Where Cooperation Meets Conflict: Coalitions and Leadership Across Human Societies

Abortion. Religion. Vaccines. Climate change. Racial and gender disparities. Democracy. Economic inequality. These and other topics have sparked conflict in recent years around the world. Understanding and resolving such conflict requires not just an understanding of their direct causes, but also of our evolution as coalitional and cultural creatures. Humans are adept at building and maintaining large coalitions to compete for resources and power. The greater size and efficacy of our coalitions relative to other animals is made possible in part by the social and cultural identities we attach to our coalitions (e.g. race, religion, political party). Human coalitional behavior is where cooperation meets conflict, and that union has given rise to humanity’s greatest accomplishments and worst evils.

Over the year, we will explore historical and present-day examples of coalition-building in the context of particular conflicts; examine the psychological, social, and cultural reasons that we take sides; and talk about the role of leaders in instigating or resolving conflict and building coalitions. Studying these topics help make us better citizens and leaders, whether at the level of the University, the city, the country, or the world.

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  • Coursework Overview

    The coursework for this Endeavor community involves taking a one-unit course in the fall semester and a one-unit course in the spring semester.

    Fall 2023 Semester

    Spring 2024 Semester

    LDST 101: Leadership and the Humanities (1 unit)

    LDST 102: Leadership and the Social Sciences (1 unit)

    Both courses are required for students majoring or minoring in Leadership Studies.

    LDST 102 also fulfills the FSSA General Education requirement.

  • Specific Course Information

    LDST 101: Leadership and the Humanities

    Introduction to leadership as an object of study through examination of its historical foundations and intellectual development. Readings selected from history, literature, philosophy, political theory, religion, and social theory. Emphasis on assessing these texts in light of reasoned argument and on drawing out their implications for leadership studies.

    LDST 102:  Leadership and the Social Sciences

    Introduction to the study of leadership through theoretical and empirical explorations of social interaction. Readings selected from anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology. Emphasis on advancing the understanding of leadership through an increased appreciation of the rich complexities of human behavior. 

  • Faculty Information

    Dr. Kristin M.S. Bezio is professor of Leadership Studies and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Jepson School.

    Dr. Chris Von Rueden is associate professor of Leadership Studies and co-director of the Science Leadership Scholars program.

  • Roadmap Short Course Information

    As part of the Endeavor program, you will participate in the popular Roadmap to Success pre-orientation program, where you will take a short course led by Jepson faculty.

    Short Course Description:  The Games Humans Play 

    Human beings are unique among animals because we build long-term cooperative coalitions—teams. We work together, but we also frequently come into conflict with other teams or factions, whether on the athletic field or the political one. This short course will look at how people build factions and explore coalitions through one of the most human things of all: games! In the process, you’ll learn more about cooperation, coordination, and communication.