Agonic and Hedonic Styles of Social Behaviour

Author: Kortmulder, Koenraad and Yuri Robbers
Kortmulder, Koenraad and Yuri Robbers
Michael Chance created the concept of two modes of social interaction, agonic and hedonic. The one based upon threat, power and anxiety; the other on playful catching of attention and prestige. Whereas the rhesus macaque’s social system in mainly agonic, chimpanzees are capable of hedonic social relationships. The book has been written by two biologists who both have a broad interest in human behavior and the social sciences. They have favoured a non-specialist style, so as to make the book readable by educated laymen and graduate students as well as scientists working in the biological, psychological and sociological disciplines.


“The authors present here a thorough-going investigation of the crucial and undervalued touch system that deals with caring, tender, gently caressing skin experience, what they call “tederheid,” nothing that English “tenderness” doesn’t do the concept justice. I feel that their work on this under-examined sensory system provides powerful leverage for the better understanding of human psychiatric and psychological ills.” –(from the Commendatory Preface) Russell Gardner, Jr., M.D., F.A.P.A., F.A.C.P.

“In this book the authors discuss aspects of human and animal social behavior. Starting point is the assumption that human and non-human animals use comparable mechanisms of behaviour. They introduce a set of terms and concepts that is new for students of animal behaviour. In doing so the authors not only discuss aspects of behaviour, but also look at possible common underlying brain mechanisms. The discussion is based on a number of well-chosen examples of animal and human behaviour from own research and from the literature.I had the privilege to discuss several aspects of this study with the first author and to read parts of the manuscript. The process of writing the book was at the same time a process of exploring new ways in the study of social behaviour. The authors’ emphasis is on the concept of agonic and hedonic styles, using the terms Love and Order as headwords. This is an unconventional approach that opens new ways of thinking about behaviour and the underlying mechanisms. The authors are experienced researchers in the field of ethology. They don’t simply offer theory, but also provide experimental evidence supporting this theory. Colleagues may find their ideas unorthodox, but challenging at the same time. For me as a neurobiologist it was interesting to see how the authors attempt to fit the behavioural data into current ideas about brain mechanisms connected with specific aspects of behaviour. I am sure that many researchers will find new inspiration when reading this book.” – Jacob L. Dubbeldam, Emeritus Professor of Neurobehavioral Morphology, Universiteit Leiden

“Michael Chance was a great ethologist, and one of his most interesting ideas was the distinction between two different modes of behviour in mammals. This idea is worthily presented by the present authors. But their book is far too original to be merely the expansion of another’s idea. In subjecting the idea to further analysis, in pursuing its applications and ramifications, in extending it to other vertebrate classes, and in relating it to ideas in the physical sciences, they have made many important new discoveries, based on their own researches, about animal and human behaviour. Packed with interesting ideas and facts, lucidly and attractively written, this book will be a classic of ethology.” – W. M. S. Russell, M.A., D.Phil., C.Biol., F.I.Biol., Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Reading

Table of Contents

Part I. Introducing Two Social Styles
1. The concept of two modes: Hedonic and Agonic
Part II. Examples of Coexistence of The Two Social Styles: Animals
2. The vertebrate roots of Love and Order
3. Macaques; a new perspective for the type specimen of agonic behaviour
4. Draufgängertum vs. sitting on the fence; mainly about rodents
5 What about birds? (1) Geese
6. What about birds? (2) Babblers
7. Fish course: Barbs (Barbus, Cyprinidae, Pisces)
Chapter III. Examples of Coexistence of The Two Social Styles: Humans
8. Comparative notes on the Potlatch and the Kula
9. Patterns of relationships in the human family, and the rules of exogamy. Cl. Lévi-Strauss’ views
10. The ubiquitous hierachy
Part IV. Hypotheses and Interpretations
11. On the coexistence of Love and Order: (1) Why is the system of Love and Order self-regenerating?
12. Some mathematical considerations. States, statistics and complexions
13. On the coexistence of Love and Order: (2)