Evolution of the Social Contract

  • Daniel Taylor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Humans act to bring about ends that are individually beneficial. Within groups, we also act concertedly to bring about ends that are beneficial to the group. From an evolutionary perspective, there is a tension between these two forces, because, more often than not, what is good for the individual is bad for the group, and what is good for the group is bad for the individual. In this dissertation, I argue that in order to resolve this tension between individual and group good, humans have evolved to utilise social contracts - sets of rules that structure interactions within our societies. These contracts, I argue, emerged in our hunter-gatherer ancestry as a means of solving problems surrounding their most basic and most important economic activity - food sharing. Once we became adapted to forming social contracts, we used them to solve increasingly complex social problems, leading, eventually, to our modern day economic organisation.
Date of Award1 Mar 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJoanna Bryson (Supervisor)

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