From the Peaceful to the Warlike

Robert L. Kelly

in War, Peace, and Human Nature

Published in print April 2013 | ISBN: 9780199858996
Published online May 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199332687 | DOI:
From the Peaceful to the Warlike

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Many foraging societies experience violence that is sometimes lethal. This should surprise no one since lethal violence in small, egalitarian communities can arise from the denial of anger that comes with the politics of nonconfrontation that typify egalitarian societies—one can only keep a lid on animosities for so long. Foraging societies have mechanisms to resolve disputes, and one of these is to vocalize an ethos of non-violence. Indeed, a few foraging societies known to ethnography experience very little violence. But for many others, the mechanisms to resolve disputes sometimes fail, and opponents may come to blows. This chapter does not to ask if foragers are violent or not, but rather what conditions variation in the levels of violence. It looks at this from both ethnographic and archaeological perspectives. It shows that war and homicide are linked to issues of resource imbalance, and that demonstrations of the frequency of war among foragers or of its antiquity should not lead to the assumption that humans have a stronger proclivity for violence than they do for peace.

Keywords: foraging societies; foragers; peace; war; resource imbalance; violence; homicide; egalitarian communities

Chapter.  8722 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychology

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