Neuroendocrinology Letters Special Issue, Suppl.4, Vol.23, December 2002 Copyright © Neuroendocrinology Letters ISSN 0172–780X www.

(Evolutionary) Theories of Warfare in Preindustrial (Foraging) Societies
Johan M.G. van der Dennen Department of Legal Theory, Section Political Science, University of Groningen,


Correspondence to: Johan M.G. van der Dennen, Ph.D. Department of Legal Theory, Section Political Science University of Groningen Oude Kijk in ’t Jatstraat 5, 9712 EA, Groningen, THE NETHERLANDS PHONE : +31 50 3635649 FA X : +31 50 3635635 EMAIL :

Submitted: Accepted:

September 19, 2002 October 15, 2002
war causation; evolution; ‘primitive’ warfare; (pitched) battle; lethal male raiding; kin selection; sexual selection
pii: NEL231002R06 Copyright © Neuroendocrinology Letters

Key words:


Neuroendocrinology Letters 2002; 23(Suppl.4):55–65


I present an inventory of theories of war causation (and on the origin of war) in preindustrial (traditional, foraging, ‘primitive’, hunter-gatherer, band- and tribe-level) societies, with emphasis on the roles of natural selection, sexual selection and kin selection. Also the school of sociocultural evolution is briefly discussed.

Many anthropologists do not acknowledge a (bio)evolutionary background to war, adhering to Mead’s [1] famous dictum ‘War is only a cultural invention’ (e.g., Harris [2 to 10], Ferguson [11 to 20], Keeley [21]). Many students of war do not consider an evolutionary approach useful or relevant, even though the prevailing cultural-materialist theory is highly compatible with the evolutionary paradigm (Sanderson [22]). A variety of scholars associate the origin of war with the Mesolithic way of life. Ferguson [17] is the most outspoken advocate of this position: “In sum, the evidence is fully consistent with the conclusion that war first became a social institution in Mesopotamia some 8,000 years ago, and has been reinvented in many times and places since, and flatly inconsistent with the idea that war has been a regular occurrence throughout human history”. In its most general terms, the rationale of warfare, genocide, and other forms of collective violence may be epitomized as ‘getting rid of the competition’ or eliminating the sources of fear and terror. “War is obviously one way of gaining access to needed resources - and of eliminating potential threats to your own population or resources” (Corning [23]).

(An abbreviated version of this article appeared in Pagel M. (Editor-in-Chief) The Oxford encyclopedia of evolution. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press; 2002. p.1146-1149).


or propensities for warfare. favor destructiveness as such. Turney-High [54] has illuminated the ‘biomechanics’ of the line which develops more or less automatically when two groups meet in an agonistic encounter and every individual organism strives to have its vulnerable flanks protected by its neighbors. sapiens) and the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). When a battle is prearranged it is called a ‘pitched battle’. Van der Dennen [30]). van der Dennen. but always with the implicit assumption that war was (a) uniquely human. including Man (Homo sapiens sapiens). Manson & Wrangham [33]. The discovery of male coalitional aggression and ‘lethal male raiding’ in free-ranging chimpanzees (Goodall [32]. van der Dennen ([30]. and among standing armies in historical and contemporary warfare when the armies are too big to operate undetectedly.. Otterbein. 40. Phylogeny refers to the ‘ultimate’ dimension of causality: “Why has warfare. Tooby & Cosmides’ [57] ‘risk-contract’ theory (see also MalagonFajar [58]). of course. which should be distinguished from the proximate causative factors. Battle-type warfare occurs in many primate species and some other group-territorial mammals. Wrangham [34] has also suggested the distinct possibility that the chimpanzee-hominid common ancestor already had this lethal male raiding pattern in its behavioral repertoire (panid-hominid synapomorphy) some 6 million years ago. [39]).G. sexual selection and kin selection In general. a view of phylogenetic continuity. male bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Cioffi-Revilla [31]). that all living organisms descend from other organisms that successfully mated and reproduced in past environments. Low. Cheney [36]. “Cooperation-for-conflict has probably always been the key to human survival” as Bigelow put it. Ultimately. as first proposed by Darwin [37].g. [39]). Gat [50]. 29]. it has solved the problem of warfare because this kind of ‘selfish cooperation’ (Corning) is an excellent instrument for escalated and violent intercoalition and intergroup contest competition. [29]). Otterbein. van Hooff [43]. all organisms are the products of the former strategies of their genes. Gat ([50] to [52]) is worth exploring. TurneyHigh [54]. and elaborated by many others (Meyer [24] to [27]). [44] to [49]). Wrangham [34]. Manson & Wrangham [33]..g. van der Dennen [30]) makes the conventional view of warfare as a singularly human ‘cultural invention’ of some few thousand years old increasingly untenable. Bigelow ([38]. as opposed to the mostly implicit assumption of Man’s uniqueness and the conviction that war is a one-time cultural invention. van der Dennen). including warfare. Low [28. Wrangham): continuity between humans and nonhuman primates. van der Dennen Natural selection does not. Slurink [42]. van der Dennen [30].Johan M. Wrangham & Peterson [35].g. and thus are phylogenetically related to one another. such as social carnivores. Davie [53].. Wrangham [34]. two types of warfare (broadly defined as organized intergroup or intercommunity contest competition) in animals and man have been distinguished: Raiding (‘lethal male raiding’ or ambush or dawn surprise attack). who are capable of ‘super- 56 . have evolved. Wrangham & Peterson [35]) and battle-type intergroup violence in social carnivores and a great number of primates (Cheney [36]. A great number of disciplines have traditionally studied war in contemporary as well as ‘primitive’ or preliterate.g. failed raids or failed surprise attacks and chance encounters in ‘primitive’ peoples. Bigelow ([38]. The evolutionary (or selectionist or Darwinian) paradigm proceeds from the assumption that all organisms. violent interactions. Low [28. preindustrial. evolved in the first place?” and “Why has warfare evolved in only so few species?”. at least two (brainy) species have accomplished this: Man (Homo s. and occa- sional near-genocidal routing (e. “What are the motives or conditions that led to this particular war?”. Ultimate and proximate causes are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. e. Divale [55]. but reproductive success. In social carnivores and ‘female bonded’ (or female philopatric) primate species. New Guinea). and is supposed to test the (numerical) strength of the opponent while leaving room for a more peaceful solution of the conflict by mediators – but the ritual battle can easily develop into a rout and a massacre if a substantial imbalance of power is detected by one of the parties involved (Divale. Corning [23. Tournament-like ‘ritualized’ combat is generally found among ‘advanced’ tribal societies with fairly dense populations (e. Durham [59. nonstate. Darwinian (bio)evolution: natural selection. In ‘primitive’ societies raiding is the most bloody and lethal form of warfare due to small but rapidly accumulating casualties. make evolutionary sense only if they serve reproduction (Meyer [24] to [27]). Lethal male raiding has been explained by Wrangham’s ‘imbalance-of-power’ hypothesis. or a number or series of independent inventions (e. Some Australian tribes practiced so-called ‘expiatory combats’ (comparable to medieval duels) for settling disputes (van der Dennen [61]). female participation in these – more noisy than bloody – battles commonly exceeds male participation. 60].. and Low’s [28. Until now. Instead. (b) the Multimale (or Polyadic) Coalition argument: as soon as a species has solved the problem of coordinated cooperative action by more than two individuals. and (b) a one-time cultural invention spread by diffusion. Low ([28]. The contention that war must have existed before mankind is based on (a) the Phylogenetic Continuity argument (Bigelow. Keeley [21]. 29] and van der Dennen’s [30] sexual selection approach (vide infra). Battles result mainly from chance encounters by primate groups. Otterbein [56]). band-level and tribal (hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist) societies. 29]. and that – ultimately – all organisms have come in one uninterrupted chain from the first simple multiplying cells. and battle (confrontation of two opposing lines or phalanxes). 41] among others.

e. among others. Melotti ([78] to [81]). Falger & Vine [63].edu 57 . Warfare would be the best alternative for the group that practiced it successfully. live in closed social groups containing multiple females. The rationale for groups to compete as groups has been illuminated by Pitt [91]. among chimpanzees (a male philopatric species). designed for coalitional warfare. Wilson). Vol. and (2) sexual access to women will be the primary benefit that men gain from joining male coalitions. and Neuroendocrinol Lett Special Issue. and kill their rivals as do men” (Ghiglieri [74]). mate polygynously.nel. it is suggested. Under these conditions. restrict their ranging to a communal territory. it makes better evolutionary sense for the troops to determine ownership of the resources as groups. warfare. are a serious third candidate. and (e) violent group conflict. when a neighbouring community weakens. Trivers [72].. This is the imbalanceof-power hypothesis.. males of the chimpanzee-bonobo-human clade retain their male offspring predominantly.g. Van der Dennen. assuming it to have been within their biological reach. with most other primate (and social carnivore) species in which the females have more ‘vested interests’ in the defense of their lineage and the integrity of their group territory. Especially. men have been able to gain reproductively by warring behavior. Bigelow.g. genocide or genosorption strongly favoring the aggressor need take place only once every few generations to direct evolution. rather than having both conflict and decreased inclusive fitness (which would accompany a merger). Bigelow. will have evolved psychological mechanisms (‘Darwinian algorithms’). which suggests that coalitional killing is the expression of a drive for dominance over neighbors.4. Dow [73]. there is usually a sharp drop in relatedness. some ethnocentric xenophobia between groups would be selectively favored in a potentially hostile and violently competitive environment (e. Suppl. and.23. If conflict is inevitable.War in Preindustrial Societies coalitions’ for the purpose of forcefully monopolizing females. Two conditions are proposed to be both necessary and sufficient to account for coalitional killing of neighbors: (1) a state of intergroup hostility. this drop may be such as to promote active hostility between neighbouring groups” (Hamilton [67]). although in the bonobo (Pan paniscus) some intergroup agonistic behavior but no lethal raiding (nor communal hunting) has been observed. it is easy to see that the warprone group would be the most successful. This strategy may be a pattern common to the chimpanzeebonobo-human (or HUCHIBO) clade: “Unlike gorillas and orangutans. Tooby & Cosmides. (2) sufficient imbalances of power between parties that one party can attack the other with impunity. women have almost never been able to do so” (Low [28]). apparently. Low. pre-state warrior societies. 70]). i. as we have seen. human urban gangs. Wrangham [34] presents the principal adaptive hypothesis for explaining the species distribution of intergroup coalitional killing. Alexander [82 to 90]. Wrangham & Peterson note that the underlying psychology of ‘male bonding’ is no different for chimpanzee raiding parties. selection favors the tendency to hunt and kill rivals when the costs are suf- ficiently low. the males of some communities make a concerted strategic effort to stalk. (c) violent conflict between individuals. Assuming that different groups tended towards one or another of these strategies. arguably. and contemporary armies. Hamilton [65 to 67]. groupterritoriality and female transfer has been singled out as the starting condition for lethal intergroup violence (Goodall. (b) peaceful competition between groups with the losers starving.. via either incorporation of neighboring females or encroachment on the territory of neighboring groups and elimination of numerically weaker males. Accordingly. Shaw & Wong [64]. Manson & Wrangham. This contrasts. exacerbated by the sharply decreasing (genetic) kinship at the groups’ boundaries: “At the boundary of the local group. ‘proto-ethnocentrism’. Given the chimpanzee evidence. even as a parental investment strategy). in varying degrees. in Low’s words: “Through evolutionary history. Or. Wilson [69. For male organisms females are generally the limiting resource: for human males women are the highly strategic ‘good’ (always in short supply) that can convert the other resources controlled by the males into offspring (Borgia [77]. Ghiglieri. Tooby & Cosmides enumerate some significant implications of their Risk Contract of War: (1) men. Additionally. Reproductive success is the only criterion in the currency of evolution. (d) scramble competition. Wrangham. van der Dennen. Male and female organisms have evolved different strategies for the optimalization of their reproductive success because what for the one sex is a highway to genetic immortality is for the other sex a one-way ticket to genetic oblivion (paraphrasing Symons). van der Dennen. van den Berghe [62]. The question why males are the warriors in raidingtype warfare has been addressed by Symons [71]. Symons). Slurink. To understand this – for some undoubtedly extravagant – claim. are cooperatively active in territorial defence. McEachron & Baer [91] and Baer & McEachron [92]. Wrangham & Peterson. It has been noted by many scholars that intergroup competition can be a potent and relentless selective force without high levels of violence and killing (e. Irwin [68]. the combination of male-male cooperation. and Ghiglieri [74 to 76]. Manson & Wrangham proposed that such imbalance-of-power mechanism must have been an important factor favoring the evolution of lethal male violence in humans also – and even before the evolution of weapons. but not women. Reynolds. Their answers are remarkably compatible: raiding-type warfare evolved as a high-risk/high-gain malecoalitional reproductive strategy (or. “By current theory. Several scenarios can be pictured in intergroup contest competition: (a) peaceful coexistence or merging of the groups. attack. Wrangham). the ultimate benefit of lethal male raiding has been hypothesized to be increased access by raiding males to reproductively valuable females. December 2002 Copyright © Neuroendocrinology Letters ISSN 0172–780X www. the following observations are relevant. This alone could push truly altruistic genes to a high frequency within the bands” (Wilson [69]).

not to Darwinian (bio)evolution. they were able to kill adult conspecifics by surprise. Gat). Wilson. van der Dennen). (c) Hereditary chiefs and primordial warrior society. which in turn required (b) sociality (intergroup conflict will occur only in long-lived social species: Low [28]). and political warfare as distinct progressive social-evolutionary stages. To these levels of sociopolitical organization correspond the levels of military organization as distinguished by Feest [125]: (a) War-chiefs on the basis of reputation. Morgan [109]. the ability to recognize ingroup versus outgroup members. (c) Machiavellian (opportunistic) intelligence. Indeed. which Darwin himself liked to call “descent with modification”. the predominant school to the end of the 19th century. but these refer to altogether different phenomena and may cause considerable confusion).. Unlike other animal species.G. and glory”). Similarly. and the state. and ‘adaptation’ are used by both bio-evolutionists and sociocultural evolutionists. Sociocultural evolution: stages in sociopolitical complexity The basic motives and practices of ‘primitive’ war were already known to the classical historians such as Herodotus and Tacitus (Turney-High. van der Dennen). Van der Dennen’s investigation of the evolutionary origins of intergroup conflict in social carnivores and primates identified (a) the capability to form polyadic coalitions (selfish and opportunistic cooperation with more than one conspecific) as the necessary precondition. Low. tribe. it will be the warmongers whose genes are represented in the next generation. Also Fried [120 to 122] and Hunter & Whitten [123] identified four stages or levels of ‘sociopolitical’ evolution: egalitarian society. economic. Richerson [94] advances what he calls the ‘evolutionary tragedy’ hypothesis: Warfare is liable to evolve even if it makes everybody worse off. in which he concluded: “We had occasion to observe that in every rude state the great business is war. Symons. and from a substantial distance by throwing projectiles (Pitt. Diametrically opposed views were espoused by Rousseau [106] in his Le Contrat Social. Steward [111] and some others saw in cultural evolution a multilineal phenomenon). The concept of evolution as an ordering principle in cultural anthropology was proposed about 1840. ingroup altruism. A century later Sahlins [112 to 115] and Service [116 to 118] proposed a scheme of social evolution in four stages: the band. Plainly. War. Tylor [110]. is warfare itself. But this referred to (Lamarckian. Bingham [95]. Baer & McEachron. It is the perversion of the situation (the logic of the war ‘game’) rather than that of the actors involved. and state-level society (more or less equivalent with the band.g. the tribe. One of the first accounts in Europe of ‘primitive’ cannibalism and warfare was Hans Staden’s [103] story of his life among the Brazilian Tupinamba (though some doubt has risen about its authenticity). stratified society. Spencerian) sociocultural evolution. even before Darwin’s Origin of Species [107]. to discriminate between these categories. Low. (d) Full-blown military societies (or fraterni- 58 . Evolutionism. and to preferentially treat ingroup members to positive reciprocal (altruistic) interactions such as protection. chiefdom and state stages). Proto-ethnocentrism is supposed to imply some kind of group identity. either defensive or offensive. when their adversaries were unarmed and vulnerable. This sequence is assumed to represent a cultural-evolutionary development. in which he introduced the concept of the ‘Noble Savage’ who did not wage war simply because there were no (material) benefits to be gained by waging war (This so-called Hobbes-Rousseau controversy. intergroup antagonism. has dominated the anthropological literature until today). rank society.e. and/or his access to nubile women (e. and intergroup agonistic behavior (i.Johan M. Van der Dennen’s evolutionary scenario or ‘evolutionario’ also outlines the phylogenetic and socio-ecological principles governing group formation. being generally divided into smaller parties. are engaged in almost perpetual hostilities”. (b) Dual leadership: formal peace. through a barbarian stage. (The terms ‘evolution’. subjugation and genocide). Quincy Wright [124] distinguished social. to civilization (Spencer [108]. the only possible competitive strategy for survival in competition with a group practicing warfare. Most of the many factors that favor the reproductive potential of cooperative people and good warriors can be grouped under two categories: (1) the genetic effects of increased Lebensraum (territory and resources) and (2) the genetic effects of polygyny (Bigelow. “has been the great business of mankind since time immemorial”. the chiefdom. that is. territorial expansion.and warchiefs. nepotism. Humans thus became quintessentially first-strike creatures. Hamilton. conquest. with concomitant changes in warfare patterns and motives (from what Muehlmann [119] and Meyer called endemic feuds and wars of retaliation to war as an instrument of predation and plunder. a persistent and irreconcilable one. and (d) proto-ethnocentrism.. Hawkes [102]. and that in barbarous times. assumed a linear and progressive conception of evolution and history: human societies advance from the simple to the complex. diffidence. and sharing of resources. The nature of warfare as it is conducted at each of these levels appears to differ in a systematic way. mankind. van der Dennen). ‘function’. Chagnon. war and its non-human equivalent). from the ‘savage’ primitive horde. Among many hunting-gathering peoples a man’s quality as a warrior and his hunting prowess is directly related to the number of wives he can obtain. In 1767 Adam Ferguson [104] published An Essay on the History of Civil Society (the first attempt at an empirical cross-cultural study). van der Dennen could indeed overrun any group attempting to practice one of the other strategies. This conclusion neatly confirmed Hobbes’ [105] gloomy view of the war-ridden condition of primitive society (the causes of which he identified as “competition. outgroup antagonism.

nor seizure of slaves nor plunder of economic goods is characteristic of primitive warfare” and “the more primitive the people the less warlike it tends to be”. Fiji was seldom without war. middle. cannibalism. they have frequently killed off or enslaved the males of their vanquished opponents and preempted the women” (Corning [40]). i. and reproduction is the root cause of conflict and fighting in humans as in all other animal species. Carneiro). and unending” [131]. spiritual) evolution: the Agent of Progress. it has been observed time and again that states make war and war makes states. Also. but one of social organization. Chagnon. as secondary and only reinforcing other trends (e. and Gat could confirm recently that ‘primitive’ warfare (among hunter-gatherers.100 years ago (Sanderson [22]). Hobhouse. who thought that primitive warfare was so desultory because it was so thoroughly uneconomic. and finally (e) Standing armies (see also Andreski [126]. the role played by war in the creation of more complex societies is divided between those who see it as a prime mover (e. scalping. a perpetual struggle for territory and power.g. In a 1978 paper Carol Ember [145] (definitively?) shattered “the myth about peaceful hunter-gatherers”. lower. van der Bij [133]. or as one of a set of interacting variables ( 59 . territory. and sometimes even genocidal business: guerre à l’outrance (due to rapidly accumulating casualties in raiding and routing). beginning in Mesopotamia around 5. Other causes and expressions of fighting in nature. Revenge.g.4. lower and higher hunters. Otterbein. Group extinctions due to chronic warfare between (horticultural) village communities are quite common in New Guinea. the obligations of the blood feud and other ‘magico-religious’ motives (cf. trophy taking. December 2002 Copyright © Neuroendocrinology Letters ISSN 0172–780X www. See Table I for the main theories of ‘primitive’ war.. closely followed by status. they strongly suggest that there is a process involved. Wheeler & Ginsburg [132]. chiefdoms can put together fighting forces in the hundreds or thousands. bloody. This is a fortiori the case of states and empires.. war and intergroup conflict have been the principal factors of human progress. human sacrifice. A concomitant (mainly social-Darwinist) theory in this connection is the view that struggle. and Quincy Wright were the first to apply crude statistics to their cross-cultural sample of some 650 distinctive ‘primitive’ societies. abduction of women. then.. Amazonia.War in Preindustrial Societies ties). Ferguson). Turney-High. Among contemporary scholars.nel. Few primitive societies had reached what he called the ‘military horizon’. or that war is the prime mover of human (cultural.23. placating ancestral spirits. and in the Cauca Valley “warfare was universal. and found quite unambiguously that “belligerence is a concomitant of civilization”. as conscious. van der Dennen. Leeds [144].e. Ferguson) also postulate realistic group conflict about material interests. and the motivational and emotional mechanisms associated with them. Broch & Galtung [146] reanalyzed Wright’s data by multivariate analysis techniques. The roots of the materialist school sprouted in the 1940s when a number of anthropologists reinterpreted Plains Indian. As Gat reasoned: “The interconnected competition over resources. these primary causes. Quite a different tradition was started by Steinmetz [134. Fried). moral. prestige and glory. He notes that warfare among chiefdoms in these regions was nearly constant. Keeley. vital or strategic resources such as land and game (high-quality protein). and higher agriculturists. status and prestige. and scarce resources (including the never-ending search for security) are the main proximate causes or motives of war and feuding in ‘primitive’ societies reported in the literature. Divale. Van der Dennen... women. and Zulu warfare in thoroughly economic terms. Carneiro studied chiefdomlevel warfare in the Cauca Valley of Colombia and in Fiji. horticulturalists. Ferguson. warfare is depicted as a strategy to secure scarce. The absence of ‘economic’ motives in the warfare patterns of primitive societies (at least the hunter-gatherers) was also emphasized by Turney-High. “The military horizon depends. as Low suggested. are derivative of. Keeley. Wright concluded that 95% of his sample were warlike peoples (which seems the confirm the notion of universal belligerence). not upon the adequacy Neuroendocrinol Lett Special Issue. Carneiro [128 to 131] noted that whereas smallscale band-level and tribal societies are usually capable of putting together warrior bands of a few dozen at most. Harris. etc. and subordinate to. Turney-High repeatedly emphasized that the evolution of warfare is not simply a matter of (weapons) technology. The evolution of historical war may be succinctly described as the transformation of armed men into manned arms. and lower and higher pastorals. Suppl. Iroquoian. 13]). i. Gat). while the reproductive rewards have become increasingly ‘unhooked’ from the warring behavior. 135] (who retorted to van der Bij’s finding that primitive peoples are unwarlike by stating that primitive peoples are primitive precisely because they are unwarlike) and especially Davie [53] who emphasized sanguinary war for plunder. in the sense that increasing civilization would lead to increasing warlikeness or bellicosity.) (Davie. Ferguson [11. Vol. “Conquerors have usually been very generous with their genes. although also acknowledging ‘non-economic’ motives such as revenge. and originally evolved this way in humans as well”. The contemporary schools of (multi)functionalism and (eco)materialism (Vayda [136 to 143]. as well as distinguishing levels of ‘economic culture’. deliberate and violent struggles over material resources. The formation of the state in codified history represents a remarkable process of parallel evolution. and other regions where feuds and wars are endemic.e. etc. acute. simple agriculturalists) and prehistoric warfare is generally a lethal. Though their data are synchronic rather than diachronic..g. and supernatural or magico-religious motives (such as headhunting. Other important conclusions were: “Neither territorial conquest. [127]). territorial conquest.

and related early ‘Instinct of Pugnacity’ formulations by James and McDougall [205]. ‘Killer Ape’ popularizations: Dart [202]. incorporated. Ferguson. [203]. Alexander. ♦ Warfare and sexual selection (sexual – or reproductive – competition and the evolution of a ‘male coalitional psychology’. chiefdom. Andreski. Bernard. Multifunctionalists envisage not only the adjustment of the man/land ratio due to warfare. Benedict [151] and Mead. Muehlmann and others (e. Goodall. Lumsden & Wilson [217]. Meyer and Wilson regard warfare as well as ethnocentrism as cultural hypertrophications of biological predispositions. Service. Goodall. Alexander & Tinkle. Corning. [3]). (4) (Bio)evolutionary theories. Feest. Boulding [153].g. Vayda & Leeds. ranging from strictly genic selectionists (Durham) to group selectionists. Knauft ([183] to [185]).g. War as (evolved from the) man hunt: Frobenius. without taking the ultimate dimension into consideration). van der Dennen. Wilson. A typical proposition of this school is: “Primitive warfare arose as part of a complex system that prevented human populations from exceeding the carrying capacity of their habitats” (Harris. Ferguson. Boyd & Richerson [215]. economic. “Fear of hostile foreigners has probably always been the most effective promotor of social unity among related bands of people” (Bigelow. Eibl-Eibesfeldt particularly emphasizes the role of indoctrination in creating the ‘warrior-type’ personality. Fried. Leakey & Lewin [154].G. Wrangham.. These last approaches form a transition to the (bio)evolutionary theories. This body of theories is predicated upon the assumption of phylogenetic continuity. Malinowski [176]. Kelly [190]) proposed that war probably originated in and evolved from the blood feud. Meyer. Starr [160]. [129]): White [158]. Davie. Bigelow. subjugated. “Group aggression confers such a huge winning edge against single competitors that. among others. White [158]. Chagnon. Chagnon. This programmatic and dogmatic rigor has done more harm than good (e. not individuals. and the so-called ‘male supremacist complex’ (Harris. Intimate relationships have been proposed between ♦ Warfare and group territoriality: Tinbergen [192]. ♦ Warfare and kin selection (ethnocentrism-cum-xenophobia): van den Berghe.000 years ago are the common themes in all general history textbooks: e. Most or all theorists of these school acknowledge sociocultural evolution but do not see any special role for ‘biology’ (which is usually conceived of as ‘genes and hormones’. kin selection instantly forged it into the most serious weapon in any male’s behavioral arsenal” (Ghiglieri [76]). Tiger & Fox [223]. ♦ Warfare and hominid/human brain evolution (trebling of human brain due to relentless groups competition): Darwin. (Multi)functionalists are Vayda. ‘Warfare is only a cultural invention’ (Mead [1]) and ‘War is not in our genes’ are the best known adages of this inventionist (Boasian) school which begins with Boas [149] and his students Dewey [150]. The warrior-type personality may be viewed as a product of sexual selection. 60 . Borgia. Leeds [168]. Hunter & Whitten. Frobenius [198]. McEachron & Baer. and warfare as plunder writtenlarge concomitant with the rise of the first states and empires some 5. Thienpont & Cliquet [220]. and sociopolitical variables. Washburn & Lancaster [199]. and spread mainly by cultural diffusion). The masculine ‘hunting mystique’ has lost much of its appeal lately. van der Dennen. Richerson & Boyd [216].g. [189]. Pitt. Hamilton and Wilson envisaged a ‘stepping stone’ model of territorial aggrandizement and genosorption. “the less well adapted tend to fall by the wayside. van der Dennen. and thus (bio)evolution is commonly rejected as irrelevant (e.g. warfare. critic of this school is Hallpike [170]. Boehm [186]. and the Marxist-Leninists. Adams [225]. sociologists.. Corning. McNeill [152]. Reynolds et al. meaning that both our biological and sociocultural evolution are acknowledged. cf. [222]. or eliminated other human groups): Darwin. Keeley). Masters [209]. preferential female infanticide. A typical proposition of this school is: As societies compete. Meyer envisaged a sociocultural development from endemic war (for metaphysical power) to its instrumentalization (for material power). Wrangham & Peterson have taken chimpanzee ‘lethal male raiding’ into account in explaining human raiding. war for women). Muehlmann. Tooby & Cosmides. [174]. Lee & DeVore [200]. Davie.Johan M. Melotti.. [101]). Steward. Symons. [175]). ♦ Warfare and hunting (or ‘Carnivorous Psychology’) theories: James [196]. Ardrey [204]. and sarcastic. Ehrenreich [226]. population pressure in relation to ecological and/or climate changes) in the causation of war: Sumner [164]. This is the prevailing paradigm among cultural anthropologists. Steward. Dyer [161]. (2) (Eco)materialist and related (multi)functionalist theories. (3) Sociocultural selection and evolution of warfare theories (Evolutionism for short). Slurink. with sexual selectionists and kin selectionists somewhere in between. Wilson. Keeley. Andreski. Divale [171]. or in Vayda’s terminology: War functions to adjust the man/land ratio. Alexander. ♦ Warfare and human (ultra)sociality and balance-of-power theorists (human groups as predators upon one another. [165] Sumner & Keller [166]. [197]. tribe. Keith [208]. [193]. Tiger [221]. Andreski. ♦ Warfare and group selection (during specifically human evolution. These theorists are a heterogeneous lot. Bronowski [159]. Meyer. Sahlins. Its explanation is therefore social or cultural. Pfeiffer [201]. Eibl-Eibesfeldt ([210] to [214]). Turney-High. General criticisms by Hallpike and Robarchek [188]. Wilson. Holsti [194]. Harris. Warfare as one-time invention (or series of inventions. Schneider ([155] to [157]). Trivers. van Hooff. the diffusionists. Bigelow. Shaw & Wong. Baer & McEachron. Bouthoul. Manson & Wrangham.. leaving outstanding those best able to withstand the competition” (Carneiro. [38]). White (cf. van der Dennen. Lathrap [167]. Wittfogel [163]. Turney-High. [218]. not psychological”. but also the regulation of psychological. Alexander. once it entered the arms race of sexual selection. human groups have continuously replaced. Ghiglieri. Lopreato’s [191] ‘biocultural’ approach roots war and general human nastiness in evolved behavioral predispositions of self-enhancement. Most students of this school adhere to the band. Alcock [195]. Pitt. Leeds and Vayda [169]. and gene-culture co-evolutionary or ‘dual inheritance’ models. Melotti. Low. Kroeber & Fontana [227]). Divale & Harris [173].. Lorenz [207]. Scott [206] proposed that early hominids did not evolve as formidable hunters and warriors but as timid scavengers and ‘fear biters’. [172]. and macrohistorians. Otterbein ([177] to [181]). van der Dennen Table I: Theories of ‘primitive’ warfare The main theories of ‘primitive’ warfare can be categorized (more or less arbitrarily and overlapping) as follows: (1) Warfare as cultural invention and macroparasitism. Newcomb [187]) claimed that “Warfare is a struggle between social organisms. Dawson [162] Cioffi-Revilla. A great number of these theorists are true heirs of Malthus in emphasizing the demographic factor (overpopulation. Falger [219]. Gat (Goldstein [224] discusses ‘War and Gender’ without invoking the evolutionary dimension. The most caustic. Divale et al. One offshoot of this school tries to relate population regulation. Naroll & Divale [182]. after the rise of human groups to ecological dominance): Alexander. Bigelow. state sequence of sociocultural stages (see text).

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