Public Reason: Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2009
Of Human Bonding: An Essay on the Natural History of Agency
Mariam Thalos & Chrisoula Andreou

We seek to illuminate the prevalence of cooperation among biologically unrelated individuals via an analysis of agency that recognizes the possibility of bonding and challenges the common view that agency is invariably an individual-level affair. Via bonding, a single individual’s behavior patterns or programs are altered so as to facilitate the formation, on at least some occasions, of a larger entity to whom is attributable the coordination of the component entities. Some of these larger entities will qualify as agents in their own right, even when the comprising entities also qualify as agents. In light of the many possibilities that humans actually enjoy for entering into numerous bonding schemes, and the extent to which they avail themselves of these possibilities, there is no basis for the assumption that cooperative behavior must ultimately emerge as either altruistic or self-interested; it can instead be the product of collective agency.

Key words: agency, altruism, bonding, collective action, cooperation, emotional attachment, identification, individualism, self-interest, team reasoning.


Thalos, Mariam and Chrisoula Andreou. 2009. Of Human Bonding: An Essay on the Natural History of Agency. Public Reason 1 (2): 46-73.