Toward an evolutionary political ecology of neurophysiologic political disposition

Dr John Carr1

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


Building upon a growing literature that seeks to locate political identity partially within human neurological physiology, this paper illustrates the possibility that longstanding spatio-political tensions between “left” and “right” have served both evolutionary and ecological functions that are currently subverted by advanced capitalism. New work in psychology suggests that “left/right” politics tend to physiologically correspond to more deeply seeded, often unconscious affective reactions to novelty, difference, threat, and the unexpected. I use this literature to re-read pre-European contact Hawaiian history and political ecology to evaluate the roles physiologically based political disposition might have played in safeguarding the survival of a society that shared many characteristics with our evolutionary forbearers. This review suggests co-development of Hawaiian spatio-political ecologies and approaches to intra-group conflict potentially correspond to a theory of political disposition that holds that “left” approaches help adapt populations to times of plenty while “right” approaches assist survival during scarcity.


John Carr is an urban and legal geographer whose work focuses on the intersections of urban geography, law, planning, and human and non-human environments.    Much of his research engages community based and participatory methodologies. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Environment and Society at the University of New South Wales. In addition to his PhD in Geography from the University of Washington he also holds a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. He can be reached at:

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