The Human Potential for Peace

The Human Potential for Peace - The Human Potential for...

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The Human Potential for Peace Notes summarizing Douglas Fry’s book The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Anthropology provides special information and insights into the subjects of war and peace through its evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives. It challenges the dominant Western cultural belief that war is an ancient, natural, immutable, and inevitable manifestation of human nature. Naturalizing violence and war can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the evidence does not sustain the Hobbesian view. There are numerous examples in the archaeological and ethnological record of societies without war and with a minimum of other kinds of violence which focus on nonviolent conflict resolution (e.g., Semai), whole peace systems among societies (Xingu), and cases where a warlike society has become peaceful almost overnight (e.g. Waorani). There is a continuum from low to high levels of conflict and everything in between, but peace rather than war predominates in the human experience throughout history and prehistory. Among the many different types of nonviolent conflict resolution are avoidance, toleration, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and adjudication. Nonviolence and peace are not rare, they are just rarely recognized and studied. Fry provides a detailed discussion of five ethnographic cases of simple hunter- gatherers to demonstrate the human potential for peace. He notes that disputes are usually between individuals rather than groups. This may involve interpersonal violence, but it can hardly be honestly characterized as warfare. Some cross-cultural researchers on the distribution of warfare such as Carol Ember have exaggerated its
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2011 for the course PACE 345 taught by Professor Brucebarnes during the Spring '10 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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The Human Potential for Peace - The Human Potential for...

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