The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior

John R. Alford, John R. Hibbing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


In this article we propose that evolutionary biology can supply political science with a theory of the ultimate causes of human preferences and behaviors that it otherwise lacks. For the most part, political scientists are either unfamiliar with the social side of evolutionary theory or misidentify its key features. Far from being genetically deterministic or leading exclusively to predictions that all human behavior will be selfish, modern evolutionary theories stress that adaptive behavior is frequently characterized by a guarded sort of cooperation. We describe modern biological theory, offer our own version of it, discuss new and potentially useful interpretations of political attitudes and public policies, and present scientific evidence, drawn from research on autistic individuals and monozygotic and dizygotic twins, of the startlingly important role genetics plays in shaping politically relevant attitudes and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-723
Number of pages17
JournalPerspectives on Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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