Warless Societies and the Origin of War

Warless Societies and the Origin of War - Raymond C. Kelly,...

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Raymond C. Kelly, 2000, Warless Societies and the Origin of War, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. In the Preface Kelly explains that for many years he has been teaching an undergraduate course on the anthropology of war at the University of Michigan. His book addresses some of the most frequent major questions that students bring to class--- Is war a primordial, universal, and pervasive feature of human existence, or something that developed at a certain time in prehistory? Are there peaceful societies which lack war? If so, what are they like? Reading the book is like working a jigsaw puzzle, the author gradually puts pieces in place, and the pattern gradually begins to emerge, although at times somewhat tediously and repetitiously. Nevertheless, Kelly is quite explicit about the purpose and basic method of his book (p. ix): "My principal objective is to present a general model for the initial evolution of war that is grounded in the comparative analysis of ethnographic data and then to apply this to the interpretation of pertinent data in the archaeological record." Subsequently in the "Introduction" Kelly (p. 1) states: "The central objective of this study is to elucidate the conditions under which warfare is initiated in sociocultural contexts where it did not previously exist, and to decipher the origin of war in that sense." In the "Introduction" Kelly (pp. 1-2) observes that, from the archaeological evidence available so far, it appears that warfare was rare to absent until quite late in human prehistory, around 7,500 to 7,000 B.C., and is related to the development of agriculture and sedentary villages. Later warfare is associated with competition over trade routes, and then the development of hierarchical and centralized political organization. The implication is that earlier hunter-gatherer societies were warless. This is particularly significant because hunter-gatherers societies represent about 99% of human existence, evolving some three million years ago. There is a paradox, however, because the ethnographic record of historically known hunter-gatherer societies indicates that many have sporadic interpersonal and intergroup violence if not warfare. Conclusions about the temporal and spatial distribution of warfare pivot on whether it is defined broadly or narrowly. Kelly (pp. 4-5) defines warfare as armed conflict with lethal weapons, multiple killings (not considered murders or criminal acts), collective effort, organized activity, between groups [inter-group, not intra-group, thus the we/they topology emerges], division of labor, advanced planning (not spontaneous eruption of violence), legitimate, morally appropriate and justified killing, in which participation is laudable, esteemed, prestigious, and there is social substitutionability (any individual will do, so no distinction between military and civilian personnel). Because of social substitionability, warfare differs from capital punishment in which a specific individual is targeted
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Warless Societies and the Origin of War - Raymond C. Kelly,...

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