Margaret Mead, from "Warfare is Only an Invention—Not a Biological Necessity"
Margaret Mead (1901-1978 CE) was an American anthropologist who made her fame studying cultures in the South Pacific. Her
work compares child-rearing practices in different societies. In her classic books
Coming of Age in Samoa
in New Guinea
(1930), Mead concludes that children learn the values of their culture, so that experiences of childhood and
adolescence (and other values in general) vary considerably across societies. Her 1940 essay "Warfare is Only an Invention—Not a
Biological Necessity" was written while German and Japanese fascists were overrunning large parts of Eurasia.
Source: Mead, Margaret. "Warfare is Only an Invention—Not a Biological Necessity," ASIA, XL 1940.
According to Mead, what are the causes and types of violence?
What is the difference between violence and war?
Is war a biological necessity, a sociological inevitability, or just a bad invention? Those who argue for the first view endow man
with such pugnacious instincts that some outlet in aggressive behavior is necessary if man is to reach full human stature. It was
this point of view which lay behind William James's famous essay, 'The Moral Equivalent of War', in which he tried to retain the
warlike virtues and channel them in new directions. A similar point of view has lain behind the Soviet Union's attempt to make
competition between groups rather than between individuals. A basic, competitive, aggressive, warring human nature is assumed,
and those who wish to outlaw war or outlaw competitiveness merely try to find new and less socially destructive ways in which
these biologically given aspects of man's nature can find expression. Then there are those who take the second view: warfare is
the inevitable concomitant of the development of the state, the struggle for land and natural resources, of class societies springing
not from the nature of man, but, from the nature of history. War is nevertheless inevitable unless we change our social system and
outlaw classes, the struggle for power, and possessions; and in the event of our success warfare would disappear, as a symptom
vanishes when the disease is cured.
One may hold a sort of compromise position between these two extremes; one may claim that all aggression springs from the
frustration of man's biologically determined drives and that, since all forms of culture are frustrating, it is certain each new
generation will be aggressive and the aggression will find its natural and inevitable expression in race war, class war, nationalistic
war, and so on. All three of these positions are very popular today among those who think seriously about the problems of war
and its possible prevention, but I wish to urge another point of view, less defeatist, perhaps, than the first and third and more
accurate than the second: that is, that warfare, by which I mean recognised conflict between two groups as groups, in which each