Simplistically put: War started when humans expanding over the Earth started encountering "others" who were coming from the opposite direction.

Could I get some references, links, what-not to this above notion?

Thanks, Hearthstone.

http://www.modelearth.org/praypeace.html

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It is not obvious that when human beings roamed the world without boundaries and encountered others, they took to fighting each other, war if you like. Since we don't know what human society was actually like then, we can only draw on a long history of speculation about the period. It seems likely that these were small mobile bands (no bigger than 25 persons and with post-menopausal women as leaders on account of their longevity) living off abundant animal and plant sources. The earth belonged to everyone and there was plenty of it. Why fight over it? Some think it took the invention of private property without states to regulate it to start war and others that states made to contain class differences built on property were the ultimate engines of war. If war is not part of human nature, the good news is that we might eventually get over it, the bad news is that may not be in your lifetime.



Will Reichard said:

Funny ... I just bookmarked this recently: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intractable_conflict

Competing with the "others" for resources is the oldest ongoing "protracted social conflict" , indisputably ...

What I'd rather get would be references that would support the theory that all inter-group conflicts started when there was no longer any more "virgin" territory for the growing human population to expand into ...

Thanks, Hearthstone.

The earth belonged to everyone and there was plenty of it. Why fight over it?

 

All humans are animals (H. sapiens sapiens).

All animals fight in conditions of resource scarcity.

To which we can add, (1) resource scarcity is always a local condition for animals engaged in conflict and (2) the world as a vast space in which a small human population can always find plenty to eat is myth. Terrain varies, climate varies, the availability of species consumed as food varies. It does your early human no good to have mammoths roaming the plains half a world away if a local drought has brought his band and other neighboring bands to the brink of starvation.

The truth in the private property story is that, since the neolithic and the invention of agriculture, human groups have been stuck with immovable real estate (fields, houses, etc.) that is both attractive to predatory others and difficult to abandon. Property law is, first and foremost, the law that, if it works, protects immovable assets. The state is an invention for capturing and protecting more of the real estate in question.There is plenty of research that indicates that where human populations remain mobile, e.g., in Highland New Guinea until a few decades ago, conflict tends to be highly ritualized and casualties low, more along the lines of ritualized combat between males (stags, bulls, beetles, etc.) during biologically determined mating seasons than mass slaughter or genocide. Those phenomena come later, when states up the ante in terms of weaponry and military organization and terror is invented as a way of cowing defeated populations. 

From the perspective of this scenario, the most interesting things about modern conflict is that warfare leading to mass slaughter or genocide appears to have peaked in the period between the American Civil War and the end of WWII. It persists where states are failing or failed, e.g., in Sudan and the Congo, but—barring the possibility of nuclear or other weapons-of-mass destruction attacks—modern warfare is both more deadly and more selective than in earlier periods. Civilian fatalities  in WWII are estimated to have been between 50 and 70 million.  Civilian casualties of the Vietnam War are estimated to have reached two million. Estimates for Iraq War civilian casualties range from 110,000 to a million, with most estimates clustered closer to the former than the latter. U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan are estimated to have killed fewer than 1,000 individuals to date. While figures like these are no comfort to the dead and injured, they do represent substantial declines since the peak of mass conflict during the world wars.

But, reverting to the theory sketched above, a fascinating question for the present and near future is the impact of globally mobile capital (as opposed to locally stuck real estate) on warfare. What happens when the powers that be can pick up their marbles and move them elsewhere instead of being stuck where they have to fight for them?

P.S. Where the previous message reads "where human populations remain mobile [sic], e.g., in Highland New Guinea until a few decades ago," it should be corrected to "where human populations remain low density and/or mobile, e.g., in Highland New Guinea until a few decades ago."

* Human population is increasing, on the whole, with time.
* The surface of a planet is finite.

From which follows that the competition for resources increases with increasing human population density. Competition in its extreme form is an armed conflict;

To be successful in competition requires more complex social organization--thence "state";

"Private property" is a "prize" in an intragroup form of competition--the winners of intragroup competition lead the group in intergroup competition

Keith Hart said:

It is not obvious that when human beings roamed the world without boundaries and encountered others, they took to fighting each other, war if you like. Since we don't know what human society was actually like then, we can only draw on a long history of speculation about the period. It seems likely that these were small mobile bands (no bigger than 25 persons and with post-menopausal women as leaders on account of their longevity) living off abundant animal and plant sources. The earth belonged to everyone and there was plenty of it. Why fight over it? Some think it took the invention of private property without states to regulate it to start war and others that states made to contain class differences built on property were the ultimate engines of war. If war is not part of human nature, the good news is that we might eventually get over it, the bad news is that may not be in your lifetime.

Will Reichard:

" ... what's the real motivation at work in competition?"

Hearthstone:

To control resources?



Will Reichard said:

One of the things that has most interested me lately is the idea of empathy. It's somewhat like the old question of altruism, but there's a lot of new research on it. Rifkin's "Empathic Civilization" is a great overview and he makes a pretty good case that it's actually our ability to act empathically and cooperatively that defines us. I was struck by this last year in Alaska and got to learn more about indigenous cultures there ... the worldview itself is highly relational; "possession" as Westerners understand it really isn't a factor.

It's an old question of environment vs. culture. I'm still with Keith on this one ... not at all clear that the state is an evolution of an existing process. One of our anthro professors used to put it this way: Since we can find varying responses to situations of limited resources, how do we explain the differences?

Another thought: I've heard it stated that the world has plenty of resources to sustain even a larger population, and also that population is expected to peak in the next couple of decades. So if resources are actually more than ample, what's the real motivation at work in competition?


Mr. Jan Hearthstone said:

* Human population is increasing, on the whole, with time.
* The surface of a planet is finite.

From which follows that the competition for resources increases with increasing human population density. Competition in its extreme form is an armed conflict;

To be successful in competition requires more complex social organization--thence "state";

"Private property" is a "prize" in an intragroup form of competition--the winners of intragroup competition lead the group in intergroup competition

Keith Hart said:

It is not obvious that when human beings roamed the world without boundaries and encountered others, they took to fighting each other, war if you like. Since we don't know what human society was actually like then, we can only draw on a long history of speculation about the period. It seems likely that these were small mobile bands (no bigger than 25 persons and with post-menopausal women as leaders on account of their longevity) living off abundant animal and plant sources. The earth belonged to everyone and there was plenty of it. Why fight over it? Some think it took the invention of private property without states to regulate it to start war and others that states made to contain class differences built on property were the ultimate engines of war. If war is not part of human nature, the good news is that we might eventually get over it, the bad news is that may not be in your lifetime.

A couple of thoughts

First in response to Jan's

To be successful in competition requires more complex social organization--thence "state"

Like the assumption of the big, thinly inhabited world where food or other resources are there for the taking, the idea that success requires complexity is also a bit simplistic. It may be true that big, complex organizations are required to extract, process, and move the goods that large, dense populations require. Increasingly, however, becoming a smart, simple parasite that achieves symbiosis with larger hosts is another possibility. My wife and I, for example, are the partner-owners of a translation and copywriting company with only two other, part-time employees. We have deliberately stayed small, which reduces overhead, minimizes risk, and allows us to focus on doing what we do very well instead of wasting time and energy on organizational issues. It may be wise to remember that from an internal perspective a large organization, of which states are only one example, creates all sorts of opportunities for relatively unambitious folk.

 

Turning, then, to Will's question

 

Since we can find varying responses to situations of limited resources, how do we explain the differences?

 

One thing we can learn from biology is that there may be numerous successful strategies in the "same" environment. A tidal creek like the one in front of the house in which I grew up is a good example. Fish, crabs, oysters and all sorts of other things co-exist there. I put that "same" in brackets because the question of whether the same creek is the same environment for an oyster and a crab, with different senses and strategies, is an interesting puzzle. 

 

Re

 

So if resources are actually more than ample, what's the real motivation at work in competition?

 

I reply that there is what makes sport attractive, "the thrill of victory, the despair of defeat." There is also a real, fundamental pleasure in craft, in achieving something significant over which you have some control. One of the things I really like about Japanese culture is the celebration of craft. You might think, for example, that spending your days making endless bowls of ramen noodles would be an utterly boring fast-food job. But if there are movies that celebrate the search for the perfect bowl of ramen (Izami Juzo's Tampopo) and TV programs on which the subtle differences in ramen produced in different regions or by different famous shops are the subject of intense debate (a good Western analogue is wine snobs arguing vintages), pride can be taken in what you do. And, of course, if you are good at something that other people are willing to pay for, whether blacksmithing samurai swords or translating museum catalogues (a lot of what we do), there are other, more material rewards as well. 

 

These considerations might all become moot, of course, if a serious disaster struck, an earthquake and tsunami like the one that devastated northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, for example, or a global economic depression. In the meantime, however, the equation of competition with cannibals in a lifeboat is way over the top. In a world of ample resources, there are plenty of sources of meaning and fun.

A thought:

Paradoxically--humans were expanding over the globe, because they were trying to avoid conflict. They did not know that the surface of the Earth was not stretching out to infinity. When local conditions started getting crowded, they'd just moved on ... till conflict started happening just because they were moving on, because they were trying to avoid it.

We still are not used to encountering people who are coming from the other direction (simplistically put)--we are trying to avoid conflict, and there they are--antagonists trying to prevent us from our trying to avoid conflict! Must be bad people! Perhaps not human even! Very different from us!

We are basically preferring Peace to War, but, alas! Obviously the other guys are seeking strife!

Thanks, Hearthstone.

Hi, Jan

It's my understanding, based on what appears to be a consensus of cultural anthropologists, paleoanthropologists, and evolutionary biologists, that H. sapiens was not designed to transcend the hunter-gatherer clan estate, with ample "elbow room".  Regional population increases and resource competition in both prehistoric and historical times have reduced said "elbow room" to the point of conflict between clans, i.e., war.  The evidence of archaeology and written history show unequivocally that war is a chronic trait of humankind, with no end in sight!  It is my own opinion that xenophobia is instinctive in man, whether we choose to admit it or not. In my own case, I find myself tacitly recoiling at first brush from any number of persons who, in general terms, manifestly share with me abundant cultural and genetic affinities: small differences can loom large in personal perceptions and disaffections.  I'm not an expert, so cannot cite the most relevant scholarly writings on the subject, but I do believe it is voluminous.

... (continuing in Gedankenexperimenting) ... there might have been a little bit of a progress. With the pressure increasing (exponentially?), it is "safer" to treat everybody as an enemy, instead of just the strangers newly encountered. This might explain the continuing corrosion of the "traditional" family?

Larry Stout said:

Hi, Jan

It's my understanding, based on what appears to be a consensus of cultural anthropologists, paleoanthropologists, and evolutionary biologists, that H. sapiens was not designed to transcend the hunter-gatherer clan estate, with ample "elbow room".  Regional population increases and resource competition in both prehistoric and historical times have reduced said "elbow room" to the point of conflict between clans, i.e., war.  The evidence of archaeology and written history show unequivocally that war is a chronic trait of humankind, with no end in sight!  It is my own opinion that xenophobia is instinctive in man, whether we choose to admit it or not. In my own case, I find myself tacitly recoiling at first brush from any number of persons who, in general terms, manifestly share with me abundant cultural and genetic affinities: small differences can loom large in personal perceptions and disaffections.  I'm not an expert, so cannot cite the most relevant scholarly writings on the subject, but I do believe it is voluminous.

I think that manifest interdependence is less obvious than in days of yore.  Perhaps no man is an island, but "peninsular" life is more and more possible, at least in perception.  The Apple "iLife" comprises the ever more popular "iPhone" etc....

Hi Jan,

I would be more than willing to try and help however I would like to know if you are still researching this topic, re.date? and also if you have or are able to narrow and refine your focus. In that I would posit that given the xenophobia of humans, just being from across the river or next valley may have been sufficient to create conflict.

Cheers

Wayne

 

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