Herbert Gintis
Congress on Capitalism in the seventies, Tilburg, the Netherlands (1970). Left to right: Ernst Mandel, Herbert Gintis, Bob Rowthorn, Elmar Altvater and organiser Theo van de Klundert
Herbert Malena Gintis

(1940-02-11)February 11, 1940
DiedJanuary 5, 2023(2023-01-05) (aged 82)
Academic background
Alma mater
InfluencesKarl Polanyi, Samuel Bowles, E.O. Wilson
Academic work
Main interestsEconomics, behavioral science, sociobiology
Notable works

Herbert Gintis (February 11, 1940 – January 5, 2023) was an American economist, behavioral scientist, and educator known for his theoretical contributions to sociobiology, especially altruism, cooperation, epistemic game theory, gene-culture coevolution, efficiency wages, strong reciprocity, and human capital theory. Throughout his career, he worked extensively with economist Samuel Bowles. Their landmark book, Schooling in Capitalist America, had multiple editions in five languages since it was first published in 1976. Their book, A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and its Evolution was published by Princeton University Press in 2011.

Life and career

Gintis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his father had a retail furniture business. He grew up there and later in Bala Cynwyd (just outside Philadelphia). Gintis completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in three years, one of which was spent at the University of Paris, and received his B.A. in mathematics in 1961. He then enrolled at Harvard University for post-graduate work in mathematics. After receiving his M.A. in 1962, he grew disillusioned with the subject area, and although still registered at Harvard, became a sandal maker with a shop in Harvard Square. During that time, he became very active in the student movements of the 1960s, including the Students for a Democratic Society and grew increasingly interested in Marxism and economics. In 1963, he switched his PhD program at Harvard from mathematics to economics, completing his PhD in 1969 with his dissertation, Alienation and power: towards a radical welfare economics. He was subsequently hired as an assistant professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then as an assistant professor and later associate professor in Harvard's Economics Department.[1][2]

Towards the end of his postgraduate studies in economics, Gintis had come into contact with the economist Samuel Bowles who had returned to Harvard after research work in Nigeria. It was to be the beginning of a collaboration that has lasted throughout their careers. In 1968 Gintis and Bowles were part of a group of graduate students and young faculty members at Harvard that included Michael Reich, Richard Edwards, Stephen Marglin, and Patricia Quick. The group held seminars to develop their ideas on a new economics that would encompass issues of alienation of labor, racism, sexism, and imperialism. Many of their ideas were tried out in a Harvard class which they collectively taught, "The Capitalist Economy: Conflict and Power". They also became founding members of the Union of Radical Political Economists.[3][4]

In 1974 Gintis, along with Bowles, Stephen Resnick, Richard D. Wolff and Richard Edwards, was hired by the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as part of the "radical package" of economists.[5] Bowles and Gintis published their landmark book, Schooling in Capitalist America, in 1976.[6] Their second joint book, Democracy and Capitalism, published a decade later, was a critique of both liberalism and orthodox Marxism and outlined their vision of "postliberal democracy".[7] Their most recent book, A Cooperative Species, was published in 2011. Like Gintis's 2009 The Bounds of Reason, the book reflects his increasing emphasis since the 1990s on the unification of economic theory with sociobiology and other behavioral sciences.[8][9]

Gintis retired from the University of Massachusetts Amherst as professor emeritus in 2003. In 2014, he was a visiting professor in the Economics Department of Central European University where he taught since 2005, visiting professor at the University of Siena, a position he held since 1989, and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he taught since 2001.[10]

Gintis died on January 5, 2023, at the age of 82.[11]


In addition to numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, Gintis has authored or co-authored the following books:

Also as: Gintis, Herbert; Bowles, Samuel (2011). Democracy and capitalism property, community, and the contradictions of modern social thought. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415608817.[7][12]

From 1997 to 2006 Gintis and anthropologist Robert Boyd co-chaired "Economic Environments and the Evolution of Norms and Preferences", a multidisciplinary research project funded by the MacArthur Foundation. Much of the research stemming from the project has been published in two books co-edited by Gintis and other project members:


  1. ^ Alberto, Carlos Torres (2013), Education, Power, and Personal Biography: Dialogues With Critical Educators, pp. 107–129. Routledge. ISBN 1136788352
  2. ^ Colander, David; Holt, Richard; Rosser, J. Barkley Jr. (2004). The Changing Face of Economics: Conversations with Cutting Edge Economists. University of Michigan Press. pp. 77–106. ISBN 0-472-06877-6.
  3. ^ Arestis, P.; Sawyer, M.C. (2000). A biographical dictionary of dissenting economists. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 226. ISBN 1-85898-560-9.
  4. ^ Lee, Frederic (2009). A History of Heterodox Economics: Challenging the Mainstream in the Twentieth Century, p. 271. Routledge. ISBN 113597022X
  5. ^ Katzner, Donald W. (2011). At the Edge of Camelot: Debating Economics in Turbulent Times. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199395969
  6. ^ Apple, Michael and Giroux, Henry (1995) "Critical Pedagogy in the United States" in Social Theory and Education: A Critique of Theories of Social and Cultural Reproduction, p. 311. SUNY Press. ISBN 0791422518
  7. ^ a b Berger, Suzanne (8 June 1986). "Postliberal Vision". New York Times. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  8. ^ a b Foster, Jacob G. (September 2012). "A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis". American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 118, No. 2, pp. 501-504. Retrieved 30 September 2014 via Jstor (subscription required).
  9. ^ a b c Sigmund, Karl (November–December 2009). "The Loitering Presence of the Rational Actor". American Scientist. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  10. ^ Santa Fe Institute. Herbert Gintis. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Herbert Gintis Obituary (2023) - Northampton, MA - Daily Hampshire Gazette". Legacy.com.
  12. ^ Wagner, Walter C. (March 1987). "Democracy and Capitalism: Property, Community, and the Contradictions of Modern Social Thought by Samuel Bowles; Herbert Gintis". Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 549-551. Retrieved 30 September 2014 via Jstor (subscription required).
  13. ^ Simonsohn, Uri (September 2006). "Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life by Herbert Gintis; Samuel Bowles; Robert Boyd; Ernst Fehr". Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 745-747. Retrieved 1 October 2014 via Jstor (subscription required)
  14. ^ Schmid, Hans Bernhard (2009). "Social Identities in Experimental Economics" in Plural Action: Essays in Philosophy and Social Science, p. 87. Springer. ISBN 9048124379