Hunter gatherer violence

May 2024 Forums General discussion Hunter gatherer violence

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  • #109676
    Hud955
    Participant

    I don't have a crystal ball, Vin, but it would not at all surprise me if some form of religion existed within socialism.  I don't for one moment regard human beings as being driven by rationalism.  In a propertyless society, though, I don't see how it could be a hierarchical or dogmatic form of belief with a centralised authority.  I imagine it might be more like earlier forms of religious belief that varied from place to place and from person to person and changed frequently according to social needs.As for ideology, it depends what you mean by that.  Because there could be no structural or fixed conflicts of interest in a classless society, it does not mean there will be no conflicts of interest.  Though there would be no room for class ideology, I'm not sure there would be no ideology.  We live permanently metaphorical lives, and we need a vehicle through which to express our social existence.  Even science is unable to escape the need for analogy.

    #109681
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    It was his Dublin university talk i watched….and the Q and A sessionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDSP9lmMQzg&list=PLHKVjBSDqMB70oI3D9GdRDskJkKfN90Tc&index=2&feature=iv&src_vid=NmjoCBBHec8&annotation_id=annotation_4071281223 Second warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.

    #109679
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    Vin wrote:
    What about a show of hands – who believes that religion and ideology will continue into socialism/communism. lol

    My hand is up.As far as ideology goes a socialist society would still have a socialist outlook, ideas, values, etc. Some don't like to see that whole package as ideology, as has been discussed before, but we're all free to disagree.As for religion, I guess it depends on whether new age spiritual beliefs are regarded as a form of religion. I don't see why all spiritual belief must die out in a socialist society.First warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.

    #109682
    pgb
    Participant

    YMS, your list of "material bases" of ISIS and other similar groups is no answer to the point I was trying to make. A conventional historical-materialist analysis of war in modern times asserts that the "real" cause of war is conflict between different capitalist classes, or between fractions of a capitalist class, over markets, trade routes, economic resources and the like – all of which comprise the "material" base of class society. It's a straightforward base-superstructure model.The examples of "material" bases you have given are not causes of the conflict. Some refer to the material conditions of life in parts of the world where ISIS and others have successfully recruited, some refer to the material (economic) resources that ISIS controls, like Iraqi oil wells, which it needs to run a theocratic, totalitarian state (the New Caliphate etc). But control of Iraqi oil wells is not the aim and purpose of the conflict. It's a means to effect that aim. Likewise, the fact that some Saudis and others are giving material support to ISIS doesn't make this support a cause of the conflict. I think Robbo's quote states the socialist (SPGB) position clearly and correctly: that the real causes of war are economic, and that religion and ideology constitute the "smokescreen"' which hides these real causes. Your "material bases" are not causes of the war involving ISIS et al,  they are not what the war is about, they are not what drives the militants to fight and kill. From what I can see it is religious faith. First warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.

    #109683
    robbo203
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Robbo203,Wars within capitalism are fought within the constraints of capital and commodity relations, but once we are freed from economic constraints, and enter the realm of freedom, then we may choose to fight wars for other than economic reasons, who knows?

     For what reason, though, YMS? It hardly seems probable at all.  You say that wars are fought within capitalism  within the constraints of capital and commodity relations.  True. But at the root of that is the property relationship and the conflicting material interests that arise from that. This conflict of interest expresses itself in different forms depending on the particular form of the property – or class – relationship. The historical materialist analysis of  war does not limit itself to capitalism but purports to explain the phenomenon of war under any and every form of class-based society as the expression of conflicting material interests. My point is quite simply that , if this is the case, then this ipso facto rules out the possibility of war in a socialist society.   Socialism lacks the material basis – the private property and the conflict of interests that arise from that – that would furnish the necessary motive for waging war. Might I bring this discussion back to the question of hunter gatherer violence?  It seems to me that the arguments of people like Ferguson and Fry  that there is no evidence whatsoever of warfare – that is, of systematic organised intergroup deadly conflict – before 10,000 years ago , are highly persuasive. Ferguson in particular has been highly effective in rubbishing the interpretation of archaeological forensic record offered up by the proponents of the war-is-innate-in-humans school of thought.  The material basis upon which wars might have occurred was simply lacking in Paleolithic hunter gatherer  band societies. Indeed a key characteristic of such societies was conflict avoidance made possible by the ability of groups to simply move on in a world where there were no boundaries to contend with. Apart from  anything else, population densities were so low that the likelihood of aggressive intergroup encounters was minimal. In any case what would be the point in such aggression in the context of an "immediate return" form of society when you could just help yourselves (literally) to the fruits of nature – the equivalent of our socialist "free access".  On the contrary , the ethnographic evidence of contemporary hunter gather bands – such as amongst the Australian Aborigines – suggests that they would have been linked by cordial ties of gift exchange.No doubt there would have been some violence but overwhelmingly the evidence suggests this would have been one-on-one violence.  See Soderburg and Fry's recent survey of 21 contemporary HG groups which I referred to earlier which underlines this point.  But even such violence would have been limited by the tendency of such groups to split up or fission as a result of internal tensions Organised warfare appeared on the scene, and with it the shift from HG bands societies to larger scale, more hierarchically organised tribal societies only comparatively recently.  And the trigger for that was environmental scarcities. A classic example of this is the case of Maoris of New Zealand The rapid colonisation of New Zealand by the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori tribes some 800 years ago was facilitated  by the abundance of game they encountered there at that time,  Among these were various kinds of flightless or semi-flightless birds which, having had no natural predators to contend with, had only a poorly developed instinct to flee.  The easy availability of quarry like the large moa bird made for a good living and enabled the human population to expand rapidly on a high protein diet.  However, by the 16th century much of the mega fauna had been hunted out, while the importation of alien species (such as the Polynesian rat) may have also contributed significantly to the decimation of indigenous species.  Increasing food shortages precipitated a period of conflict between hunting groups which led to the appearance of warlike and hierarchical tendencies within Maori culture as evidenced by the remnants of numerous military compounds (called "pa")  dating from this time. Ever wondered where that traditional performance  of the "Haka" came from which the All Blacks rugby team engage in before they proceed to yet again relentlessly crush the English side?  Well, there you are – it dates from an in era in which intergroup conflict began to manifest itself within Maori culture Scarcity is something that is embedded within the very nature of capitalist commodity production and transmitted  through the diffusion of capitalist culture.  We talk about the artificial creation of scarcity for good reason; capitalism cannot cope with the stupendous potential abundance it has made possible.  It is like the proverbial snake that eats its own tail. Socialism by liberating technology from the constraints of capitalism returns us to a state of affairs in which the ideology of scarcity no longer exists.  More than anything else, this is the reason why war will not happen in a socialist  society. The suggestion that a ritualised and lethal display of large scale violence might still occur – some kind of death cult  or perverse  aesthetic appreciation of the art of killing for its own sake, perhaps – is something I find not only appalling but improbable to a vanishing point. Can one seriously regard such an idea as being compatible in any way with the whole ethos of a society in which  the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all?  

    #109684

    PGB,

    Quote:
    Your "material bases" are not causes of the war involving ISIS et al,  they are not what the war is about, they are not what drives the militants to fight and kill. From what I can see it is religious faith.

    Their subjective intentions are irrelevent, the conditions (and especially the material surplus/oil) are what give rise to the fighting.  Those conditions include the existence of human coalitions, which will be built by whatever means necessary.  Furtehr, the commanders at the top are required to make rational choices regarding acquiring wealth that apply, irresopective of whetehr they are sincere in their religious beliefs. BTW, as we've seen from the presence of copies of Qu'ran  for Dummies with jihadists, there is little theological understanding among them, what is more important is the self image of taking part in a cause, and a feeling of belonging to one coalition/group or another. Robbo203,We might have a war just because we fancy it, for no reason.  taht's freedom, see?First warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.

    #109685
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Robbo203,We might have a war just because we fancy it, for no reason.  taht's freedom, see?

    Surely socialism is about democratic control? There would have to be a majority decision to produce weapons of destruction. What would the logic be  behind such a decision? People will not be free to do as they wish. Free only insofar as they don't hurt others. We can't have a Jimmy Savile running a hospital unless of course he his elected by a vote and it is decide he is the true genuine article First warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.

    #109686

    Vin,there might be no logic, we could just be bored: but you're right, it would have to be decided democratically to have a war.Second warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.

    #109687
    moderator1
    Participant

    Unfortunately, due to the many posts which are off-topic I've had issue several warnings.  The topic is very important to the case for socialism so please keep the discussion within the parameters of the thread title.

    #109689
    Hud955
    Participant

    Oooops!  Mod.  Just seen your post.  Will do!

    #109688
    Hud955
    Participant

    "YMS, your list of "material bases" of ISIS and other similar groups is no answer to the point I was trying to make. A conventional historical-materialist analysis of war in modern times asserts that the "real" cause of war is conflict between different capitalist classes, or between fractions of a capitalist class, over markets, trade routes, economic resources and the like – all of which comprise the "material" base of class society. It's a straightforward base-superstructure model."I'm not at all sure what is the source of your idea that there is a 'conventional' historical-materialist analysis of war, PGB, or that this is the view adopted by the SPGB.  Marx did not elaborate on his proposition.  He did, though, descrbe it as a working model and did not, himself, take a mechanistic view of it  (See his '18th Brumaire' for an example).  So, if you want to argue with someone who interprets it in the rigid and metahistorical way you insist on, then you will have to find someone who understands it in that way.  'Robbo's definition is , as you say, a reasonable summary account of the SPGB position.  The real causes of war are economic.  But 'cause' is a philosophically complex term.  Your insistance on using it narrowly in the sense of 'proximate' cause (and insisting on a limited application even of that) is inadequate.  Any efficient use of the term also has to include the concept of 'ultimate' cause as well as 'necessary' and 'sufficient' cause.   As has already been pointed out to you, there are reasons to believe that religion is not the principal factor 'driving ISIS to kill', nor, from what we know, does religion even seem to be providing an ideological framework for the killing.  The behaviour of ISIS is neither consistent with any particular Islamic doctrine, nor is it in conformity with Islamic doctrines in general (none of which sanction burning people alive, for example).  But even if religion were identifiable as the primary cause driving individuals or groups to join ISIS and kill in its name, that would not demonstrate religion to be the determining cause of ISIS's actions, any more than the patriotism that encouraged people to join European armies on the eve of the first world war was the reason why the war was fought.  The base-superstructure proposition is an analytic tool to help us understand why things happen in the material world; it is not a rigid or simplistic model, at least not in the hands of Marx (or the SPGB).  It recognises both material ('economic') factors and ideological ones and allows for a many layered intereaction between the two.  It implies only that to achieve anything we first have to provide for our immediate and longer term material necessities.  Following Marx's proposition then, two things, at least, can be said about religion: all the religious enthusiasm in the world will not start or maintain a war unless that war is being materially provisioned; and religions movements are themselves dependent on and motivated by material/social circumstances.  You say YMS's comment is no answer to the point you were trying to make.  That may well be so, but that's because the point you were trying to make has no bearing of the SPGB's case.First warning: 1. The general topic of each forum is given by the posted forum description. Do not start a thread in a forum unless it matches the given topic, and do not derail existing threads with off-topic posts.  

    #109690
    robbo203
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Robin agrees we don't really know anything about human nature, but insists that if there is one thing we definitely do know it's what he asserts as dogma. I'd go with the first proposition and reject the second.As for what humans would fight over if they didn't have to compete over natural resources and trade routes – is this a joke question? Religion and ideology, to ignore the more evil options, would seem to be prime candidates, if history is any guide.

     This is not quite what I said, Stuart , and it is odd, to say the least, that you should  characterise what I definitely said about  "human nature" as amounting to a "dogma" – the fact that we are highly adaptable social animals.  Is that a "dogma"? I don't think it is.  I think its an amply verifiable fact that human beings have lived under a huge variety of social arrangements and in a huge  variety of physical environments – from the Arctic to the Tropics – and so stands out as being  quite unique among animal species. What I was attacking was the sociobiological dogma that human beings are innately warlike.  Note that this is not the same as saying human beings are not prone to violence.  My argument, drawing on the evidence of people like Ferguson and Fry, is that that there were no wars – defined  here as systematic large scale and lethal intergroup violence – amongst Paleolithic hunter gatherers –  and that the first signs of war only appeared less than 10,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture , sedentism and the state.  This is far too short a time in evolutionary terms to have made a discernable impact on "human nature".  Ergo, war is a social institution not a biological phenomenon. This is why I think the question of why wars happen is highly relevant to this thread and I'm a little surprised that the Moderator has taken such a strict line on what is, or is not, off topic. It is relevant to the topic because the whole point of the topic is to discuss what gives rise to war. If human beings are not innately warlike (and the evidence of the pattern of violence in hunter gatherer societies – which is overwhelmingly one on one violence , not intergroup violence  – demonstrates this)  then I cannot see how wars are ever likely to happen in a future socialist society  where institutionalised scarcity and commercial rivalries no longer exist.  The argument the wars are fought for reasons other than conflicting economic interests, while true enough in itself, is not a sufficient reason, as has been pointed out. Of course organisations  like Isis or Boko Haram cite religious reasons for their murderous campaign of war – even if those religious beliefs they spout bear little or no relation to Islam as such (something which further reinforces the view that religion and ideology serve as a smokescreen to  opportunistically camouflage the underlying economic motives for war and to invest war with a necessary aura  of moral righteousness).  However, while clearly the ideology  and declared religious  beliefs of Isis and Boko Haram do help to explain their actions they do not really explain how or why such organisations have come to such prominence and gained such influence.  I suggest that part of the reason for that is that they appeal to a constituancy whose economic interests have been thwarted and refuffed and that the story of these organisations cannot really be fully grasped outside of  the context of conflicting capitalist interests and imperialist rivalry in places like the Middle East and Africa.  There is only so far you can push the argument that wars are fought over religious beliefs etc and no further and this stops well short of a fully rounded explanation. There is a great quote from Carolyn Merchant  which, for me, sums up rather well this whole  base -superstructure dialectic and acknowledges their reciprocal influence:An array of ideas exists available to a given age: some of these for unarticulated  or even unconscious reasons seem plausible to individuals or social groups; others do not.  Some ideas spread; others die out.  But the direction and accumulation of social changes begin to differentiate between  among the spectrum of possibilities so that some ideas assume a more central role in the array, while others move to the periphery.  Out of this differential appeal of ideas that seem most plausible under particular social conditions, cultural transformations develop (The Death of Nature: Women , Ecology and the Scientific Revolution,  Harper and Row 1980 p.xviii). One final point worth mentioning and this is something that Louis Dumont mentions in his book "From Marx to Mandeville" – that what we call the "economic realm", a kind of quasi-objectified , self sufficient or separate dimension of social reality , subject to its own inner laws, is something that really only came into own with the rise of a capitalist money-based economy.   The significance of this is that it is  only truly under capitalism that we are enabled to apprehend the apparent causal interrelationships between the economy and other aspects of society such as its superstructure.In hunter gather societies, or indeed traditional horticulturalist or pastoralist societies,  there was or is no such  "thing" as "the economy" as such.  Everything is mixed up.  The way you went about acquiring your daily subsistence was at one and the same time a cultural and religious activity.I think this point might have significant implications for the way in which this topic might be discussed 

    #109691
    pgb
    Participant

    Robbo says:  ….I'm a little surprised that the Moderator has taken such a strict line on what is, or is not, off topic. It is relevant to the topic because the whole point of the topic is to discuss what gives rise to war.Hear, Hear!   Perhaps the Moderator could tell us why?

    #109692
    Robbo203 wrote:
    defined  here as systematic large scale and lethal intergroup violence – amongst Paleolithic hunter gatherers –  and that the first signs of war only appeared less than 10,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture , sedentism and the state.

    The problem here is by definition human societies that are not systematically organised are defined out of warfare.Lets take a scenario. Two tribes of humans live near each other, maybe on opposite sides of a big valley.  From time to time hunting parties of males (about ten in each) meet.1) they see each other, and both withdraw, avoiding each other;2) or, after some shouting and thrown spears, one party withdraws.  Sometimes such encounters lead to injuries, or death ;3) or, both parties stand and fight, until one party is either slain or driven in pursuit from the field ;4) or, one party ambushes and massacres the other;5) or, one party plans to cross the valley, and attack the encampment of the other.Now, obviously, 5 is what we would undersand as definitely war, it has the intentionality and awareness of the enemy as the Other who must be attacked.  But, 2-4 demonstrate to some degrees what many would see as warfare, even if the engagements come about by happenstance.Now, we know from ancient warfare that the prominant mode was one on one combat, and so chances are in these encounters as bands what would be seen would be the biggest and mopst agressive males would engage while their mates stood by (this is a theory, that's as good as any other) rather than fighting as a co-ordinated unit.The problem is, such encounters would constitute war, and would lave no record in the archaeology.

    #109693
    LBird
    Participant
    pgb wrote:
    Robbo says:  … It is relevant to the topic because the whole point of the topic is to discuss what gives rise to war.Hear, Hear!   …

    I've left this thread alone for a few days, to see how it progresses. It hasn't.I still think that we're in need of definitions of what is being discussed, like 'violence'.Is 'violence' a spectrum, from hitting one another as kids, through adult tantrums about jealousy of partners, all the way to thermo-nuclear war and total destruction of the planet.Or is 'violence' an emergent property of some societies, which when structured in a certain way, produce war?As I've said before, both of these definitions have ideological roots.The former encourages talk of 'biological roots of violence', inherent in human nature or genes, whilst the latter encourages talk of 'social roots of violence', historically from specific social arrangements. The former sees violence as inescapable and eternal, whereas the latter sees violence as a temporary socio-historic phase of human development.The answers to these philosophical questions are not in research about hunter-gatherers, but in our own beliefs, which we've picked up from our own society.Whichever 'proof' that one wants can be found in h-g society. H-g society is both violent and non-violent, depending upon the criteria that are applied by the anthropologist.

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