Hunter gatherer violence

October 2021 Forums General discussion Hunter gatherer violence

Viewing 15 posts - 46 through 60 (of 308 total)
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  • #109589
    LBird
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Thanks LB. If we don't share ideologies, is genuine communication possible? I'd say probably not – perhaps another cause of all the violence and craziness in the world!

    stuart, I think that 'genuine communication' (and comradelyness) is entirely possible!To me, the foundation of this communication, on any topic, is to simply be open about respective ideologies. We don't have to share an ideology, but the exposing of both of the communicating ideologies (and their necessary axioms and assumptions) helps to illustrate our differences – philosophical, ideological, metaphysical, political.One can argue that a zebra crossing is white in colour (because one doesn't recognise 'black' as a colour), or vice versa.It is the exposing of what we mean by 'colour' or define by 'crossing' which allows us to recognise why we disagree.The disagreement doesn't of necessity have to be hostile – we can 'agree to disagree' and have learnt to recognise both our own axioms/assumptions and those of an opposing framework.This explanation of mine seems very reasonable, I think, until one comes across the belief that 'reality tells us what it is' (the belief that 'facts' are simply 'out there' waiting to be 'discovered').This is, in effect, a religious ideology, the belief in 'Truth', a truth which stands completely apart from human attempts to 'understand what exists'.As I've said, I can quite happily talk about my ideological views about myself, about anthropology, about anthropologists, and about 'hunter-gatherers'. If you can do this, too, we can compare and contrast our ideological views about all these issues, and get some help from other, better-read comrades.But, for those who just want to read quickly about 'The Truth' of 'hunter-gatherers' (the 'objective science', untainted by ideology), then we immediately hit problems.'They' claim to be un-ideological, and simply seek The Truth, and so reject the ideological belief (which I hold) that exposure of ideology is a necessary starting point.The bourgeoisie have been claiming for 300 hundred years that they have a method for producing The Truth (whether about anthropology or rocks), and it gives their ideological prize-fighters (the 'objective scientists') a great political legitimacy, authority and thus power.They try to employ this power in the sphere of anthropology, too, because so much is at stake in claiming the past as the basis for capitalism (and as we try to do so for communism).If any comrades are thinking "I'll just read some proper, objective, scientific anthopology, and thus quickly understand 'hunter-gatherers", they've got a nasty shock coming.This is science. 21st century science, stuart.

    #109590
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    I see what you're saying, and agree with a fair amount of it, but when you say, "Show me your ideology, I'll show you mine", it's not entirely clear how one is to respond. I don't know the answer. My ideology is that I try, strive, aim to do without one. Will that do?

    #109591
    LBird
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    I see what you're saying, and agree with a fair amount of it, but when you say, "Show me your ideology, I'll show you mine", it's not entirely clear how one is to respond. I don't know the answer. My ideology is that I try, strive, aim to do without one. Will that do?

    Well, perhaps an illustration of an issue regarding 'hunter-gatherers', and perhaps robbo and YMS can give some more detail, too.Someone has already mentioned the issue of 'band' versus 'tribe', as the basis of h-g society.Problem is, if 'band' is defined as 'non-violent small group', and 'tribe' is defined as 'bit violent large group', and one lot of anthropologists 'discover' 'bands' and equate them with h-g, whilst another lot 'discover' 'tribes' and equate them with h-g, then the anthropologists who seek violence to justify capitalism as natural, and the anthropologists who seek non-violence to justify socialism, will find the 'objective evidence' to support their respective 'scientific' positions.This is only a simple example of the intertwining of frameworks of definition, evidence and sought-after results being 'discovered'.It's simpler to understand what one is reading, if one knows 'up-front' what the anthropologist is seeking to justify. That's usually a function of the anthropologist's ideology, which they've picked up from the society in which they live.Perhaps we could move forward simply be producing a list of problematic terms, definitions, like 'violence', etc.?

    #109592
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Very good and clear explanation, I totally agree with you. What you have written is a critique of the science, or the basis of one, drawing attention to the flawed methodologies (assuming for the sake of argument that you're right). What I'm saying is that a non-ideological approach would be to think of a way forward, assuming the question of whether "hunter-gatherers" are "violent" has some meaning or relevance or interest for us. Defining who hunter-gathers are, for example, may be tricky and ideologically loaded. Equally so the evidence, such as it is, of their violence compared to ours. But these difficulties, including your critique of ideologies, are all included in the process, are a part of the overall scientific method – and the result, surely, is to edge beyond ideology and into objective reality?Flawed or not, I believe this is precisely what Diamond was attempting to do. Never mind the "savage", noble or otherwise, what is the truth of the matter? 

    #109593
    LBird
    Participant

    stuart, you argue for:

    stuartw2112 wrote:
    What I'm saying is that a non-ideological approach would be to think of a way forward…

    but then admit:

    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Defining who hunter-gathers are, for example, may be tricky and ideologically loaded. Equally so the evidence…

    If 'definitions' and 'evidence' are 'ideologically loaded', how can there be a 'non-ideological approach'?

    stuartw2112 wrote:
    … part of the overall scientific method – and the result, surely, is to edge beyond ideology and into objective reality…

    That this myth, of 'scientific method' being about 'edging into objective reality', is a myth, is shown by what you seem to realise earlier.

    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Never mind the "savage", noble or otherwise, what is the truth of the matter?

    Ahhh… the eternal plea for 'the truth of the matter'…If you think that 'The Truth' can be got to, without human intervention, then you're arguing for the 19th century method of positivist science, stuart.That's fair enough, if you want to do so, but then it is itself an entirely ideological approach to the production of human knowledge, whether anthropology or physics.My simple point stands: if you want 'the truth of the matter', that wish is an ideological wish, and you should be open about this to yourself, as well as to us, in any discussion about hunter-gatherers.If you start from the assumption that 'humans are naturally violent', you'll simply find that 'hunter-gatherers are violent'. As you yourself say, the definitions and evidence will be very clear about 'what facts are found'.It's as if you can see the strength of my argument, stuart, but won't take it to its obvious conclusion: Science is ideological.

    #109594
    robbo203
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    robbo203 wrote:
    We all know people are naturally capable of both grotesque violence as well as incredible kindness.  The much more interesting question is what causes them to behave in one way or another.

    [my bold]This is a contradictory statement, robbo.If something is 'natural', then that is the cause of the 'behavour'.

     There is nothing contradictory about the above statement. I'm talking about what  people capable of doing; I'm not necessarily trying to explain what causes them to do what they do. 

    LBird wrote:
    The beginning of wisdom, though, is starting to realise that all 'facts' reflect the 'opinion' of the researcher. Carr's What is History? would be relevent reading here, for those comrades who do realise that simplying looking for the 'facts of anthropology' is the really pointless activity. Stuart will remain the prisoner of the framework of the last anthropologist that they read.

     Yes , we know all this LBird.  Why do you feel the need to endlessly repeat this same old argument as if know one else apart from your good self is privy to the insight that there is no such thing as a value free anthropology  or science?  Can  we kinda move on with the argument a bit, eh? ..  Its getting quite boring hearing the same old thing being constantly regurgitated

    #109595
    robbo203
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Robin: "Am I to take it that you too have become a pro-statist by virtue of your evident enthusiasm for what Diamond has to say?"Me; No, not at all. Early on in his book, Diamond says explicitly that his book shows why the "dreams" of anarchists can never be realised. I'm fairly sure he's wrong about that – I hope so anyway. I'm sure he's wrong about lots of things. But his books are wonderful.

     Good to hear that Stuart!

    #109596
    LBird
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
    There is nothing contradictory about the above statement. I'm talking about what  people capable of doing; I'm not necessarily trying to explain what causes them to do what they do.

    This is meaningless, robbo.Humans are capable of flying. Would you claim humans 'naturally' fly?When people talk of 'naturally capable', they mean 'natural', with all the baggage that implies. Otherwise, why not just say 'capable', with no mention of 'nature'?

    robbo203 wrote:
    Yes , we know all this LBird.  Why do you feel the need to endlessly repeat this same old argument as if know one else apart from your good self is privy to the insight that there is no such thing as a value free anthropology  or science?  Can  we kinda move on with the argument a bit, eh? ..  Its getting quite boring hearing the same old thing being constantly regurgitated

    So, why not openly state your 'values'? And we can move the argument on a bit. You're the blockage.For example, tell us why you feel the need to say 'naturally capable' when it turns out you mean 'socially capable'? Simply, it's because if you move away from 'natural' claims, I'll demand the basis of your 'social' claims.So, you hide your 'social' ideology behind the 'value-loaded' claim of 'naturally'?You're right, there is no such thing as value-free anthropology. But yet you hide, and squirm, and avoid, and blame me…

    #109597
    robbo203
    Participant

    This might be of  interest to some here – an article entitled "Analysing Steven Pinker's rates of violence in non-state societies" that I stumbled uponhttps://www.academia.edu/5735381/Analysing_Steven_Pinkers_rates_of_violence_in_non-state_societies Tan makes two or three interesting points – that much of the data supporting the " war is innate" camp is inconsistent- that in absolute terms violent deaths in non state societies are statistically very small indeed, typically in double digits or less for most of the groups mentioned.  But if you convert the figures into violent deaths per 100.000 that makes it seem like these societies are very violent when compared to state-based societies- that what is counted as "war deaths" within non state societies may very well have resulted from state violence inflicted on non state societies. As Tan puts it:to reiterate what has been mentioned in the previous section, we are also unclear whether some of these figures included war deaths incurred as a result of clashes with the state. Whether it does or not brings us back to the same dilemma that was voiced earlier- i.e.. is the Leviathan a force for suppressing violence as Pinker has been saying or whether it is a perpetuator. As to Pinker, I'm beginning to somewhat change my opinion of him. I don't think he is quite the genetic determinist he is made out to be.   In The Blank Slate, he evidently seeks to disassociate himself from such a position:Though no book on human nature can hope to be uncontroversial, I did not write it to be yet another "explosive" book, as dust jackets tend to say.   I am not, as many people assume, countering an extreme "nurture" position with an extreme "nature" position, with the truth lying somewhere in between.  In some cases, an extreme environmentalist explanation is correct: which language you speak is an obvious example, and differences between races and ethnic groups in test scores may be another.  In other cases, such as certain inherited neurological disorders, an extreme hereditarian explanation is correct.  In most cases the correct explanation will invoke a complex interaction between heredity and environment: culture is crucial, but culture could not exist without mental faculties that allow humans to create and learn culture to being with.  My goal in this book is not to argue that genes are everything and culture is nothing – no one believes that – but to explore why the extreme position (that culture is everything) is so often seen as moderate and the moderate position is seen as extreme.  (Preface) The problem lies with his representation  of the state as exerting a pacifying influence on the population.  The implication would seem to be that if the state were to disappear tomorrow then rates of violence would increase sharply to levels they are claimed to have been in non state societies.  But this might not be quite correct.  Pinker's seems to attribute the relative decline in violence to social factors other than the state Notably: 1. the feminisation of society – significant since most violence is committed y men aged 18-302. the "escalator of reason" – the civilising influence resulting increases in educational levels etc3.the expanding circle of ethics – the tendency to morally identify with ever larger social entities4."gentle commerce" – the idea that commercial interdependencies make it more difficult to wage war Some of these factors are a bit more  questionable than others.  But they do go to show that Pinker's position is more nuanced than it might appear to be on a first reading….

    #109598
    LBird
    Participant

    One of the key concepts to be addressed is the concept of 'violence' in anthropology.Does it mean 'personal physical violence'? That is, say, a biological human hitting another human?Or does it mean 'social structured violence'? That is, say, war between groups of humans?If an anthropologist tends to see society as a collection of individuals (free or not) and look to personal emotions (jealousy, envy, hate, love, etc.), and mostly ignores questions of structural power and the ideologies that flow from power, then this anthropologist will tend to see manifestations of 'violence' in hunter-gatherer society, simply because one can find human emotions and their effects in h-g society.On the other hand, if an anthropologist tends to see society as a specific historical structure, which has qualities outside of the biological and emotional qualities of the humans who make up that society, and regards 'violence' as a social, structural 'fact', then this anthropologist will tend not to find 'violence' in h-g society, because the structures that produce 'violence' don't exist.Of course, these different ideological positions taken by various anthropologists will tend to reflect their ideological position regarding the society that they themselves live in now.If they regard themselves as a 'free individual', they'll tend to stress 'individuality' in explanations about h-g societies.If they regard themselves as a 'socially structured being', they'll tend to stress 'structures' in explanantions about h-g societies.So, my advice to comrades is, when reading anthropological accounts, is to try to uncover the underlying (and most often unacknowledged) ideology of the anthropologist writing the account.If one defines 'violence as hitting', one will find 'violence' in h-g societies.If one defines 'violence as war', one will not find 'violence' in h-g-societies.As stuart said earlier, ones 'definitions' and 'evidence' flows from one's ideology, and as long as one is aware of (and preferably exposes to others) one's ideology, one can come to understand conflicting accounts by anthropologists, often about the same h-g communities.As an aside, any socialist that has had to explain the difference between 'private property' (defined by the bourgeoisie as 'anything one owns', from underpants to multi-national banks, which implies we all support the right to 'private property – who doesn't want to 'own' their own private underpants?) and 'private property' (defined by socialists as 'socially-productive property', not including one's own personal possessions, for own use, which implies we don't support the right to 'private property' because productive property belongs to us all), has had to deal with this debate between common-sense definitions and politically-aware definitions. The 'evidence' lies in the 'definition', and we 'discover' what we want to, to support our theories.We socialists must employ politically-aware definitions within anthropology. As such, we'd start from a definition of 'violence equals war', and reject any anthropologists who 'discover evidence' of two individuals fighting and killing in a h-g society, and thus draw the conclusion that 'h-g society is violent' (and thus, 'violence is natural' in all societies, because we can always find 'violent' individuals).What do we mean by 'violence', comrades?

    #109599
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    LB, in reply to post No. 50. Thanks, I follow your argument, and I see the (at least apparent) contradiction in mine. How, then, in your view, are we to discriminate between different ideologies or rival scientific theories? Are you saying that there's no way to apart from personal preference? That if you say the earth is flat, and I insist it's round, there's no way to resolve the dispute? If I say the global climate is warming and you say it isn't, these are just different, equally valid ideologies? Likewise if I say we evolved from a chimp-like common ancestor and you say God made us?

    #109600
    stuartw2112
    Participant
    #109601
    LBird
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    LB, in reply to post No. 50. Thanks, I follow your argument, and I see the (at least apparent) contradiction in mine.

    This is all about us all learning, stuart. Realising what you have, can only strengthen your understanding of your own position, allow you to critically assess it, and come back with a better argument.

    stuartw2112 wrote:
    How, then, in your view, are we to discriminate between different ideologies or rival scientific theories? Are you saying that there's no way to apart from personal preference?

    This is a massive, indeed revolutionary, issue!I've tried to discuss it on other threads, but we haven't got very far!My simple answer is 'a vote'. This is nothing to to with 'personal preference'.In context, if human understanding is socially-produced, then the only arbiter of 'truth' is social theory and practice. Humans can get it wrong, and so 'truth' being a human product, can turn out to be 'not true'. We can follow the twists and turns of 'truth' if we use a historical account of science, where we constantly find "today's truth" is "tomorrow's error".If, in a Communist society, where there is no other social authority than the direct producers, organised democratically, then the answer to 'what is true at any given moment' is a matter of a democratic vote.Of course, those enamoured of 19th century positivist science, and hatred of 'mob rule', want to retain 'truth' for 'objective reality'.Problem is, we now know that humans don't have unmediated access to 'reality', and our understanding of 'reality' is always a social and historical understanding. An added complication is that Engels fell hook, line and sinker for the massive advances made by 'science' in the 19th century, and so we now have a misleading heritage of 'Materialism' to overcome, a materialism that says 'matter' tells us 'what it is'. A bit like you earlier wanting to know the simple truth of hunter-gatherer society, of 'what it was' without the intervention of all the ideologies and anthropologists' conflicting opinions.So, the Communist scientific method would involve democratic 'discrimination' between rival ideologies and theories.Of course, the 'objective scientists' (egged on by the bourgeoisie, who can see a challenge to their authority to determine 'truth' coming on), are outraged by the mere suggestion of 'democracy in knowledge production'!By Christ, it's revolutionary twaddle! They want 'truth' left to the elite experts, university-trained cadre, reporting to their research professors, like that nice Dr. Mengele…And they'd have us 'respect' the academic anthropologists, rather than laugh at their bourgeois pretensions and ideologies, as they try to convince that 'society now' is natural.I'd start by asking the anthropologist if they believe in 'private property' or 'the democratic control of the means of production', and take their 'scientific answers' in that light.And then look at your own views on current and future society, and your beliefs about its possibilities and restraints, and I think that you'll find your contemporary beliefs to be reflected in the 'research' that you prefer to agree with.We're all looking at 'hunter-gatherer' society through today's lenses, and this is inescapable. Einstein's physics, and all that….

    #109602
    LBird
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:

    Some illuminating quotes from the review linked by stuart:

    Quote:
    No book can cover everything, and Diamond apologises for leaving gender relations and sexual inequalities unexplored. Unfortunately, this leaves the reader to infer that territorialism, warfare and male dominance are inevitable features of the human condition.
    Quote:
    Excellent when he sticks to science, Diamond is less convincing when he turns to politics. Here is an example: “Large populations can’t function without leaders who make the decisions, executives who carry out the decisions, and bureaucrats who administer the decisions and laws. Alas for all of you readers who are anarchists and dream of living without any state government, those are the reasons why your dream is unrealistic… ” As I read these lines, I had the funny feeling they were directly aimed at me! It would be interesting to research the extent to which anthropologists’ political beliefs correlate with those of the people they study.

    The last line also reflects the tenor of what I said to stuart, earlier.If one is to show interest in hunter-gatherers, one has to first show interest in both academics' and one's own 'political beliefs'.The philosophical and ideological approach one espouses to 'science' will be included. Science is political.

    #109603
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    You say hold a vote, LB, but how is a rational individual to vote? Surely only by making a good faith effort to decide between the alternatives based on their truth value, ie, on how they measure up to reality?

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