Cooperation, collective action, and the archeology of large-scale societies
Carballo, David M.
Feinman, Gary M.
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Citation (published version)David M Carballo, Gary M Feinman. 2016. "Cooperation, collective action, and the archeology of large-scale societies.." Evol Anthropol, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp. 288 - 296.
Archeologists investigating the emergence of large-scale societies in the past have renewed interest in examining the dynamics of cooperation as a means of understanding societal change and organizational variability within human groups over time. Unlike earlier approaches to these issues, which used models designated voluntaristic or managerial, contemporary research articulates more explicitly with frameworks for cooperation and collective action used in other fields, thereby facilitating empirical testing through better definition of the costs, benefits, and social mechanisms associated with success or failure in coordinated group action. Current scholarship is nevertheless bifurcated along lines of epistemology and scale, which is understandable but problematic for forging a broader, more transdisciplinary field of cooperation studies. Here, we point to some areas of potential overlap by reviewing archeological research that places the dynamics of social cooperation and competition in the foreground of the emergence of large-scale societies, which we define as those having larger populations, greater concentrations of political power, and higher degrees of social inequality. We focus on key issues involving the communal-resource management of subsistence and other economic goods, as well as the revenue flows that undergird political institutions. Drawing on archeological cases from across the globe, with greater detail from our area of expertise in Mesoamerica, we offer suggestions for strengthening analytical methods and generating more transdisciplinary research programs that address human societies across scalar and temporal spectra.