Kevin Simler in Minimum Viable Superorganism, casts the problem of cooperation outside the family unit as the setting up of a “prestige economy”, with some nice phrases to support his case. (This is a complement to his intro to status post.) It’s missing things you’d need for a comprehensive account of human cooperation (altruistic punishment, generalised reciprocity etc) but has some excellent phrases and is a workable first-order approximation/perspective. c&c the effectiveness of reputation systems as motivation.
(Jiménez and Mesoudi 2019):
According to Henrich and Gil-White (2001), people use, not necessarily consciously, two distinct strategies to acquire and maintain high social rank: dominance and prestige … The dominance strategy involves causing, or threatening to induce, costs to other individuals. If the use of this strategy is successful, this elicits fear in the other individuals, who defer and submit to the wishes of the dominant individual to avoid the potential costs. In contrast, the prestige strategy involves displaying competence in valued domains. If the use of this strategy is successful, this elicits admiration in other individuals, who defer and submit to the wishes of the prestigious individual in order to gain access to, and thus socially learn from, this individual, and to acquire other benefits such as private and public goods …. Although the successful use of both strategies leads to receiving deference from other individuals, the key distinction between them is that dominant individuals receive coerced deference, while prestigious individuals receive voluntary (or ‘freely-conferred’) deference.
Another curious framing/critique which shines a light on this is due to Scott Alexander, who notes Financial Incentives Are Weaker Than Social Incentives But Very Important Anyway, responding to (Duflo and Banerjee 2019). Much of his concern in this piece IMO might be compactly summarised by the X is Yer than Z problem.
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Henrich, Joseph, and Francisco J. Gil-White. 2001. “The Evolution of Prestige: Freely Conferred Deference as a Mechanism for Enhancing the Benefits of Cultural Transmission.” Evolution and Human Behavior 22 (3): 165–96. http://radicalanthropologygroup.org/sites/default/files/pdf/class_text_065.pdf.
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———. 2004. “Social Learning Strategies.” Animal Learning & Behavior 32 (1): 4–14. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196002.
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