Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Annual Review of Political Science 11 (2008), pp. 183-203; doi: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.060806.161216 Copyright © 2008 Annual Reviews. Used by permission. http://polisci.annualreviews.org


Political science traditionally has either ignored biology in favor of purely environmental explanations for political phenomena or merely ruminated about the likely role of biology, leaving data-based research on biopolitics in dangerously short supply. Currently, attention to the apparent genetic basis for political and social orientations holds the greatest promise of advancing empirical biopolitics. Thus, in this essay, we orient behavior genetics research in the larger framework of biology and politics, confront its normative implications, describe the techniques involved, assess the strengths and weaknesses of commonly employed data and procedures, and describe the next steps in this research stream. Because these next steps involve molecular genetic work, we provide some background genetic information, but we mainly urge political scientists to join interdisciplinary teams so that nature and nurture can both be employed in ongoing efforts to understand the sources of mass-scale human politics.