I conduct theoretical research on social evolution, social networks, cooperation, and social inequality. I am especially interested in ways that social order and social inequality are related to each other and in ways that certain forms of social inequality (status inequality, formal power inequality, wealth inequality) may promote cooperation. If a form of social inequality promotes cooperation, it may have been selected for through social evolutionary processes of the distant or recent past. Very likely, understanding how that form of social inequality promotes cooperation is important for understanding it’s prevalence and durability.
I am also interested in the ways that human societies have changed over the long course of human history, from the small, relatively egalitarian hunting-gathering bands of the distant past to the large, stratified, agricultural and industrial state societies that have come to dominate the globe. Looking at very different societies and systems of societies lets us look at very different social networks and very different patterns of cooperation and social inequality and can help us to understand what produces these differences. Another reason for trying to understand the evolution of human societies from their earliest forms follows from the idea that knowing how we got somewhere can help us figure out where we are. If we accept that the world of today is the product of the world of the past combined with how that world changed, then we see that developing a good theory of what the world of the past was like and how that world would have changed can tell us a lot about the world of today.