More on the Myth of the Peaceful Savage

In the current issue of Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution the anthropologist Sarah Mathew reviews War, Peace, and Human Nature, edited by Douglas Fry. Fry is one of the large group of anthropologists and other social scientists who have been critical of Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature.

在最新一期的《历史动力学:计量历史和文化演进》杂志中,人类学家Sarah Mathew对Douglas Fry主编的《战争、和平与人性》一书做了评论。许多人类学家和社会科学研究者对Steven Pinker那本《人性中善良天使》持批评态度,Fry是其中之一。

Sarah makes the following important point about War, Peace, and Human Nature:


Note that the book is not just about warfare, but about conflict in general, which can include a variety of inter-personal conflict, including physical aggression between same-sex individuals, domestic violence, conflict within social relationships, verbal aggression, and alcohol-induced fights.


Some readers may find this problematic. The evolutionary forces that shape warfare differ from the evolutionary forces that shape inter-personal violence because warfare can occur only if the problem of collective action is solved. Thus, the evolution of warfare is tightly linked to the mechanisms underpinning the evolution of cooperation.


This fact alone accounts for the rarity of warfare in most of the animal kingdom despite the prevalence of myriad other forms of conflict. So, for readers interested in the evolution of warfare, the book may seem like a grab bag of too many unrelated phenomena.


There is a reason why many authors of the book conflate warfare and violence. To see this, I recommend taking a look at a recent article by Azar Gat, Proving Communal Warfare among Hunter-Gatherers: The Quasi-Rousseauan Error.

这本书中的许多作者把战争和暴力并在一起讨论,这么做是有理由的,对此,我建议参考Azar Gat最近发表的一篇文章:“对狩猎采集者之间群体战争的证明:准卢梭式缪见”

The target of Gat’s critique is “Rousseauism,” the idea that humans were basically nonviolent before the transition to agriculture and the rise of complex societies—civilization. At the peak of the Rousseauism in the 1960s, anthropologists celebrated Kalahari Bushmen as “harmless people” and wrote books about the Inuits of polar Canada with titles like “Never in Anger.”

【插图1,图片来源:Australian Art Auction Records网站,】

Gat批评的是卢梭主义。卢梭主义认为:在转向农业之前,在复杂社会即文明诞生之前,人类总体上是非暴力的。在卢梭主义影响力达到顶峰的1960年代,人类学家们欣喜地把卡拉哈里沙漠布希曼人(Kalahari Bushmen)称为“无害的民族”,并在描写加拿大极地因纽特人的书中使用了“从不发怒”之类的标题。

These descriptions of peaceful hunter-gatherer groups were revealed by subsequent research to be complete fantasies. The seminal publication that turned the tide against Rousseauism in modern anthropology was the 1996 book by Lawrence Keeley, War Before Civilization: the Myth of the Peaceful Savage.

然而,后续的研究指出,这些关于和平的狩猎采集群体的描述纯属想象。在现代人类学中,逆转卢梭主义潮流的开创性文献是1996年Lawrence Keeley的著作《文明之前的战争:和平野蛮人的神话》。


Meanwhile, another strand developed in the anthropological study of warfare. These researchers did not deny that small-scale societies studied by anthropologists had very high levels of homicide due to warfare, but argued that it was due to the contact of these previously peaceful societies with the intrusive states.


According to such anthropologists as Brian Ferguson, expanding states, both modern European colonial powers and ancient empires, create “tribal zones” on their frontiers, in which warfare is frequent and intense.

根据Brian Ferguson等人类学家的观点,正在扩张的国家,包括现代欧洲殖民势力和古代帝国,都在它们的扩张前沿创造了“部落地带”,在这些地带,战争显得尤其频繁和剧烈。

Professional anthropologists who, of course, come from civilized state-level societies study the tribal zone and are fooled to believe that all small-scale societies, even those before exposure to the corrupting influence of the states, are very violent.


Empirical evidence supports the idea that the arrival of centralized states in a region increases the intensity of warfare. But that doesn’t mean that before such intrusion small-scale societies were peaceful.


Gat reviews several lines of evidence, including archaeological, but probably the most convincing is his extended review of what we know about the pre-contact Australia.


Australia was an entire continent inhabited by hunter-gatherers, with no agriculturalists, pastoralists, or states. The first non-foraging society that arrived in Australia was the British, who established the penal colony at the Botany Bay in 1788, and for a while Australia was a dumping ground for the undesirables from the British Isles. It was not until the 1820s when the free settlers started to arrive, and massive immigration began during the Gold rush era, starting in 1851.


【插图3,图片来源:Gat 2015文章】

Much before that, in 1803, the 23-year old Englishman William Buckley escaped from a penalty settlement and lived with an Aboriginal tribe for 32 years. His account gives us an invaluable glimpse into the life of a hunter-gathering society before it was changed by the intruding state-level civilization. Buckley was not a trained anthropologist, but that doesn’t disqualify him from reporting on such basic issues as war and peace.

远在这之前的1803年,一个23岁的英国人William Buckley从罪犯流放地逃脱,在一个澳洲土著部落中生活了32年。他的叙述非常珍贵,让我们得以一窥尚未被有国家文明闯入并改变的狩猎采集社会的生活状态。Buckley并非受过专业训练的人类学家,但这并不意味着他没有能力来报告像战争与和平这样的基础事务。

Buckley recounts some dozen battle scenes, as well as many lethal feuds, raids, and ambushes, comprising a central element of the natives’ traditional way of life. He describes their weapons of war in great detail: clubs, spears, “war boomerangs,” throwing sticks, and shields.


Tribes typically consisted of 20–60 families each and were egalitarian, without chiefs. There was fighting at all levels: individual, familial, and tribal. Some of the intertribal encounters that Buckley recorded involved large numbers: five different tribes collected for battle; a battle and raid against an intruding enemy tribe, 300 strong; several full-scale intertribal encounters, the last one a raid with many dead; two other encounters, the second against a war party of 60 men.


Ceremonial cannibalism of the vanquished was customary. Buckley reported that the large-scale raid was the deadliest form of violence and often involved indiscriminate massacre: “The contests between the Watouronga, of Geelong, and the Warrorongs, of the Yarra, were fierce and bloody. I have accompanied the former in their attacks on the latter. When coming suddenly upon them in the night, they have destroyed without mercy men, women and children.” (Gat 2015)

针对败者的仪式性食人行为成立一种惯例。Buckley记述说,大规模突袭是最致命的暴力模式,而且其中经常包括无差别屠杀:‘ Geelong地区的Watouronga部落,与Yarra地区的Warrorongs部落之间的战斗激烈而血腥。我随队亲历了前者对后者的袭击。深夜里突然接近敌方居所后,他们无情地进行屠杀,包括男人、女人和小孩。’(引自Gat 2015年文)

The Australian evidence is particularly important because it comes from eyewitnesses to the crime, so to speak. Archaeological evidence tells us that violent death was very frequent in prehistoric societies. But it is difficult to distinguish death in war from death resulting from within-group violence.


This uncertainty allows Douglas Fry to write, “whereas homicide has occurred periodically over the enduring stretches of Pleistocene millennia, warfare is young, that is, arising within the timeframe of the agricultural revolution.” But the Australian evidence decisively demonstrates that war precedes the agricultural revolution.

由于有这种不确定性, Douglas Fry就可以说,“尽管在漫长的旧石器时代,杀戮周期性地发生,但战争却是一种新事物,也就是说,它起源于农业革命那段时间。”但是澳大利亚的证据确切表明了,战争在农业革命之前就已存在。


Note added 22.VII.2015: As Scott Atran points out in the comments, the last sentence is too strong. But read the article by Azar Gat, which brings together numerous lines of evidence, making the case for war before civilization very convincing to me.

2015年7月22日注: 正如 Scott Atran在评论里指出的,最后一句显得过于肯定了。但是在读过Azar Gat这篇搜罗了大量证据的文章之后,战争诞生于文明之前的结论在我看来已经非常有说服力了。

翻译:yusong ( [email protected] )


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