The Homeopathy of Kin Selection: An Evaluation of van den Berghe’s Sociobiological Approach to Ethnic Nepotism

Politics and the Life Sciences 20:203–215 (2001)
The present discussion of sociobiological approaches to ethnic nepotism takes Pierre van den Berghe ʼs theory as a starting point. Two points, which have not been addressed in former analyses, are considered to be of particular importance. It is argued that the behavioral mechanism of ethnic nepotism—as understood by van den Berghe—cannot explain ethnic boundaries and attitudes. In addition, I show that van den Bergheʼs central premise concerning ethnic nepotism is in contradiction to Hamiltonʼs formula, the essential principle of kin selection theory. It is further discussed how other approaches that make reference to ethnic nepotism are related to van den Bergheʼs account and its problems. I conclude with remarks on the evolutionary explanation of ethnic phenomena.
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