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The Fair Society

The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice

The Fair Society

The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice

We’ve been told, again and again, that life is unfair. But what if we’re wrong simply to resign ourselves to this situation? What if we have the power—and more, the duty—to change society for the better?

We do. And our very nature inclines us to do so. That’s the provocative argument Peter Corning makes in The Fair Society. Drawing on the evidence from our evolutionary history and the emergent science of human nature, Corning shows that we have an innate sense of fairness. While these impulses can easily be subverted by greed and demagoguery, they can also be harnessed for good. Corning brings together the latest findings from the behavioral and biological sciences to help us understand how to move beyond the Madoffs and Enrons in our midst in order to lay the foundation for a new social contract—a Biosocial Contract built on a deep understanding of human nature and a commitment to fairness. He then proposes a sweeping set of economic and political reforms based on three principles of fairness—equality, equity, and reciprocity—that together could transform our society and our world.

At this crisis point for capitalism, Corning reveals that the proper response to bank bailouts and financial chicanery isn’t to get mad—it’s to get fair.


256 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Biological Sciences: Evolutionary Biology

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Psychology: Social Psychology


“Peter Corning paints a compelling picture of the excessive inequalities of income, wealth, and power in American society, and the damage they cause. More importantly, he makes a strong case for fairness—arguing that equality, equity, and reciprocity are central to humanity’s social needs and collective flourishing.”

Kate Pickett, coauthor of The Spirit Level: How Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

“Once again Peter Corning has produced a book that is engaging as well as intellectually solid. Corning’s integration of the topics of human nature and social justice could not be more timely. The Fair Society is a must read for anyone interested in a science-based approach to fairness and sustainability.”

John M. Gowdy, author of Microeconomics Old and New

"Thoughtful, provocative. . . . Strongly grounded in evolutionary theory but scornful of the ’selfish gene’ hypothesis that says we are solely driven by individual self-interest. . . . Serves as a highly effective counterweight to both leftist dogma and the Ayn Rand doctrine that has recently infested conservative thought."


"Much of what Corning has written is both important and accurate. . . . It is an edifying book. . . . I admire Corning’s attempt to develop a normative theory of justice that is ’built on an empirical foundation.’ . . . One hopes that those who wish to occupy places of power on behalf of the 99 percent will heed Corning’s sage advice about what to do and--just as important--what not to do in planning for a better, more just society."

John T. Jost | American Scientist

Table of Contents


1 Life Is Unfair

2 The Idea of Fairness

3 A Brief History of (Un)Fairness

4 Fairness and the Science of Human Nature

5 Human Nature and Our Basic Needs

6 Why Capitalism and Socialism Are Unfair

7 Toward a Biosocial Contract

8 The Future of Fairness: The Fair Society

Epilogue: What Can I Do?




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