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Este Blogue é um estudo da Associação Projecto Raia Alentejana e tem como objectivo a discussão da violência em geral e da guerra na Pré-História em particular. A Arqueologia da Península Ibérica tem aqui especial relevo. Esperamos cruzar dados de diferentes campos do conhecimento com destaque para a Antropologia Social. As críticas construtivas são bem vindas neste espaço, que se espera, de conhecimento.

Guerra Primitiva\Pré-Histórica
Violência interpessoal colectiva entre duas ou mais comunidades políticas distintas, com o uso de armas tendo como objectivo causar fatalidades, por um motivo colectivo sem hipótese de compensação.


Sunday, 22 February 2009

Primitive War - Thule

Thule
Dec 1 2006, 06:21 PM
Greetings I’ve just finished reading Pierre Clastre’s excellent book – Archaeology of Violence – on war in Primitive societies. For those not familiar with anthropological terms, "Primitive” societies are basically non-state societies.The author starts by acknowledging that one of the characteristics of these societies is a near-permanent state of warfare. He then proceeds to refute the three explanations that are usually used to explain such phenomenon. One is biological, in that it assumes that warfare is part of human’s nature; the author rejects it pointing that war is above all a social and not natural phenomenon. Another explanation is economic, in other words, these are poor and miserable societies and therefore are forced to wage war in order to survive. Again, the author rejects this pointing that these are instead subsistence societies that only produce what they need to survive. The third explanation postulates that exchange is the essence of the social activities of these societies, being war the result of a failure in exchange. However, this explanation fails to acknowledge the universality of war in these societies; war is anything but a residual failure of exchange.The author proposes instead the following explanation: the universe of Primitive societies is constituted by a multiplicity of autonomous groups that value their political independence vis-à-vis others as well as equality among their members. This means that they strongly resist any attempt of being absorbed by other groups, since they would loose their political independence; they also resist any attempt to control other groups because that would create social hierarchies. So, in order to avoid the formation of a State that unifies multiplicity and creates hierarchy, the best way that Primitive societies found of keeping their independence is waging war to neighbours in order to avoid that they gain too much power, being also common the formation of (temporary) alliances to defeat stronger foes. As Pierre Clastre’s says: whereas the State is against war, the war is against State.Though all men are expected to participate once for another in these wars, sometimes in some of these societies there are some men – the warriors – who devote themselves exclusively to warfare. The formation of this group is encouraged by society who concedes them a generous dose of prestige. However, because it is in the interest of this group a constant state of warfare in order to obtain the much prized prestige, there is the possibility that they form a pressure group in order to force society to intensify war and eventually a power group with capacity to decide in name of the entire group when to make war and peace. In other words, war, which is used to preserve the group’s social cohesion, ends up unintentionally causing what was not intended to do: the formation of social divisions within the group.How does Primitive society defends itself against such possibility? Notice that the prestige of the warrior is awarded by the group. However, in order to keep his prestige the warrior is forced to be more and more daring or else society will not award him the glory he seeks. Ultimately, this leads the warriors to suicide mission where, alone, they attack the enemy’s camp. In this way, the warrior in Primitive societies is beforehand condemned to death by society, which ensures in this way that the warrior group does not threaten its social cohesion. Thus Pierre Clastre’s comment: misfortune of the savage warrior.Any comments?
Maquis44
Dec 3 2006, 11:59 AM
In fact not all primitive societies are warlike. Don't know where he got that idea. Too many examples to the contrary to cite. Another racist paradigm?I think a lot of ideology is at work here. Primitive societies still exist & not all are warlike. Some have ritualized warfare in which hardly anyone ever gets hurt. Civilisation, on the other hand, perfected mass butchery.
Thule
Dec 3 2006, 02:19 PM
QUOTE(Maquis44 @ Dec 3 2006, 05:59 PM)
In fact not all primitive societies are warlike. Don't know where he got that idea. Too many examples to the contrary to cite. Another racist paradigm?I think a lot of ideology is at work here. Primitive societies still exist & not all are warlike. Some have ritualized warfare in which hardly anyone ever gets hurt. Civilisation, on the other hand, perfected mass butchery.Thanks for your comment. I was already starting to feel worried that nobody was going to pay attention to this topic and instead the usual bombastic ones were going to get all the attention.Let's go to the details.The author acknowledges that today there aren't many examples of warfare among the Primitives but that is only because the State has managed throughout the world to control these societies. For his thesis, the author mostly used descriptions made by European settlers and missionaries between the 16th-18th centuries and his own fieldwork in the Chaco area in South America where he interviewed the aged survivors of the Chaco War in the 1930's when these Primitive societies were still independent.On the other side, he does not deny that the State makes war, but the ultimate purpose of the State his control of different societies and once this is achieved then all wars are finished. In contrast, Primitive warfare has a defensive character since its purpose is to avoid the creation of a State that submits them. I don't find this racist; instead, I think it is a very interesting insight that allows us today to understand better different kinds of war.
Coriolis
Dec 3 2006, 06:24 PM
How would the archaeological evidence support the conclusion of near permanent warfare? If we are talking about primitive societies (I accept the definition of "pre-state"), near permanent warfare would quickly deplete the population and weaken the clans against other interlopers. Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but the term warfare implies an organized endeavor. If it's just clans, I would imagine that the conflicts would be more like raids and skirmishes. I would think that like animals, intimidation would be more useful than killing and being killed. Remember that even a wound could easily turn fatal. I wonder if these societies would be advanced enough to consider the abstract idea of political subjagation like the author suggests. If they are eking out a subsistence living, could their societies afford to support professional warriors? The traditional cause for warfare is resouces. If a clan notices that another group is hunting in the productive areas that they consider their own, fighting for that area would become a matter of survival.Finally no mention is made of fighting over women.I lean towards resources and women being the main causes of conflicts.
mind
Dec 4 2006, 12:30 AM
There is an interesting article on this topic: Neolithic warfare by Arther Ferrill.I agree with Coriolis that the attacks by men on men may be called 'warfare' only when they are done in a planned and organized manner. It seems that the real warfare didn't take place before late Paleolithic era or, probably, even Neolithic. At least, in Mesopotamia, the earliest known war is dated by around 3500 BCE (see Earliest evidence for large scale organized warfare in the Mesopotamian world). In Paleolithic societies, there were no warriors at all, their functions in the case of necessity, must have been fulfilled by hunters. In the early Neolithic period the situation was, probably, the same, and only much later, when the quantities of the produced food, clothes, etc., became sufficient to sustain a specialized class of warriors, warfare became economically efficient.
pelgus
Dec 4 2006, 12:50 AM
Come to think of it, getting killed and(or provoking confrontations while living on the edge of survival (hand-to-mouth, hunter-gatherers) is not what one might consider the winning strategy.Avoiding needless possibilities to get one's skull cave in gives an edge in proliferating and filling the earth, sort of.
lordomni
Dec 4 2006, 02:33 PM
True, but without an organized legal enforcement then continual raiding would have been likely. It would have required a constant state of military viligance, if not perpetual warfare.
Thule
Dec 8 2006, 07:43 AM
Coriolis
QUOTE
How would the archaeological evidence support the conclusion of near permanent warfare? If we are talking about primitive societies (I accept the definition of "pre-state"), near permanent warfare would quickly deplete the population and weaken the clans against other interlopers.Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but the term warfare implies an organized endeavor. If it's just clans, I would imagine that the conflicts would be more like raids and skirmishes. I would think that like animals, intimidation would be more useful than killing and being killed. Remember that even a wound could easily turn fatal. Primitive warfare is based in raids and skirmishes (which imply organisation)and not on annihilation of the opponent. That is why Primitive societies did not disappear and continued to exist until recently. Primitive societies chose war as the main instrument to affirm their identity and autonomy, something that obviously sounds confusing to many persons today that are used to different definitions of war or even that someone could affirm itself through war.
QUOTE
I wonder if these societies would be advanced enough to consider the abstract idea of political subjagation like the author suggests. And how would you explain the development of such idea taking in consideration that some thousands of years ago all human societies were Primitive? Actually, as Marcel Gauchet wrote in one of the essays of Pierre Clastre’s book, the idea of subjugation was known, but it was in the realm of the myth, in other words, humans were dependent of gods and heroes who, by their actions, created the world and humanity. What is unacceptable for Primitive societies is that a human attempts to substitute the gods or at least be an intermediary. Obviously, that didn’t always work well, since there are State societies. Such process was usually unintentional, being he result of particular circumstances. For example, in another essay in the book, Alfred Adler calls to attention to the “Rainmaker” in some African societies. This is a person that is supposedly capable of making rain and due to the crucial importance of rain (water) to life this person gained such a prestige that ended up also mediating conflicts between different groups, introducing in this way hierarchy within the system. There can be a many reasons for the breaking of the previous balance and the formation of hierarchy. What is more remarkable, however, is that many Primitive societies managed to avoid it.
QUOTE
The traditional cause for warfare is resouces. If a clan notices that another group is hunting in the productive areas that they consider their own, fighting for that area would become a matter of survival.Finally no mention is made of fighting over women.I lean towards resources and women being the main causes of conflicts. You are using the “economical explanation”, which was already criticised in the opening post. In what concerns women, things are way more complex. First of all, a typical aspect of Primitive societies is exchange of women; however, as Pierre Clastres points, the main purpose of this change is to form alliances in order to have allies to fight enemies. In other words, exchange of women is submitted to the needs of war. Secondly, it is common the practice of infanticide of female babies in many of these societies, in order to have more men to war; the problem is that a group ends up having less women forcing it to kidnap women of other groups, in order to keep having children. Thirdly, because no women means no children, the best way to hurt one’s opponents is exactly to kidnap its women. To sum up, kidnapping of women is not a cause of war; instead, it is a consequence of war.As for resources, these are societies that do not live on the edge of survival, as you and also Pelgus suggest, but instead are subsistence societies, only producing what they needed for their survival; if they wished, they could produce more than what they usually do. They only spend a small amount of time working daily in order to fulfil their immediate needs, having lots of free time to do what they want afterwards. In contrast, in State societies, the idea of accumulation is prevalent, with people working a large part of the day in order to get more resources to affirm a superior rank. Also, each group has its own territory and does not attack others’ territories in order to get more resources, since it has all it needs in its own. Mind
QUOTE
There is an interesting article on this topic: Neolithic warfare by Arther Ferrill. Thanks for the link, but I think it falls within traditional views of warfare and is not as groundbreaking as Pierre Clastres.
QUOTE
In Paleolithic societies, there were no warriors at all, their functions in the case of necessity, must have been fulfilled by hunters. In the early Neolithic period the situation was, probably, the same, and only much later, when the quantities of the produced food, clothes, etc., became sufficient to sustain a specialized class of warriors, warfare became economically efficient.
QUOTE( Coriolis)
If they are eking out a subsistence living, could their societies afford to support professional warriors?Notice what I wrote in my introductory post:Though all men are expected to participate once for another in these wars, sometimes in some of these societies there are some men – the warriors – who devote themselves exclusively to warfare.Warriors in Primitive societies are not a class but instead individuals that attempt to reach glory through war. They do not act as a political group.
Coriolis
Dec 8 2006, 09:45 PM
Thule:I was thinking that "primitive" implied a time before the notions of gods and group identity had developed. I was thinking farther back than thousands of years. To me "primitive" would almost by definition mean a preoccupation with survival against nature. Pehaps the struggles against rival groups forced them into strategies for dealing the competition, which would favor more abstract thought.I agree that once the notions of gods developed, then the ideas of group identity and autonomy quickly followed. It seems that then, as now, religious ideas can divide as well as unite. I'm still unsure about "domination" though. You wrote: the idea of subjugation was known, but it was in the realm of the myth, in other words, humans were dependent of gods and heroes who, by their actions, created the world and humanity. What is unacceptable for Primitive societies is that a human attempts to substitute the gods or at least be an intermediary.So are you addressing subjugation within the group by a class of priests rather than subjugation by outsiders? It wouldn't be a big leap for classes, status, and eventually, serfdom and slavery to follow from that. By then, civilization was well on its way.
Thule
Dec 9 2006, 07:01 AM
Coriolis
QUOTE
I'm still unsure about "domination" though.You wrote: the idea of subjugation was known, but it was in the realm of the myth, in other words, humans were dependent of gods and heroes who, by their actions, created the world and humanity. What is unacceptable for Primitive societies is that a human attempts to substitute the gods or at least be an intermediary.So are you addressing subjugation within the group by a class of priests rather than subjugation by outsiders?It wouldn't be a big leap for classes, status, and eventually, serfdom and slavery to follow from that. By then, civilization was well on its way.There wasn’t a class of priests in Primitive societies, though it was common the existence of shamans that communicated with the gods. What happened was that in certain circumstances, such as the example of the Rainmaker, shamans got more power, opening the way to hierarchy. There could have been many circumstances, internal or external and with different actors, that led to hierarchy.
Edgewaters
Feb 22 2007, 05:10 AM
QUOTE(lordomni @ Dec 4 2006, 08:33 PM)
True, but without an organized legal enforcement then continual raiding would have been likely. It would have required a constant state of military viligance, if not perpetual warfare.Depends on the time period ... if you are talking about the very early Neolithic ... groups of 30-50 people ... warfare was not very profitable. The territories were small, and very intimately well-known to the inhabitants ... who spent much of their time lying in wait, armed with bows or spears, ready to ambush big game coming along the easiest routes. A deadly situation for intruders, who would be unfamiliar with the land and unlikely to spot the ambushes before they were sprung.There is not "a" type of primitive society. There's a huge difference between a tribal confederation with thousands of warriors and a complicated religious system, and a tiny group living in a cave. Once you get the more advanced groups on the scene, warfare becomes endemic. Prior to that, its virtually unknown because there really isn't much sense for a group of only a few dozens to send their best hunters and providers out to be killed, for little reward. These unsegmented societies simply didn't practice it much, if at all (but distinguish social conflict from personal conflict). With the rise of segmented societies - large tribes with social institutions - warfare becomes very frequent because they have the numbers and the need.
slick_miester_general
Feb 22 2007, 11:39 AM
I'm still at a loss for a proper definition of "primitive." To my way of thinking, and perhaps this is a gross oversimplification, "primitive" denotes the economic paradigm of semi-nomadic "hunter-gatherer" societies as they existed prior to the development of settled agriculture. Without the develpment of a "social surplus" the very concept of a "professional warrior," one whose only means of sustenence is through violence and war, cannot exist. Hunters may be warriors, and farmers may be warriors, but one who is exclusively a warrior can only live if he is being fed by his political unit (clan, tribe, etc) or he can loot enough from his "enemies" in order to support him in his profession. That can only work if the political units in question, allies and enemies alike, can and do exceed minimal subsitence levels on a regular basis. Indeed, whole "classes" of people may also be so categorized: warriors, clergy, scribes, artisans, the elderly, and the infirmed would be representative of people who either do not or cannot work full-time in the endeavor of food production, either by hunting, gathering, or agriculture. Therefore, once a society can support any significant number of people who are not full-time food producers, such a society can no longer be considered "primitive."
Thule
Feb 25 2007, 06:36 AM
Edgewaters
QUOTE
Depends on the time period ... if you are talking about the very early Neolithic ... groups of 30-50 people ... warfare was not very profitable. The territories were small, and very intimately well-known to the inhabitants ... who spent much of their time lying in wait, armed with bows or spears, ready to ambush big game coming along the easiest routes. A deadly situation for intruders, who would be unfamiliar with the land and unlikely to spot the ambushes before they were sprung.There is not "a" type of primitive society. There's a huge difference between a tribal confederation with thousands of warriors and a complicated religious system, and a tiny group living in a cave. Once you get the more advanced groups on the scene, warfare becomes endemic. Prior to that, its virtually unknown because there really isn't much sense for a group of only a few dozens to send their best hunters and providers out to be killed, for little reward. These unsegmented societies simply didn't practice it much, if at all (but distinguish social conflict from personal conflict). With the rise of segmented societies - large tribes with social institutions - warfare becomes very frequent because they have the numbers and the need.Your argument is too much dependent in cost-benefit analysis, something that does not correlate with the anthropological observations of Pierre Clastres. Notice that primitive societies are subsistence societies, meaning that they only produce what they need to survive, being their own territory enough for that. What this means is that warfare in these societies is not influenced by economic needs but instead is a form of affirming the identity of a group. This can be shocking for you and many other people today but that’s how things are in those societies. Also, like I pointed before, Primitive warfare is different from State warfare. The former is mostly based in raids and ambushes, being casualties minimal. It is a war of attrition and not a war of control and annihilation. That is why war in Primitive societies is endemic, whereas between States it’s occasional.slick_miester_general
QUOTE
I'm still at a loss for a proper definition of "primitive."Primitive societies are all societies that are not organized as States.
Edgewaters
Feb 25 2007, 06:14 PM
QUOTE(Thule @ Feb 25 2007, 12:36 PM)
Your argument is too much dependent in cost-benefit analysis, something that does not correlate with the anthropological observations of Pierre Clastres. Notice that primitive societies are subsistence societies, meaning that they only produce what they need to survive, being their own territory enough for that. What this means is that warfare in these societies is not influenced by economic needs but instead is a form of affirming the identity of a group. This can be shocking for you and many other people today but that’s how things are in those societies. Also, like I pointed before, Primitive warfare is different from State warfare. The former is mostly based in raids and ambushes, being casualties minimal. It is a war of attrition and not a war of control and annihilation. That is why war in Primitive societies is endemic, whereas between States it’s occasional.Problem is, there's no evidence even for endemic warfare in unsegmented groups, at least, not after a certain point (before bows, spearthrowers, and other kill-at-a-distance weapons it is common enough). Doesn't seem to happen until the rise of segmented groups. Unsegmented groups in existance today, still don't really practice it. Inuit, for instance, don't. It's only a feature of segmented groups - like, say, Zulu, Maori, etc. See here:http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/pnas;102/43/15294http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/102/43/15294
slick_miester_general
Feb 27 2007, 11:35 AM
QUOTE(Thule @ Feb 25 2007, 07:36 AM)
QUOTE(SMG)
I'm still at a loss for a proper definition of "primitive."Primitive societies are all societies that are not organized as States.Nah. That's a little too arbitrary. For example, how does one define "state," as a political unit with stated geographical boundaries whose membership is not restricted apparent geneology? By that standard, Hitler's Third Reich might not be considered a state, since German-ness was considered a genetic trait, therefore all Germans must have originated from a single ancestor, or at least a small group of ancestors. Naturally none of us seriously believes that the Third Reich was not a state entity. If on the other hand, a state is to be defiined geographically, what will the dividing line be, the horizon? The Sioux claimed lands beyond the horizon, but we can't honestly call them a state entity, at least not before their near-total confinement to reservations in the late 1890's. On the flip side, while we in the US refer to pre-revolutionary Mohawks, Senecas, and other Iroquois as "tribes," we know for a fact that their system of governance was quite sophisticated, and those "nations" (in Canadian parlance) could legitamately be considered "states," or at least "proto-states." As you can see all of those categorizations are rather flimsy and arbitrary, hence my reliance on an economic definition, ie a "primitive" politico-economic entity is one that lives within the confines of a subsitence economic system, in that it produces no more goods and/or services than it can readily consume. So at this juncture I think that more comprehensive meanings for terms like "primitive" and "state" need to be introduced, otherwise we might not be very sure of what we're talking about.
Edgewaters
Feb 27 2007, 06:46 PM
There's alot of variety in pre-urban tribal societies. The stereotype falls to groups like the Maori, Zulu, or Iroqouis, but these are actually quite advanced and consisted of tens of thousands, sometimes millions, of members. Most of them are quite productive in terms of non-essential goods; art objects or the harvesting of luxury resources like plumed feathers for nothing more than ostentatious display. Generally, they are not hunter-gatherers but pastoralists (Zulu), agrarian (Iroqouis), or a bit of both (Maori). Contrast to some tribes in the Amazon, where a tiny settlement - camp, really - of less than a hundred people is the whole of the tribe, and they possess no definite institution of religion in the manner of the Iroqouis or Maori (though they do, of course, have supernatural beliefs), and do not really practice art to the same degree (no carved objects, no fancy regalia). A good example is the Kalahari Bushmen (before the 50s anyway). There are millions of years of development taking place gradually before civilization; and things from the latter phase of the period are very, very different from things at the beginning.Pictures tell a thousand words, so, for your comparison, a Haida dwelling or a Maori dwelling and a Bushman dwelling. The difference is almost as great, as that between ancient and modern civilization.For pre-Columbian cultures like the Iroqouis, we have pretty good idea of their evolution; it's usually broken down into seven time periods, listed and described here.
slick_miester_general
Feb 28 2007, 11:58 AM
QUOTE(Edgewaters @ Feb 27 2007, 07:46 PM)
There's alot of variety in pre-urban tribal societies.That's why I'm having a hard time choosing the organiziation of "state" as the dividing line between "primitive" and "modern" cultures. According to your link, by 1,000 AD Iroquois, Algonquin, and Huron had pretty sophisticated networks of travel and trade. They were a long way from being cave men, but I'm not sure that their system of governance, while pretty sophisticated in its own right, would necessarily be recognizable as "state" by a modern observer. And while Indian warfare in this part of the North American continent was generally, though not always restricted to raids and ambushes, when the economics of Indian life and war change after the arrivial or Europeans, Iroquois were quite happy to annihilate Hurons, just as Shinnicocks did to the Montauks. "Social surplus" turned the concept of "total war" from a fantasy into a reality. That change was primarily economic, not political.
Thule
Mar 4 2007, 04:36 AM
For those members that are still confused on what Primitive Warfare is let me call your attention to modern sports, which are nothing but a bloodless form of Primitive Warfare.Individuals or teams of different groups meet regularly to confront each other in physical activities, with the purpose of defeating their opponents. The Olympic games are obviously the best example. Members from different countries meet every 4 years to defeat members of other countries. The victorious teams are hailed as heroes by the populations of their countries, who, through their victories, reaffirm their identities. Competitive sports are not caused by any economic needs and there is no intention of crushing the opponent since there will be more fights in the future, just like Primitive Warfare.
slick_miester_general
Mar 5 2007, 04:44 PM
QUOTE(Thule @ Mar 4 2007, 05:36 AM)
For those members that are still confused on what Primitive Warfare is let me call your attention to modern sports, which are nothing but a bloodless form of Primitive Warfare.Competitive sports are not caused by any economic needs and there is no intention of crushing the opponent since there will be more fights in the future, just like Primitive Warfare.Interesting. At least you've discarded the facade of the "state." But I must question the lack of economic considerations in motivating primative warfare. Warfare in any era is an expensive process. Time spent at war is time spent away from the hunt and other activities essential to the health and/or survival of the community. Likewise, time spent at war must be subsidized by the community: the warriors will require food, clothing, and weapons, and they will consume these products during their campaign. Of course in any era wars can start with less than rational motivations, ie, more about balls than brains, but wouldn't the rest of the community object to the expentiture of resources without trying secure some benefit to themselves? Do I want to share my meat with some guy who's always running over to the next village to make trouble? Surely the warrior's political unit would have exerted some pressure to restrain the warrior's more desctructive impulses, especially if it might cost that political unit some valuable commodity. Competitive sports as we've known them since the days of ancient Greece were only possible when there was sufficient social surplus to support atheletes in their training and competitions. Likewise, "elective" warfare can only be possible when there is sufficient social surplus to support warriors on campaign. Without that surplus, the warrior might die of starvation while on campaign, or his political unit might suffer for lack of his contribution in gathering food. Either way we again come back to an economic basis between the "primitive" and the "advanced."
Thule
Mar 10 2007, 06:05 AM
slick_miester_generalEconomy is not as determinant as you think and you continue to think war through the lens of State-warfare.Notice that hunting, gathering, cattle breeding and agriculture can be found in both Primitive and State societies. The major difference is the intensity of production. Since Primitive societies are relatively egalitarian, people only produce enough food to keep themselves alive. This means that they can be seen as "leisure" societies since they have lots of free time for other activities, from sleeping to ambushing and killing someone from other group they don't like. That's not the same in State societies where there are different groups competing with each other for supreme power. This means that, here, the production of goods is intensive, since those groups need to accumulate as much wealth as possible for their power struggles.

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