Introduction

Dewey's remarks seem incongruous in a chapter about dominance, power, and politics in nonhuman primates. The influential philosopher of pragmatism was writing about humans in the context of twentieth century industrial capitalism; his ideas about politics, power, and the proper social role of "the means of publicity" were grounded in - and contentious in - that context. They do not describe human universals, and "politics" and "power" have many definitions in political anthropology, a subdiscipline that includes multiple, often contrasting and sometimes complementary, explanatory paradigms that cover the entire range of current and historically known human social arrangements (reviewed in Kurtz 2001, and Lewellen 2003, among others). However, Dewey makes an implicit point about nonhuman primates: without the capacity for language and for symbolically mediated systems of meaning, they cannot engage in "publicity and propaganda" or seek profit, nor can they invent, pursue, or argue about ideologies, whether capitalism or any other: these are qualitative differences from humans. Can we then justifiably ascribe politics and power dynamics to them and seek commonalities with humans?

Any answer starts with the fact that individuals of most primate species maintain long-term social relationships with conspecifics. These often have affiliative dimensions, but they also involve competition over food, mates, and other resources, the outcome of which can have major effects on fitness. Competition may or may not involve social interaction and may or may not lead to dominance relationships. Competitive interactions, or contests, are crucial to the concept of dominance, which becomes part of a social relationship when one individual can monopolize resources at the other's expense or usurp them from the others by using force or threatening to do so, even though not all aggression concerns immediate access to resources or contests over status, and some contests are decided by unprovoked, unilateral submission rather than by aggression.

However, not all resources accessible via social interaction can be appropriated by force, and dominance can be subsumed within a broader category of power (Lewis 2002). Variation in power among individuals potentially allows for social maneuvering that sometimes warrants the label of "politics." Alliance formation strategies illustrate these points well. Most contests are dyadic, but many primate species stand out when compared with most mammals because of the frequency with which they form coalitions, in which two or more individuals collaboratively direct aggression at joint targets (Harcourt 1992). Alliances develop when particular dyads repeatedly and consistently form coalitions; they feature prominently in the competitive strategies of macaques, chimpanzees, and many other species. One effect of coalitions is to help individuals to win contests they would otherwise lose. Male baboons can sometimes forcibly take over consortships with estrous females from higher-ranking males, for example, but require coalition partners to do so. Not all potential partners are equally effective, and males may compete for access to the best partners (Seyfarth 1977; Noe 1990, 1992). Males cannot coerce others to join them; the ability to grant or withhold support gives potential partners power over their would-be allies, and males whose value is higher than that of their partners are likely to take disproportionate shares of the benefits of successful coalition formation (Noe 1990, 1992). Strategic pursuit of alliances and negotiation over the distribution of their costs and benefits easily bring to mind human political maneuvering, as de Waal (1982) argued, for the ways in which male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) use coalitions in their complex strategies of competition for status. Other nonhuman primates that also engage in complex social maneuvering for status by using alliances, exchanging social services like grooming, and testing the strength of social bonds arguably also have politics (e.g., white-faced capuchins, Cebus capucinus: Perry and Manson 2008).

However, we should be wary of using "politics" too loosely (e.g., Boehm 1997) and of anthropomorphizing chimpanzees, baboons, capuchins and other nonhumans in the service of superficial and misleading extrapolations to humans (e.g., Fukuyama 1998). In the following section, I define dominance and briefly review concepts of power. Differentials in power among individuals are nearly universal in primates; dominance relationships and dominance hierarchies are not, although they exist in the majority of taxa. I review competing explanations for variation in dominance "style" and briefly summarize evidence concerning the relationship of dominance rank to reproductive success. I also consider the aspects of social relationships in nonhuman primates that involve politics; I argue that politics is far from universal and only characterizes species capable of triadic awareness (i.e., knowledge about the social relationships between others in one's social group). Chimpanzees necessarily figure in large measure in my discussion of politics, because they have been the main subject of relevant research and speculation. Finally, I offer some comparisons between human and nonhuman primates.

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