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Axelrod’s ‘The Evolution of Cooperation’ essential reading at Ivy League schools

February 26, 2016

Robert Axelrod’s seminal work, The Evolution of Cooperation, is among the most frequently assigned books at Ivy League schools, according to data available on Open Syllabus Explorer, an online database of books assigned in over 1 million college courses over the past 15 years.

Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham recently tallied the most frequently assigned books at all U.S. colleges and universities and compared them to the list at seven Ivy League schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Penn, and Brown). He examined the results in a story, "What Ivy League students are reading that you aren't," published earlier this month. 

Overall, Ingraham found, the Ivy League’s top 10 were "more heavily skewed toward political philosophy and thought" than the most frequently assigned works across all schools. Axelrod's Evolution of Cooperation, he found, is the tenth most assigned book among Ivies. 

Originally published in 1984, the book explores how cooperation can emerge in a world of self-seeking egoistswhether superpowers, businesses, or individualswhen there is no central authority to police their actions.

Also read: "Want an Ivy League education? Read these books," by Husna Huq of The Christian Science Monitor.  

--Story by Paul Gully (MPP '16)

Robert Axelrod is the Walgreen Professor for the Study of Human Understanding at the University of Michigan. He holds appointments in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Department of Political Science. His recent research has focused on cyber security and historical analogies. Axelrod was awarded a National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for scientific achievement, in 2015. He recently returned to the Ford School following a year-long Jefferson Science Foundation Fellowship with the U.S. Department of State.