On SAGE Insight: To Go Forward, We Must Look Back: The Importance of Evolutionary Psychology for Understanding Modern Politics

Special Issue: Evolution and Politics

From Evolutionary Psychology

As new waves of populism arise and cause disruption around the globe, there is both great interest in attempting to explain the origin of this dynamic as well as a need to ameliorate its potentially destructive impact. Perhaps the greatest signal of seismic change is the global dismantling of American institutional control of the postwar world following the election of Donald Trump in the United States. In the wake of such dramatic changes, it may seem odd to turn to evolutionary psychology which looks deeply into the past to try to understand current events, but, in fact, modern technology has dramatically changed the shape of political communication in just such a way as to make politics more personal once again, increasing the need to understand and interpret modern politics through an evolutionary lens.

This article does not simply constitute a call to arms to encourage more research to be conducted but also serves as introduction to the current special issue. This special issue is devoted to the theme of trying to understand, explain, and illustrate how critical models and theories drawn from evolutionary psychology are critical to understanding modern political behavior and discourse. All of these articles unite in their application of evolutionary models, and the hypotheses inspired by this approach and these theories, to modern concerns and problems.

Abstract

As new waves of populism arise and cause disruption around the globe, there is both great interest in attempting to explain the origin of this dynamic as well as a need to ameliorate its potentially destructive impact. Perhaps the greatest signal of seismic change is the global dismantling of American institutional control of the postwar world following the election of Donald Trump in the United States. In the wake of such dramatic changes, it may seem odd to turn to evolutionary psychology which looks deeply into the past to try to understand current events, but, in fact, modern technology has dramatically changed the shape of political communication in just such a way as to make politics more personal once again, increasing the need to understand and interpret modern politics through an evolutionary lens. In fact, current modern political turmoils demonstrate how important evolutionary themes are and how critical they remain to understand how current forms of populism tape into older tribal sentiments and drives. Modern technology allows for a form of interpretative politics that no longer need to be mediated by political institutions or larger social structures, including enduring ones such as marriage. Indeed, in any ways, as we have technologically advanced, we have also regressed to more immediate, emotional, and personal forms of political communication. And it is only in understanding the nature of that personal political psychology that we can begin to grapple seriously with the challenges of today, including the consequences of global populism.

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Article details

To Go Forward, We Must Look Back: The Importance of Evolutionary Psychology for Understanding Modern Politics
Rose McDermott1and Peter K. Hatemi2
DOI: 10.1177/1474704918764506
First Published June 18, 2018
From Evolutionary Psychology

     
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