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The Evolution of Leadership

Transitions in Decision Making from Small-Scale to Middle-Range Societies

Edited by Kevin J. Vaughn, Jelmer W. Eerkens, and John Kantner

The Evolution of Leadership2010. 366 pp., 29 figures, 15 tables, notes, references, and index, 6 x 92010. 366 pp., 29 figures, 15 tables, notes, references, and index, 6 x 9

Leaders make decisions that have significant impacts on the lives of others. They have the ability to influence events and impact the evolutionary trajectories of societies. Leaders exist in all societies, ranging from smaller-scale heads of households to larger-scale elected governing bodies to dictators with vast coercive powers at their disposal. Today, all of us are familiar with and see (and feel) the influence of leaders. Given that leaders and leadership are so influential on human social behavior, and yet are variably represented among different societies in the past and present, generations of scholars have examined these social phenomena from a variety of humanistic and scientific perspectives. This book, the product of an advanced seminar at the School for Advanced Research (SAR), brings together the perspectives of cultural anthropologists and archaeologists to explore why and how leadership emerges and variously becomes institutionalized among disparate small-scale and middle-range human societies.

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Contributors: Jeanne E. Arnold, Douglas Bird, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Brenda J. Bowser, Jelmer W. Eerkens, John Kantner, Chapurukha M. Kusimba, Sibel B. Kusimba, John Q. Patton, Timothy R. Pauketat, Charles S. Stanish, Kevin J. Vaughn, Polly Wiessner

View the Table of Contents

Download an excerpt (PDF, 41 KB).

Read Reviews

  • “The main appeal of the book is as a collection of recent studies on the emergence and maintenance of leadership in traditional societies. The breadth of the geographical coverage and the integration of both ethnographic and archaeological studies lend this volume both interest and strength. It strikes me as a reasonable 'snapshot' of current approaches to the topic.”
    Vincas P. Steponaitis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • “A series of authoritative snapshots describe what archaeology and ethnography can tell us about leadership in small- and medium-sized societies. The geographic coverage is broad, the range of examples impressive. This is an important and timely contribution to the long-standing — and often repetitive — debates about the nature of leadership in smaller-scale societies.”
    Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California – Santa Barbara

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