Developmental systems and inequality: Linking evolutionary and political-economic theory in biological anthropology


Since the late 1990s, scholars have advocated for the adoption of political-economic approaches in biological anthropology. Despite this, the explicit application of these perspectives remains relatively rare. In this paper we argue for greater investment in this field of inquiry and advocate linking evolutionary-developmental and politicaleconomic approaches to the study of human biology. We begin by discussing the historical development of human biology and the emergence of biocultural approaches in biological and medical anthropology. We then discuss evolutionary approaches grounded in phenotypic plasticity as an important framework for linking culture and biology. Finally, we consider the implications of culture theory based in political economy for building and expanding biocultural models. In particular, we examine the importance of inequality in structuring access to the means of cultural production and the creation of self-reinforcing norms. We finish with a discussion of the implications of these conclusions for future research.

Publication Title

Current Anthropology