Skip Navigation

What Makes Humans Economically Distinctive?

by Christopher Boehm. Reading for week of December 14, 2004.

The fundamental problem, of what makes humans economically distinctive, is addressed here by using a highly focused cross-species analysis to examine the evolution of property relations. Chimpanzees and bonobos are compared with mobile human foragers, and it is argued that our egalitarian political practices, in conjunction with variance-reduction practices we applied prehistorically to large-game meat consumption, led to a critical evolutionary transformation. The transition began with private property at the ancestral level, but ended with humans having not only private property, but communal property.

To print this page, select "Print" from the File menu of your browser.