Forum on Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, s.l.
Free markets are, according to neoclassical economic theory, the most efﬁcient way of organizing human activity. The claim is that individuals can beneﬁt society by acting only in their self interest. In contrast, the evolutionary theory of multilevel selection proposes that groups must suppress the self interest of individuals. They often do so, the evidence suggests, by using hierarchical organization. To test these conﬂicting theories, I investigate how the ‘degree of hierarchy’ in societies changes with industrial development. I ﬁnd that as energy use increases, governments tend to get larger and the relative number of managers tends to grow. Using a numerical model, I infer from this evidence that societies tend to become more hierarchical as energy use grows. This result is inconsistent with the neoclassical theory that individual self-interest is what beneﬁts society. But it is consistent with the theory of multilevel selection, in which groups suppress the self-interest of their members.
culture development energy free market hierarchy multilevel selection power sociality