Hunter gatherer violence

June 2024 Forums General discussion Hunter gatherer violence

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  • #109694

    Lbird,Well, we can quickly define  violence as the infliction of physical harm on one person by another (I am thus excluding verbal violence a priori).  We can then add a further layer: the application of harm in order to impose ones will upon another; the application of harm in order to slay.Punching in self defence has the intent of deterring the attacker, so that is imposing your will upon them, for example.  I'd suggest the next layer up is imposing harm (including slaying) on one person so as to impose your will upon another person (or persons).This second layer is the context in which we can begin to define warfare.  To get to war, we would need a third,  to have some notion of collective/group action to inflict harm (or death) in order to influence another person (or persons).

    #109695
    LBird
    Participant
    YMS wrote:
    Lbird,Well, we can quickly define  violence as the infliction of physical harm on one person by another…

    [my bold]This is the problem, YMS.Who is this 'we'?Why would this 'we' define violence in terms of 'one person by another'?Then, to reinforce this definition, 'one's will upon another'; 'one person', etc.

    YMS wrote:
    This second layer is the context in which we can begin to define warfare.  To get to war…

    Then having accepted this 'one person' definition of 'violence', there follows a massive, unexplained and unexamined jump to 'warfare/war'.This is an ideological sequence that I don't accept, YMS.My ideology does not jump from the individual/biological/genetic to the social/historical, in one untheorised, hidden leap.Unless we, on this thread, expose our differing ideological presuppositions, we will continue to 'talk past' each other.Anthropologists, as a part of their scientific method, should expose their ideologies, prior to discussing the societies which are the object of their research.One's 'viewpoint' will determine 'what' one 'sees'. And 'one' is a social being, a product of a society.

    #109696
    moderator1
    Participant
    pgb wrote:
    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?

    Sure no problem.  The OP of this thread clearly indicated it wished to discuss the latest "evidence" on the subject matter.  As materialists we are here to discuss this evidence, unfortunately a number of posts and users illustrated they were not interested in discussing the evidence but their opinions and subsequently the thread made a big drift off the subject matter.Like robbo is stressing the data and definitions are suspect to cherry picking so it now up to us to forumulate a socialist response to this.  And it seems that LBird is also having a go on their definition of violence, so good for him for its all part of the discussion.I would have taken action on the drift towards off-topic posts earlier if I wasn't so tired to go back through the thread to confirm I had already issued a reminder.  By the time I had to check this out later in the day, the damage had already been done with further off-topic posts appearing.  Hence, the strict line of action I took.I do allow some posts to get through which are off-topic for the moderator guidlelines do stipulate:  "Socialist discussions are wide ranging. ‘Off-topic’ is not rigidly interpreted, and moderators allow some side discussions that are clearly related to the main discussion and only intervene if they begin to lead the thread entirely away from its given topic."In other words its not my job to curtail discussion but to encourage it and to ensure the flow of the discussion continues, albeit on-topic.  I can't stress enough that this "evidence" goes to the heart of the case for socialism and it will only be kicked out of touch by us thoroughly examining it to clearly identify its fault lines. 

    #109697

    Lbird,like it or not, the one person on one person infliction of harm occurs, and we need to call this something.  We then need to distinguish it fromcollective infliction of harm.  We can observe the different behaviour of inflicting harm as an end in itslf, and inflicting harm as a means to an end, and we can then observe inflicting harm as a means to an end involving a third party, this is a logical sequence of different classifications of observable behaviours.  I'm not saying one leads to another, that one on one harm in itself leads to collective harm, yes, the causation could be the other way round that collective harming could lead to within group harming.  But before we begind theorising we need to distinguish between different behaviours.

    #109698
    LBird
    Participant
    YMS wrote:
    Lbird,like it or not, the one person on one person infliction of harm occurs, and we need to call this something.  We then need to distinguish it fromcollective infliction of harm.

    Yes, but as well as 'distinguishing' two definitions, we also have to determine whether there is any connection whatsoever between these two 'somethings'.

    YMS wrote:
    We can observe the different behaviour of inflicting harm as an end in itslf, and inflicting harm as a means to an end, and we can then observe inflicting harm as a means to an end involving a third party, this is a logical sequence of different classifications of observable behaviours.

    This linking together by you of 'observation' and 'logical sequence' is itself an ideological belief.You appear to regard 'observation' to be non-ideological (ie., that the 'thing observed' is self-evident), and that linking a series of 'things observed' is entirely non-ideological (ie., that the 'link' is self-evident).

    YMS wrote:
    But before we begin theorising we need to distinguish between different behaviours.

    But one's theory determines what one sees as 'behaviour', and how one 'distinguishes between' them. It is an ideological stance to regard 'behaviour' as self-evident to an 'observer'.I've got no problem with you having a different ideology to me, YMS, but we need to clarify exactly what our ideologies are, because yours seems to assume a lot of 'common ground' ('common sense'?) between us, which I clearly can see that we don't share.I think this concealment of ideology is at the root of problems with understanding anthropology, and thus with understanding hunter-gatherer societies.

    #109699
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Why has rule 14 and 15 been ignored on this thread? Other users have been suspended for breaking these rules and a lot of fuss about whether or not they should be allowed in the partyIs it now OK to question Mod decisions on thread and off topic? At the same time I am being warned for questioning  Mod decisions on a thread I specifically set up for that purpose? Is it not time for some uniformity? I have made suggestions that could solve this problem but for some reason they are ignored.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.

    #109700
    Hud955
    Participant

    "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….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."There are a number of issues here, YMS.   Theoretical scenarios are all very well, but it is much better to deal with what we actually know.  On this matter, can I first suggest we keep the terminology clean to avoid confusion.  If we are talking about palaeolithic or modern hunter gatherers we should not be referring to them as 'tribes'.  Tribes are generally clan-based, patrilineal, status societies, of relatively recent origin, and they are almost invariably horticulturalists, drovers or pastorlists.  Most are at least semi-sedentary.  They are quite unlike bi- or matrilocal hunter gatherer societies which are egalitarian, having no chiefs, or elders or status positions of any sort.Immediate return hunter gatherers are invariably non-territorial.  This is also true for many delayed return hunter gatherers.  In itself this fact raises all sorts of issues about the kind of encounters you propose in your scenario.  Ethnographers are now coming to appreciate, for instance, that a great number of apparently warlike encounters between hunter gatherers (not between tribal societies or chiefdoms)  are best understood as sophisticated conflict management techniques.  Those working with Australian aborigines have noted that spear throwers are trained to be very skilled at missing.  They have also noted that many apparently violent encounters between bands are highly ritualised and aimed at avoiding conflict and death rather than expressing it.  If death does inadvertently occur, as it can, how then should we view this?You cannot interpret the scenarios you suggest above without taking into consideration both the immediate social origin of the conflict and the social relationships within which it is embedded.  Take your scenario number 5, for instance.  In a conflict between members of two tribal groups this may be interpreted as an act of war, or it could be a matter of limited clan raiding, depending on who was involved and on the purpose of the conflict.  Both clan raiding and warfare are wellnigh impossible between immediate return hunter gatherer bands, and are difficult between dalayed return hunter gatherers.  Immediate return hunter gatherers are generally bilocal.  That is, they trace their lineage through both male and female lines.  The result is that their kinship ties are not linear, but form complex and irregular networks.  This is complicated further  by the nature of  kinship itself within these societies which is only roughtly based on blood relationships: anyone can become your kin just by joining your band and contributing to your social life and provisioning.  As a result, clans, which are based on strict patrilineal descent do not exist.  As feuding is a clan-based activity, it simply doesn't exist among hunter gatherers.    In an immediate return hunter gatherer society, if someone kills another either in the heat of the moment (and when everyone carries poisoned hunting weapons, that is bound to happen from time to time)  or kills them deliberately, revenge, if it is taken at all,  is almost invariably carried out by a member of the victim's kin on the murderer himself, not on a member of the murderer's family as is common in clan feuding, and the matter generally ends there.  It is only among groups that have developed strong status relationships such as the highland pig-keeping and semi-sedentary communites of Indonesia (so beloved of Pinker) where interminable feuding occurs.Warfare among immediate return hunter gatherers is also almost completely unknown in the ethnographic record, and there are obvious structural reasons for this.  These are communities of extreme individualists which have no collective means of organising conflict.  Their egalitarian ethos of non-interference in the business of others is a further barrier.  (In a hunter gatherer society it is generally bad form even to ask questions of another or to say goodbye as this is seen as either implying status or interfering in someone else's independence of action.)  I read an amusing story relating to the Yanomami which illustrates these issues.  The Yanomami are not hunter gatherers, they are horticulturalists, and may even be the descendents of valley farmers from the Amazon basin, but they have a semi-egalitarian structure in some respects similar to genuine hunter gatherers.  One ethnographic account desribes an occasion where a group of Yanomami set off to attack a neighbouring community to avenge some previous act of violence.   Before they reached their intended target, though, one by one, every single member of the groups had turned back.  When asked the reason for not continuing with the attack, two reasons stood out above others:  sore feet and belly ache.     There are of course, some bands and sedentary groups whose behaviour runs contrary to these general observations, but in each case the history and detailed structure of the group needs to be considered.  Some,  for instance,  are known to have been predated upon by neighbouring warlike agruculturalists or by colonial slave raiders, or have suffered genocidal attacks by post-colonial governments, commercial operations, and so on.   Territorial freedom also palys a part.  These groups generally have had nowhere to run to when attacked.  (Hunter gatherers who do have a forest or other location to disappear into when attacked often do just run.) Each case needs to be carefully examined in its own right.Finally, the warring practices of ancient tribal and early-state societies have no relevance to hunter gatherer behaviour or organisation.

    #109701

    Hud955 ,that's interesting, particularly:

    Quote:
    Ethnographers are now coming to appreciate, for instance, that a great number of apparently warlike encounters between hunter gatherers (not between tribal societies or chiefdoms)  are best understood as sophisticated conflict management techniques.  Those working with Australian aborigines have noted that spear throwers are trained to be very skilled at missing.  They have also noted that many apparently violent encounters between bands are highly ritualised and aimed at avoiding conflict and death rather than expressing it.  If death does inadvertently occur, as it can, how then should we view this?

    That was the sort of encounter I was particularly envisaging.  More specifically, say, two immediate return hunting bands are chasing the same mammoth?  I think you're right that they aren't going to stand and fight to the last man, and would more likely threaten and try and chase each other off.Likewise what you say about raiding is interesting.  I think the key is the definition of war not lying in violence, but in power, specifically the question of imposing ones will upon another. 

    #109702
    LBird wrote:
    This linking together by you of 'observation' and 'logical sequence' is itself an ideological belief.You appear to regard 'observation' to be non-ideological (ie., that the 'thing observed' is self-evident), and that linking a series of 'things observed' is entirely non-ideological (ie., that the 'link' is self-evident).

    One person stabbing another is an event that has happened, irrespective of any ideology on earth, a sharp pointy thing has ended a life, the trick is putting that in context.Lets try another way: what do you think constitutes:1) Violence2) Warfare

    #109704
    LBird
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    This linking together by you of 'observation' and 'logical sequence' is itself an ideological belief.You appear to regard 'observation' to be non-ideological (ie., that the 'thing observed' is self-evident), and that linking a series of 'things observed' is entirely non-ideological (ie., that the 'link' is self-evident).

    One person stabbing another is an event that has happened, irrespective of any ideology on earth, a sharp pointy thing has ended a life, the trick is putting that in context.Lets try another way: what do you think constitutes:1) Violence2) Warfare

    [my bold]As I thought, YMS, 'one person' and 'events' are entirely unproblematic for you, when it comes to discussions about 'warfare'. You assume a link between the two; otherwise, why mention them in the same context?As to definitions of 'violence' and 'warfare', that's what I've been asking you to give. Why avoid answering, and then ask me to tell us what you avoid answering?'Violence' is not 'warfare', and the two are not necessarily related.That is, we can have 'violence' without 'warfare', and we can have 'warfare' without 'violence'.The automatic linking of the two is an ideological act, and it's done by anthropologists who wish to link hunter-gatherer society with modern society, through some universal human 'behaviour'.Y'know, 'persons', 'pointy things', 'an ended life', and 'thermo-nuclear destruction of humanity'.

    #109705
    LBird
    Participant
    YMS wrote:
    I think the key is the definition of war not lying in violence, but in power, specifically the question of imposing ones will upon another.

    [my bold]Here, we're back to 'one', and 'another' one.This is an ideological belief, YMS, that discussion of various 'ones' is related to discussions about 'social power'.

    #109703
    Hud955
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Hud955 ,that's interesting, particularly:

    Quote:
    Ethnographers are now coming to appreciate, for instance, that a great number of apparently warlike encounters between hunter gatherers (not between tribal societies or chiefdoms)  are best understood as sophisticated conflict management techniques.  Those working with Australian aborigines have noted that spear throwers are trained to be very skilled at missing.  They have also noted that many apparently violent encounters between bands are highly ritualised and aimed at avoiding conflict and death rather than expressing it.  If death does inadvertently occur, as it can, how then should we view this?

    That was the sort of encounter I was particularly envisaging.  More specifically, say, two immediate return hunting bands are chasing the same mammoth?  I think you're right that they aren't going to stand and fight to the last man, and would more likely threaten and try and chase each other off.Likewise what you say about raiding is interesting.  I think the key is the definition of war not lying in violence, but in power, specifically the question of imposing ones will upon another. 

    Hunter gatherer bands are profoundly egalitarian..  Sharing is fundamental to their way of life, and though there may be some individual grumbling, they would not think of disputing a kill in the way you suggest. Their traditions and social structures would not support it.  These people are extremely conscious of their egalitarian status and go to very great lengths to preserve it.  For many groups, even the responsibility of sharing out meat amongs the camp does not belong to the hunter that actually killed the animal.  And you should not think of their bands in territorial or boundaried terms.  Bands are very fluid with constant movement of individuals between them (even between different language groups), which means that their internal customs of sharing extend outwards from their own bands. Archeological evidence suggest that in many parts of the world their communities were once continent wide.  Again there have been reassessments on this recently.  In sub-Saharan bands of the Ituri forest for example, it would be normal for say Efe hunters to ask permission to hunt in Mbuti country.  This was once cited as evidence of territoriality. It is now understood, though, that it is merely etiquette, and a means by which the two groups can coordinate their hunting activities.  The Mbuti could no more refuse permission to the Efe to hunt in any part of the forest than they could refuse to hand over anything that was demanded of them.  (Hunter gatherers have an all but universal system of 'demand sharing').   The 'territory' is merely their traditional area of operation.  This is why such groups have been so easy to decimate and encapsulate.  In their view the land is for everyone and every species to use.   Having no conception of property in land or in anything else, they have allowed loggers and farmers to come in as of right, only then to discover that they are violently excluded from their usual hunting areas.  They are only now beginning to get to grips with propertarian ideas and to fight back legally.  To get a sense of how profound is their propertyless condition it might be worth mentioning the Mbendjele from the Congo basin who get really very  angry with gorillas because of their territorial behaviour, and shout at them furiously when they come running at them out of the forest thumping their chests. It's for this reason that they use the term 'gorilla' to describe adjacent Bantu communities who are farmers and who therefore have territorial practices.   Hunter gatherers are very adept at not ending up hunting the same game.  Their skill at logistical reasoning (calculation of movement of herds at various times of year and in various weather conditions and the movement of other bands, is reputedly phenomenal.)  Should it happen, though, the most likely result would be that they would share the kill.  If it were big game like an elephant, both camps would simply move to the site of the kill and settle down to feast on it together – and probably put the word around for others to join them too.I think this becomes clearer when you remember that these people almost invariably live in conditions, not of scarcity, but of abundance.  They have no Hobbsean fears that the world will not provide for them.  And there is no fear of sharing. Their understanding of their environment is so detailed that even when forced onto marginal land as the San have been in the Kalahari they can always provide an abundance for themselves of what they choose to need.    

    #109707
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    moderator1 wrote:
    pgb wrote:
    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?

    Sure no problem.  The OP of this thread clearly indicated it wished to discuss the latest "evidence" on the subject matter.  As materialists we are here to discuss this evidence, unfortunately a number of posts and users illustrated they were not interested in discussing the evidence but their opinions and subsequently the thread made a big drift off the subject matter.Like robbo is stressing the data and definitions are suspect to cherry picking so it now up to us to forumulate a socialist response to this.  And it seems that LBird is also having a go on their definition of violence, so good for him for its all part of the discussion.I would have taken action on the drift towards off-topic posts earlier if I wasn't so tired to go back through the thread to confirm I had already issued a reminder.  By the time I had to check this out later in the day, the damage had already been done with further off-topic posts appearing.  Hence, the strict line of action I took.I do allow some posts to get through which are off-topic for the moderator guidlelines do stipulate:  "Socialist discussions are wide ranging. ‘Off-topic’ is not rigidly interpreted, and moderators allow some side discussions that are clearly related to the main discussion and only intervene if they begin to lead the thread entirely away from its given topic."In other words its not my job to curtail discussion but to encourage it and to ensure the flow of the discussion continues, albeit on-topic.  I can't stress enough that this "evidence" goes to the heart of the case for socialism and it will only be kicked out of touch by us thoroughly examining it to clearly identify its fault lines. 

     Two breeches of rules 14 and 15 and a polite reply from moderation. Suspension for me and 'told you he would go nuts on the forum again' And to prove it we have had to suspend him for such terrible behavior of asking mod for a clarification', which by they way is open to everyone else.  

    #109706
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Vin wrote:
    Why has rule 14 and 15 been ignored on this thread? Other users have been suspended for breaking these rules and a lot of fuss about whether or not they should be allowed in the partyIs it now OK to question Mod decisions on thread and off topic? At the same time I am being warned for questioning  Mod decisions on a thread I specifically set up for that purpose? Is it not time for some uniformity? I have made suggestions that could solve this problem but for some reason they are ignored.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.

     This a joke right? Everyone can discuss moderation but me? I will now receive my third warning and suspension for doing what others are doing. Proof positive that I am not paranoid and that the IC and mod are openly and arrogantly using the power of censorship. No I wont. 

    #109709
    Dave B
    Participant

    I think this idea of warfare in hunter gatherer societies being about power of one individual or group over another is a non starter. As it is predicated on the possibility of some form of exploitative social relationships eg slavery; which there are not. I think a major strand of this debate is the possibility or otherwise that the material environmental conditions of humans in the period of their evolution necessitated territorial disputes and the development of the appropriate instincts etc? Or for that matter that the material environmental conditions of humans in the period of their evolution necessitated the avoidance of territorial disputes? Of course if you are a woolly mammoth nothing would be more likely to bring gladness to your heart than to see your enemies, different bands of human hunter gathers, knocking shit out of each other. A point that Kropotkin, who understood Darwin, made. In fear of moderator-; a paradigm than transcends the hunter gatherism into the English method of imperialism. On just this instinct issue I am a materialist biological determinist and like Darwin believe that the default position on the evolution of behaviour and human instincts should be one derived from or start from a theory or theories abstracted from the observation of general ‘animal behaviours’ in consideration of the ecological niches they occupy etc. The re social instinct; “in a high degree probable” position. Eg. http://darwin-online.org.uk/converted/published/1871_Descent_F937/1871_Descent_F937.1.html We could start with an analysis of ‘wars’ and ‘territorial disputes’ in the animal kingdom of social animals; non social animals fall into a totally different category as do sexual reproduction access to females disputes etc. [Actually even sexual reproduction access to ‘females’ disputes are not totally ubiquitous as in some species the males raise the offspring and the ‘women’ fight each other over the men; which is a very distressing position.]       These are in a high degree dependent on population density and its importance as to whether the social animal is struggling with its environment or other bands of social animals. If as a social animal/pack are 100 miles away you might be ill disposed to make the trek for a lethal battle. Even in the attempt to win the woolly mammoth’s ‘Darwin Award’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc5DNhMxYvk African wild dogs as highly social animals with a low population density might be a good biological determinist model.  They have raging wars, but with Lions and Hyenas but not between themselves; Hyenas are an extremely exceptional example of social animals who engage in intra species lethal warfare. As are, in an unfortunate example, some Chimpanzees. The worst culprits on that are probably the ants and they even have division of labour on that. Even though that thing has been a topic of a recent spat between the gobshite Dawkins and ‘my kind of people’.  http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jun/24/battle-of-the-professors I appreciate that moderators job is thankless but I also think the thread had not quite got out of control enough to elicit formal warnings; just a lets not piss around too much guys would have been enough or a moved to a completely thread derailed thread option.

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