The Origins of Politics: A Proposal to Break Down the Intellectual and Academic Boundaries between Nature and Society
The academic contemplation of politics in modern times has largely been constructed on the basis of historical events. The standard subfields (American Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Political Theory) all claim intellectual origins in some period of recorded history (the Peace of Westphalia, e.g., or the political philosophy of Plato or Aristotle). As a human endeavor and preoccupation, however, politics predates history. Elsewhere in the social sciences, we see theoretical synthesis with the physical or natural sciences. Anthropology, for example, has traditionally laid emphasis on the cultural and the physical basis for the development of human society. Political economists, even, are starting to explore the explanatory value of interaction between physical, geographic and social variables (e.g., by expanding on Jared Diamond's "guns, germs and steel" thesis). It strikes us that a major neglected question is, what are the origins of politics, and what do they owe to human biology and the interaction between human society and physical geography? Some fundamental elements to consider are, what make us inherently political creatures; what are the physical and physiological bases for politics and political culture; what are the origins or reasons for conflict and how we resolve or perpetuate them. We propose to develop a new section in the American Political Science Association to organize research and promote in the curriculum a cross-disciplinary approach to answering basic questions in politics from the perspective of human biology. Such an approach would strive to find ways to intellectually connect the contributions made by fields such as anthropology, archaeology, geography, physiology, sociology, psychology, genetic biology, and linguistics to explain the fundamental origins of politics.
Keywords: political science, human biology, anthropology, social sciences, natural sciences, curriculum
Professor, Political Science Department, Villanova University
Prof. Asako Maria Toyoda
Assistant Professor, Political Science Department, Villanova University