Notes on Douglas P. Fry’s Beyond War
Chapter 8, “Man the Warrior: Fact or Fantasy?”
Conflicts in band societies are regularly presented as “warfare” – due to misperceptions,
projects, poetic license, or deliberately to make some point of the author.
Use of “warrior” language, the vocabularies of war – warfare, battle, enemy, declarations
of war, war parties, war paint, war dance, and so on – are used deliberately even when
they don’t apply.
[Use of similar terms within Western biomedicine to talk about people
“Descriptions of this kind help to re-create the “savage” in our own preconceived warlike
image, as the Western concept of war is projected onto indigenous activities that are not
really war at all.”
Two Kinds of Assumptions
Implicit assumptions – the “taken for granteds,” Mother Culture, creep into theoretical
modeling, research design, and scientific interpretations.
Explicit assumptions – those stated at the outset, held up for inspection and review.
The “Man the Warrior” View of the Past
Pervasive Intergroup Hostility Model:
groups of related men who defend their territories
and resources against similar, hostile groups of related men.
Assumptions of this model:
War is extremely ancient
Intergroup relations tended to be hostile in the past
Group membership was largely fixed – the exception being that women were
captured from neighboring groups as a goal of war
The males in a group were genetically related to one another, perhaps as members
of a patrilineage
Related males readily bonded and cooperated with each other in warfare
Effective male bonding and cooperation in war paid off in terms of increased
reproductive success for males engaging in those behaviors
Critical resources were scarce
War was waged to acquire scarce resources, territory, and women
Leadership and warrior behavior correlated with reproductive success and thus
were evolutionarily favored
Fry says all of these assumptions are not supported by the ethnographic data about
simple, nomadic hunting and gathering societies, and that, in fact, overly aggressive
individuals were selected against (by being killed either by others in revenge for their