The Fair

The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and Pursuit of Social Justice, Peter Corning, University of Chicago Press, $17.00.

At the outset of The Fair Society, Peter Corning, Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, asks some fundamental questions about human development and social justice. Most crucially, if we perceive life as unfair, do we have the power to change society for the better?

In this provocative new book, Corning suggests that selfishness is in fact not a natural human trait, and is instead grounded in biological, anthropological, sociological and organizational evolution. As the basis for affirming ‘yes, we do care,’ he points to the two dominant aspects of our nature: survival and reproduction. With amoral definition of justice and fairness inspired by the works of Plato and Aristotle, Corning emphasizes the centrality of the “collective survival enterprise” to humankind, arguing this compels us to focus on meeting our “shared survival and reproductive needs.” According to the author, these needs are not only primarily physical –such as nutrition – but also mental; fori nstance, the desire for social security and talentdevelopment.

Ultimately, in using cutting edge research in the behavioral and biological sciences to paint a more sympathetic and hopeful picture of human nature, The Fair Society is an appeal for a new collective focus on equality, equity and reciprocity to heal an increasingly fragmented political and social life.


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