its practice by all members of the tribe." The genes supply the motivation for warfare, Wilson is saying, in humans as they do in chimps, but people, blessed with the power of language, look for some objective cause of war. A society psychs itself up to go to war by agreeing that their neighbors have wronged them, whether by seizing property or failing to deliver on some promise. Religious leaders confirm that the local deity favors their cause and off go the troops.
The human predisposition for socially approved aggression falls into a quite different category from that of individual aggression.
Bellicose individuals usually get themselves locked up in jail for long periods or, in primitive societies, social sanction is given to having them killed. Individual aggression is seldom a good strategy for propagating one's genes. But socially approved aggression—that is, warfare—can be. A predisposition to warfare does not mean war is inevitable since the predisposition is only executed in certain contexts. The warlike Vikings of the tenth century became the peaceful Scandinavians of the twentieth.
Among forager societies, warfare can benefit the victor, by expanding territory and increasing reproductive success. That is the conclusion that archaeologists and anthropologists have been so anxious to avoid endorsing, because it seems to offer a justification for war, even a glorification of it. But by playing down the prevalence of warfare in the past they have obscured the important and surprising fact adduced by Keeley, that modern societies have succeeded in greatly reducing the frequency of warfare.
On the assumption that warfare was an incessant preoccupation of early human existence, the picture of the Upper Paleolithic era that specialists have so far constructed seems strangely incomplete. What does it mean to say that the Aurignacian culture was succeeded by the Gravettian? That the makers of the Aurignacian tool kit woke up one morning and decided thenceforward they would all do things the Gravettian way? Or that after many sanguinary battles people bearing the Gravettian culture ousted those following the Aurignacian? When the Last Glacial Maximum made northern latitudes uninhabitable and the glaciers pushed their populations south, is it likely they were welcomed with open arms by the southerners whose territory they invaded? If warfare was the normal state of affairs, it would have shaped almost every aspect of early human societies. Warfare is a dramatic and distinctive feature of history, and it thoroughly overshadows an even more remarkable feature of human societies. This feature, the polar opposite of war, is the unique human ability to cooperate with others, and specifically with unrelated individuals. Social organisms like bees and ants form groups centered around members who are related to each other and have a common genetic interest. So do people to some extent when organized in tribal societies. But humans have extended sociality far beyond the extended family or tribe and have developed ways for many unrelated individuals to cooperate in large, complex, cohesive societies. The uniquely human blend of sociality was not easily attained. Its various elements evolved over many years. The most fundamental, a major shift from the ape brand of sociality, was the human nuclear family, which gave all males a chance at procreation along with incentives to cooperate with others in foraging and defense. A second element, developed from an instinct shared with other primates, was a sense of fairness and reciprocity, extended in human societies to a propensity for exchange and trade with other groups. A third element was language. And the fourth, a defense against the snares of language, was religion. All these behaviors are built on the basic calculus of social animals, that cooperation holds more advantages than competition.
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