisted uneasily with a rival temptation to take, bully, and extort." (p. 233).

This book is highly readable and will be accessible to a wide audience. It is, however, weak on details, eschews formal model building and extended analytical argumentation, and hence will serve only as a stepping-stone to the field for those interested in the economy as a dynamically evolving system.
22 人中、22人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
Wonderful stuff 2004/6/14
投稿者 Steven Kurson - (
形式: ハードカバー
Academic press books rarely get the attention they deserve, so I hope this book does not get lost in the mix. Paul Seabright is a terrific writer, and his account in this book of the origins of cooperation is lucid and exciting. Seabright makes the important point that successful economies and societies depend on cooperation, and that even though self-interest would seem to lead us to reject that, time and again we manage to work together. This cooperation with strangers is, though, a fragile thing, and Seabright's conclusion raises the specter that in the future we may need to work a lot harder to remain in the company of strangers. I'm not fully convinced by the book's end, but the argument is worth thinking about. Also see Robert Wright's "Nonzero," Howard Rheingold's "Smart Mobs," and James Surowiecki's "The Wisdom of Crowds" for variations on this argument.
20 人中、18人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
Incoherent but fascinating 2005/5/26
投稿者 Karl M. Whealton - (
形式: ハードカバー
Both a disappointment and a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a rich and cohesive economic treatment of the role strangers play in each others lives. While that was the theme of the book, it did not hold it very well. The good news is that there are redeeming features of this book, and I would recommend it.

The thesis of the book is that the role that strangers play in our lives is immense and surprising. This is an interesting idea, and the author goes through several examples illustrating what he means in the first couple chapters. He then spends several chapters talking about various economic institutions and wraps up with the potential danger of nations and the dark side of this dependence on strangers. The problem is that as the author goes further into the book, he wanders further and further away from his main point. At the end, he is completely isolated from it, and cannot tie things together in the last few pages to justify his departures.

But the discussions that take him off of the path are illuminating and fascinating. His discussions of negotiation, money, water, and western liberalism are page-turners, and would be great essays.

In the end, given the subject matter, the book was way too long, as many in this genre are. The extra material is interesting in its own right, but is frustrating in the context of the book.
84 人中、67人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
Ignores recent discoveries in primatology 2005/5/16
投稿者 Mark Mills - (
形式: ハードカバー
Bishop Usher is famous for defending a Biblical history of man, starting 6000 years ago. This is the 'short history of man' theory. A slight variation on this theme asserts mankind was 'unconscious' until about 6000 years ago, when the miracle of 'civilization' lifted the savages to our now enlighted state of grace. Bishop Usher's reputation is fairly low among academic circles, but those who expound the milder 6000 year miracle of civilization have not shared his fate.

They should.

Seabright, like Usher, thinks human history so simple a matter that there is no need to explore the archeological and biological evidence for clues about the evolution of human nature. It seems to be too obvious. Why waste time on something everyone knows?

For example, Seabright reminds us over and over again that humans murdered all strangers until the dawn of civilization a few thousand years ago. This simply isn't true. All primates have strategies for mixing families. For some species of primates it is the adolescent male, for some it is the adolescent female. Either way, half the adolencent population is chasing strangers and the other half deciding how to respond to being chased. It isn't intuitive, but that's what primates do.

Over and over again, Seabright reminds us that cooperation is unnatural, a trend running counter to human evolution and selective advantage. The argument simply doesn't hold up to the light of day. Human muscle is, pound for pound, about 6 times weaker than chimp muscle. We have been breeding out serious muscle advantage, and associated dominance, for millions of years.

Seabright's story isn't much different than the one told in 1784 by Henry Home, Lord Kames (Sketches of the History of Man). Lord Kames proposed a "four-stage theory of history": hunting-gathering, herding, farming and modern-commerce. Kames lauched a thousand research projects, including Darwin's adventures. We now know a lot more about human evolution and we learn more every day. Despite all this work, Seabright does little to update the 200 year old scheme Kames presented.

The project of integrating a 3 million year history of human evolution and economcs is a great project. Whoever takes up this challenge needs to read up on primatology and neuroscience. Seabright hasn't done his homework.
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