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The War of the Sexes:
How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present
Paul Seabright

One of Financial Times ( Best Economics Books of 2013

Paperback | 2013 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691159720
Hardcover | 2012 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691133010
256 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 6 line illus.
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As countless love songs, movies, and self-help books attest, men and women have long sought different things. The result? Seemingly inevitable conflict. Yet we belong to the most cooperative species on the planet. Isn't there a way we can use this capacity to achieve greater harmony and equality between the sexes? In The War of the Sexes, Paul Seabright argues that there is--but first we must understand how the tension between conflict and cooperation developed in our remote evolutionary past, how it shaped the modern world, and how it still holds us back, both at home and at work.

Drawing on biology, sociology, anthropology, and economics, Seabright shows that conflict between the sexes is, paradoxically, the product of cooperation. The evolutionary niche--the long dependent childhood--carved out by our ancestors requires the highest level of cooperative talent. But it also gives couples more to fight about. Men and women became experts at influencing one another to achieve their cooperative ends, but also became trapped in strategies of manipulation and deception in pursuit of sex and partnership. In early societies, economic conditions moved the balance of power in favor of men, as they cornered scarce resources for use in the sexual bargain. Today, conditions have changed beyond recognition, yet inequalities between men and women persist, as the brains, talents, and preferences we inherited from our ancestors struggle to deal with the unpredictable forces unleashed by the modern information economy.

Men and women today have an unprecedented opportunity to achieve equal power and respect. But we need to understand the mixed inheritance of conflict and cooperation left to us by our primate ancestors if we are finally to escape their legacy.


"[A] witty, informative and cogent new book."--Jonathan Rée, Guardian

"Seabright zooms out and across history in an accessible mix of scholarly prose and chatty anecdote to explain why inequalities and disagreements persist beyond potty-training. . . . Turning to today, Seabright investigates everything from the effects of technology on gender-bias, to the various benefits of tallness, talent, and charm in the workplace."

"Throughout the book, Seabright is terrific company--entertaining and convincing."--John Whitfield, Nature

"Right off the bat, I can say that this book should not be collecting dust on your shelf. . . . [I]s War of the Sexes a challenging and interesting read? Undoubtedly so."--Sander Van Der Linden, LSE Politics and Policy blog

"The War of the Sexes is a fascinating read. I love its interdisciplinarity."--Diane Coyle, The Enlightened Economist

"Seabright, an economist familiar with evolutionary modelling, synthesises several disciplines in asking what our evolutionary heritage teaches us about men's and women's rights and roles in the modern labour market. Judicious in bringing Darwinism to bear on contemporary mores, he avoids the vulgar reductionism that often plagues this kind of popular science."--Camilla Power, Times Higher Education

"Seabright is unusual among economists in being a thoroughgoing Darwinian, and in this fascinating book he takes an evolutionary perspective to explore why there are still inequalities in economic power between men and women."--Jon Wainwright, Skeptic


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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix

Part One Prehistory
Chapter 1: Introduction 3
Chapter 2: Sex and Salesmanship 27
Chapter 3: Seduction and the Emotions 40
Chapter 4: Social Primates 60

Part Two Today
Chapter 5: Testing for Talent 93
Chapter 6: What Do Women Want? 111
Chapter 7: Coalitions of the Willing 126
Chapter 8: The Scarcity of Charm 141
Chapter 9: The Tender War 157

Notes 183
References 211
Index 233

This book has been translated into:

  • French

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Paul Seabright:

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