Anthropology of Power and Conflict

Anthropology of Power and Conflict

Anthropology of Power and Conflict

In what sense are aggressive behaviors ie conflict competition and dominance universal characteristics of humans What is the evidence that in some cultures aggressive behaviors are rarely observed and strongly sanctioned How is such an outcome achieved

Humans are innately social animals whose existence depends on a continued complex relationship with other human beings Expressed aggression will inevitably lead to an individual or group as the dominator and an individual or group as the dominated Since human origin individuals and groups have had continuous conflicts in search for the best economic resources the most fertile land and the most sustainable reproductive social group For this reason human history is full of aggressive conflicts and sanctioned aggressive behaviors This essay is a brief composition summarizing the outcomes of aggressive human behaviors specifically focusing on whether dominance competition conflict and war are caused by nature nurture or both This essay also presents case studies of rare amicable nonviolent societies and their achievements of peace and human security

It is widely agreed among evolutionary anthropologists and sociobiologists that aggression is a biologically universal human characteristic Dennen Falger 1990 Schmookler 1995 Wrangham Peterson 1996 however many contemporary cultural anthropologists advocate that aggression is a cultural construct Kropotkin 1914 Indeed the historical debate between nature and nurture is vigorous as the categories of human intrinsical interactional and environmental traits are blurred Hobbes ed Tuck 1991 argued that war is a functional part of human nature that maintains a balance of power and solidarity Rousseau Jonathan 2005 defended the position that war is independent from human nature and is therefore a dysfunctional social construct invented by states intended to protect societies In contrast Malthus Pullen 1989 believed war to be a functional mechanism imparted by God to humans to reduce populations at necessary intervals through an innate expression of aggression and a need for ingroup cohesion to maintain a sustainable equilibrium

The naturenurture debate continues still from early philosophers to contemporary scholars with no definitive answer The debate however has recently grown more complex with a greater comprehension of biological predispositions that effect human behavior The most compelling explanation is that many biological predispositions like aggression and competition can be distinguished from but influenced by the cultural environment Renfrew 1997 Every living organism Ridley 2003 p 236 argues is an instrument for genes to grow feed thrive replicate and die but most importantly its primary survival function is reproduction Reproduction undoubtedly catalyzes a competitive force to create descendants This essay reputes the position that biological factors influence the cultural or as Ridley 2003 describes it nature via nurture More specifically reproduction and aggression biologically entail phenotypic outcomes

All humans feel the need to eliminate competitors or the offspring of competitors to protect reproductive capital such as territory and mates Low 2000 p 214 This can be achieved through aggressive nonviolent dominance or aggressive violent conflicts Anderson and Bushman 2002 p28 defines human aggression as any behavior directed toward another individual that is carried out with the proximate immediate intent to cause harm This however does not mean that the individual has carried out the harmful conduct It can be inferred then that aggression is a means to create an inverse relation to achieve a goal through someone without the use of harm or violence

The definition of violence such as war conflict competition and dominance is arbitrary For example violence in one culture can be very different to another culture or even to individuals of the same culture Anderson Bushman

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