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Constant Battles: Why We Fight [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Steven A. LeBlanc , Katherine E. Register

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Kurzbeschreibung

August 2004
LeBlanc brilliantly argues that warfare has been a part of human existence throughout history. He uncovers a six-million-year-old equation of population growth, resource stress, and warfare as he surveys the archaeological, ethnographic, and historical records from cultures around the world. This distinguished book explores the implications of his findings by considering if humans are doomed by genetic heritage to fight each other, and arrives at a hopeful conclusion: by understanding why humans fought in the past, modern man, with technology and awareness, can avoid warfare in the future.

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"Timely reading offers a serious critique of 'rational choice' by our leaders for short-term ends as leading to disaster."--William H. Leckie, Jr. "St. Louis Post-Dispatch "

Synopsis

LeBlanc brilliantly argues that warfare has been a part of human existence throughout history. He uncovers a six-million-year-old equation of population growth, resource stress, and warfare as he surveys the archaeological, ethnographic, and historical records from cultures around the world. This distinguished book explores the implications of his findings by considering if humans are doomed by genetic heritage to fight each other, and arrives at a hopeful conclusion: by understanding why humans fought in the past, modern man, with technology and awareness, can avoid warfare in the future.

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New Mexico's El Morro Valley, like the entire American Southwest, is one fantastic archaeology lab. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Amazon.com: 3.3 von 5 Sternen  16 Rezensionen
76 von 83 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ignoble savages 3. April 2004
Von Russell Finley - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Do not read this book if you are wedded to the idea that we humans once lived in harmony with our natural environment. LeBlanc argues that we were slaughtering each other over scarce resources long before the invention of agriculture or the advent of complex societies. Although not the first to pooh-pooh the idea of the peaceful, noble savage, he is one of the first to do so using prehistoric archaeological evidence.

LeBlanc makes a strong case that virtually all ancient societies collapsed from an endless cycle of overpopulation, resource depletion, and warfare. My favorite example, among many, was Troy. Archaeologists had a hard time finding it because Homer's description placed it near a bay. The Greek islands were not always the barren, desolate rocks that you see today. They were turned into stone by human activities: the elimination of forests, non-sustainable farming, and overgrazing (which continues to this day.) The bay that once fronted Troy was filled in by silt from the denuded hillsides centuries ago leaving the ruins stranded many miles from the sea.

The author argues that overpopulation, followed by resource depletion and warfare, was more than just common; it was inevitable. Given the option to do so, people eventually went after their neighbor's resources.

LeBlanc points out that there is a strong tendency for researchers to whitewash their archaeological findings. I have to agree with him. Years ago, when I first read of the bronze age iceman mummy discovered in the Alps, the researchers had suggested that he was probably a peaceful sheepherder who had been caught in an unexpected blizzard. The polished bronze ax found in his possession was too soft to cut down trees. It must have had religious or ritual significance. That was all before they found the arrow in the iceman's back. In addition, his knife has the blood of four other individuals on it. He also has defensive wounds on his arms. LeBlanc sees the iceman's bronze artifact for what it really is-a deadly battle-ax. Considering how rare prehistoric human remains are, I am astounded that so many of them show signs of violent death at the hands of other humans. This is exactly the point LeBlanc is making.

This book has a few technical problems that should have been resolved by its editors. For example, the word infanticide is used ten times in just three paragraphs on pages 48 and 49. We are told more than once that Nanook of the North starved to death. We are also told at least seven different times that, according to the fossil record, about 25 percent of all males died at the hands of other males.

In the end, LeBlanc's findings beg the question: are we genetically locked into this cycle of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and violence? LeBlanc falls victim to his own whitewash when he tries to answer it. Believing that warfare is ultimately the result of conflict over scarce resources, he optimistically concludes that with modern technology and knowledge we will eventually free ourselves from resource scarcity and therefore warfare.

This is where LeBlanc and I part ways. We may one day free ourselves from resource scarcity, but it would be a stretch to suggest that modern war is the result of it. Hundreds of thousands of years of warlike behavior can only mean one thing: our aggressive behavior has been selected for by evolutionary pressure. Like wasps, we have a strong natural predilection to respond in a specific manner when someone hits our nest with a stick. Just sixty-two years ago, our nation was hit with a stick and we responded by incinerating the men, women, and children of two cities with nuclear weapons. Our nest was hit by another stick on 9/11/2001. I rest my case.

LeBlanc concludes, "For the first time in history, technology and science enable us to understand Earth's ecology and our impact on it, to control population growth, and to increase the carrying capacity in ways never before imagined. The opportunity for humans to live in long term balance with nature is within our grasp..."

I agree with LeBlanc's tenet that technology and knowledge hold the key to the planet's future. However, time is running out, especially for the planet's biodiversity. I am going to plug my own book here, "Poison Darts-Preserving the Biodiversity of Our World" because it is all about how to do it, not why we should or even if we should. Human nature is not going to change any time soon.

I highly recommend this book.
81 von 96 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Mixed Bag 27. August 2003
Von E. N. Anderson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
First the good news: LeBlanc's main message is right. People in almost all societies have fought, and very often it's all about resources. Traditional societies of all sorts, from hunter-gatherers to early states, often overused their environments badly, and then either tried to cope by taking resources from the neighbors, or weakened themselves to the point where the neighbors could scarf up on them. LeBlanc urges us contemporary humans to take heed, and clean up our ecological act so that we can reduce (hopefully eliminate) the danger of war.
So far, so good. Thus, on balance, this is a good book and a very valuable one. LeBlanc notes that whatever innate aggressions humans have, their actual wars are typically over land and resources, and thus are preventable. We all need to hear this, in an age when politicians and writers love to naturalize war and aggression as inevitable. (Yes, I know, war isn't just about resources, but it usually involves much concern about them.)
The problems come with LeBlanc's exaggeration and sometimes shaky scholarship (on which see exchange of letters in ARCHAEOLOGY for Sept.-Oct 2003). First, while the myth of the ecologically harmonious "savage" was once common and is still with us, the myth of the peaceful savage seems quite rare. LeBlanc cites only one source for it, and he's wrong about that one. He cites Rousseau (hardly an anthropologist). In fact Rousseau never used the term "noble savage" (it's from Dryden), and R's "savage" was the chimpanzee, of whose sometimes-violent behavior R was well aware. (He tells some stories of their attacks on Africans.) Anthropologists know traditional people are often warlike. H. H. Turney-High's foundational review PRIMITIVE WAR (oddly, not cited by LeBlanc) established a baseline on that, many decades ago. Lloyd Warner (whom LeBlanc does cite) noted that Australian Aboriginals waged war about as often as Europeans, with casualty rates (and rhetoric!) comparable to WWI. Raymond Kelly and Brian Ferguson claim no "warfare" for simpler societies (in recent books) but it's a definitional difference; they define warfare as formal, huge-scale, organized conflict, and don't count the small but bloody feuds and battles almost universal among traditional peoples. I really don't know of anyone who thinks simpler societies were peaceful, but my panel of popular-culture experts (a.k.a. my family) assure me that the New Age and Goddess-worshiping set does indeed so believe. (I assume that Diana Muir's comments on anthropologists, in another Amazon review, refer to textbook accounts of ecological harmony; they certainly don't apply to the anthro literature on war.)
On ecology, while LeBlanc is right that lots of people mess their environments up, he exaggerates it, and uses a ridiculously strict definition of "conservation" that makes it virtually synonymous with "preservation." This would rule out modern soil conservation, water conservation, duck conservation, game animal conservation, etc. Traditional people everywhere figure out how to manage their environments well enough to let them survive; they sometimes overuse resources, and even ruin whole ecosystems, but usually they do well enough--though not well enough to prevent occasional war.
All this would be trivial if it weren't for the very strong possibility that LeBlanc's book will be misunderstood, by superficial readers, as a claim that "savages" are the treacherous, destructive bloodthirsty, violent, cruel, endlessly-warring beasts that they were said to be in all the earlier literature--from Thomas Hobbes to Hollywood cowboys-and-Indians movies. (Hollywood's recent glorification of the Indian is small recompense for nearly 100 years of portraying Indians as mindless butchers of cowboys and settlers.) In my experience, for every person who believes in the peaceful, harmonious savage, there are hundreds who believe in the Hobbesian one. These people usually follow Hobbes in assuming that we civilized folk have nothing to learn from "savages" except that we need a powerful king or dictator to keep us in line. If I read LeBlanc aright, this is NOT what he is saying, and readers should be warned not to make too much of his lurid title and occasionally (though not usually) exaggerated claims.
10 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Judicious Reappraisal of Earlier Human Societies 14. Juni 2007
Von Marty - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
From the above reviews of LeBlanc's "Constant Battles," we can clearly see that the "noble savage" interpretation of pre-history engenders strong emotional responses, more in the vein of current TV political shows where name calling is the norm and less in the vein of academic discourse where there should be an appeal to facts and clear reasoning. In fact, in approaching this subject, it might be best to try and put both emotions and political views, if not aside, at least in the background.

LeBlanc is quite clear in stating his own academic history with this topic, the need for this and other studies on the topic, his methodology and his copious citations from peer reviewed scholarship. In addition, he points out that a very large portion of previous scholarship on early human societies assumed a great deal about the pacifist nature of these societies in the face of often clear but nearly universally overlooked evidence as to the bellicose nature of humans and our simian relatives, the chimpanzees.

To these ends, then, LeBlanc provides readers with an amply researched and argued thesis about the ubiquitous nature of warfare among human societies that is often triggered by a given group exceeding their own territory's "carrying capacity." In fact, this thesis is one that is echoed by Jared Diamond in his "Collapse" where Diamond provides clear cut evidence that much contemporary war is caused by environmental distress squeezing out carrying capacity.

Btw, one reviewer refers to the "Human Resource Area Files" when its proper title is, in fact, the "Human Relations Area Files." You know, lads, if you are going to muster evidence, at least get the names of your witnesses correct and do not lie by saying that LeBlanc ignores peer reviewed literature when he actually cites it throughout this useful volume. I, as a professor who teaches early art and culture, find this book a refreshing addition to my course material. But, then again, I would expect this from LeBlanc, who has a Ph.D. in Archeology and is currently at Harvard.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen More like Frequent Battles I think 19. Juni 2007
Von Alex K - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
The title seems to be more biased than the book. The book actually does not claim that all peoples have always been in "constant battles", he does not try to avoid talking about known non-agressive and peaceful peoples at all. He is debunking the "peaceful past" myth quite well, but when I read the book, I get a picture about "mostly warlike" past instead of "constantly warlike" one. I tend to agree that there was lots of wars and violence in the past. I am more suspicious about LeBlancs claims about constant "overexploitation of the environment" of the prehistoric and modern humans.

LeBlank does not appear to be very focused on the subjects of his chapters. Instead he likes to change the subject constantly between prehistoric foragers, chimpanzees and world wars, gulf war and so on. In most of time, it is interesting reading, sometimes is his point hard to follow. For example, he argues that modern "warlords" are actually pre-state tribal governments as they have existed about thousands of years (I agree with that very much) and then next sentence brings in collapse of Yugoslavia as an example (Does he think that Slovenia was a "chiefdom" ? What has a conflict between parts of modern, bureocratic state to do with pre-state tribal conflicts ?).
16 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen A provocative thesis, overlain by speculation 4. September 2003
Von M. A Michaud - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Archaeologist Steven LeBlanc's work on many digs led him to two controversial conclusions: there always has been warfare among humans, and humans never have lived in harmony with nature. Describing how many traditional societies have abused their environments, he connects pre-modern warfare directly to population growth and resource scarcity. Warfare in the past, he writes, may have ultimately been driven by rational response to diminishing resources.
Bringing his thesis forward into modern times, LeBlanc again challenges conventional wisdom. His optimistic conclusion: warfare has declined over time, suggesting that it is not an inherently human behavior. The proportion of the population involved in war has been declining; there has been a reduction in war deaths on a per capita basis. The Industrial Revolution, LeBlanc writes, increased the world's carrying capacity; technology and science enable us to understand the Earth's ecology and our impact on it, to control population growth, and to increase the carrying capacity in ways never before imagined. According to LeBlanc, we are on the right trajectory for world peace.
Sweeping conclusions like these must rattle the liberal intellectual establishment that has kept us on a collective guilt trip for decades. Those conclusions would be more convincing if LeBlanc had provided us with systematic data instead of relying on anecdotes. Such a book might have been drier to read, but more powerful.
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