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The Penguin and the Leviathan on Bookshelves Now

September 22, 2011



The Berkman Center is pleased to announce that Faculty Co-Director and Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies Yochai Benkler's new book, The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest (Crown Businses), is now available.

To celebrate the book's release, we are hosting an event and book launch on October 18th at Harvard Law School and invite you to join us.

Additionally, Yochai Benkler is interviewed by David Weinberger and delves in to many of the themes of the book in this week's Radio Berkman.

In the book, Yochai draws on cutting-edge findings from neuroscience, economics, sociology, evolutionary biology, political science, and a wealth of real world examples to debunk this long-held myth and reveal how we can harness the power of human cooperation to improve business processes, design smarter technology, reform our economic systems, maximize volunteer contributions to science, reduce crime, improve the efficacy of civic movements, and more.

Yochai offers a preview of some of the material he addresses in the book in an essay found in the Harvard Business Review:

In 1976, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in The Selfish Gene, “If you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” By 2006, the tide had started to turn. Harvard University mathematical biologist Martin Nowak could declare, in an overview of the evolution of cooperation in Science magazine, “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive world. Thus, we might add ‘natural cooperation’ as a third fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and natural selection.”

Why is this deep-rooted belief about human selfishness beginning to change? To some extent, the answer is specific to evolutionary biology. But similar ideas challenging the notion that people are born selfish have surfaced in several other fields, such as psychology, sociology, political science, and experimental economics. Together, these ideas are tracing a new intellectual arc in the disciplines concerned with human action and motivation.

More information can be found on the book's website. The Penguin and the Leviathan can be purchased via Amazon (and via Kindle), Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Random House.

More resources:

Much of the book is informed by research undertaken by the Berkman Center's Cooperation Project (lead by Yochai).  Congratulations to Yochai, and the whole Cooperation project team, on this tremendous accomplishment!

Last updated October 17, 2011