The pattern of fighting in simple, small-scale, prestate societies

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This article shows that the pattern of human fighting among hunter-gatherers and simple horticulturalists was not very different from that prevailing among animals species; indeed, it is explained by a similar evolutionary logic. The article addresses all scales of both inter-and intragroup fighting, for fighting and killing take place both within and between groups. This pattern is more complex than the simple ingroup cooperation/outgroup rivalry suggested by Herbert Spencer and W.G. Summer. The distinction that has been made between "blood feuds" and "warfare," "homicide," and "war killing," while of course not wholly arbitrary, largely reflects our point of view as members of more or less orderly societies. The phenomenon dealt with here is deadly aggression, whose forms differ little within or between groups, in individual feuds or in large-scale fighting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-583
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


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