Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship – Now Available

Holland, Maximilian. 2012. Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship: compatibility between cultural and biological approaches. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN-13: 978-1480182004

The book is now available in paperback (around €10), kindle (around €1), as well as in other ebook formats (€ free!) (PDF, ODT, EPUB).

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You are welcome to download Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship for free in any of these formats (creative commons Attribution CC BY license 3.0) and share. For quotation purposes, the PDF here is identical in layout and page numbers to the printed book. A PDF of the doctoral manuscript (typos and all) is available on both the LSE and British Library websites, and a smaller PDF (same manuscript formatting, digital text rather than OCR) at SSRN. Here’s the blurb:



A landmark in the field of evolutionary biology, which places genetic determinism in the correct perspective – Folia Primatologica Journal

Max Holland gets to the heart of the matter concerning the contentious relationship between kinship categories, genetic relatedness and the prediction of behavior. If he had been in the debate in the 1980s then a lot of subsequent confusion could have been avoided – Robin Fox, Anthropologist and Member of the National Academy of Sciences

Max Holland has demonstrated extraordinarily thorough scholarship in his exhaustive review of the often contentious discussions of kinship.  He has produced a balanced synthesis melding the two approaches exemplified in the biological and sociocultural behavioral positions. His work in reconciling opposing views clearly demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary approaches.  This should be the definitive word on the subject  Irwin Bernstein, Distinguished Research Professor of Primatology

A brilliant discussion of the relationship between kinship and social bonding as understood in evolutionary biology and in sociocultural anthropology. Among other contributions, it debunks the common misconception that biological evolution involves individual organisms actively pursuing the goal of increasing the numbers of their genes in successive generations, the measure of their so-called ‘individual inclusive fitness’. Holland demonstrates that an alternative non-deterministic interpretation of evolutionary biology is more compatible with actual human social behavior and with the frameworks that sociocultural anthropology employs – Kirk Endicott, Anthropologist

Unlike many commentators who have tackled kinship in the context of biology, Holland takes culture seriously and deals fairly with Schneider’s arguments.  He acknowledges, correctly in my opinion, that culture and biology are both important but are largely relevant to separate questions.  This book helps to untangle a long-standing disciplinary muddle – Richard Feinberg, Anthropologist

This book is a scholarly attempt to get beyond the often sterile oppositions between evolutionary and culturalist approaches to kinship. In bringing together two sides of the debate, it constitutes a valuable contribution to kinship studies  –  Janet Carsten, Anthropologist and Eminent Kinship Theorist

Based on the sections that I read, Holland’s brand of evidence based-scholarship conscientiously clarifies the relationship between biological and sociocultural approaches to human kinship. Long may it flourish – Sarah Hrdy, Primatologist and Member of the National Academy of Sciences

Extremely interesting… gives a sympathetic – and accurate – hearing to a large number of anthropologists, biologists and other scholars – Charles Stafford, Anthropologist

An extremely worthwhile project… opening up some much-needed conversations… constructing a new continent for us to live on – Mary Weismantel, Anthropologist

Genuinely original… will (with any luck) put paid to prevailing misapplications of inclusive fitness theory in Evolutionary Psychology and Darwinian Anthropology. The scholarship is excellent… his ability to convey his argument clearly and without intellectual posturing makes it a pleasure to read – Christina Toren, Anthropologist


The debate (such as it is) about cultural versus sociobiological approaches to kinship in anthropology is a rather divisive issue… a clash between incommensurate paradigms, holding as they may, completely incompatible ideas about human nature – Philip Thomas, Anthropologist

Resolving this decades long divide, Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship unites cultural and biological approaches to social life and kinship. The synthesis is non-reductive, respecting the core tenets of both paradigms, and also incorporates psychological attachment theory into the account.

Praised by adherents of both cultural and biological perspectives, the strength of Holland’s approach is his unique engagement with and exhaustive survey of theoretical debates and empirical findings across a wide array of disciplines. This rare breadth of scope has allowed Holland to uncover the common ground between disciplines and create the current synthesis. The broad survey also provides students of social behaviour and kinship with a rich and comprehensive resource. This work is a powerful example of how social and physical sciences can inform each other on equal terms, without the danger of one being subsumed by the other. Both approaches emerge stronger as a result.

You can find a fuller summary of the book here.



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