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Open Access Publications from the University of California

World Cultures eJournal

UC Irvine

Methodological Individualism and Generosity

  • Author(s): White, Douglas R.
  • Bell, Duran
  • et al.

Today a convergence between the fields of anthropology and economics has re-emerged after decades during which the dictates of methodological individualism, as strikingly elucidated by Kenneth Arrow, had seriously limited and hampered effective scholarship in studies of economic and social development in developing countries. A new generation of development economists represented by Spolaori and Wacziarg (2013) and (Spolaori 2016) has reopened the possibility of fruitful cross-disciplinary interaction, enabling economists and anthropologists to investigate those many social structures wherein resources are jointly held and wherein social goals are the product of interests held by groups, rather than exclusively by pairs of individuals stripped of a context of ethics.

The continually expanding data of Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (Murdock and White 1969) provide a wide range of variables that make it possible to test theories regarding development and causality in human societies. Furthermore, new software facilitates the testing of these theories in the context of diffusion, historical language families and ecological contexts. Together, the data and the new software are essential to any effort to test theories of human evolutionary history and development.

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