PW:Bonnie & Ken & Pat & Scott.

Warren Sproule (Warren.Sproule@SOCIOL.UTAS.EDU.AU)
Wed, 2 Nov 1994 08:38:48 +0200

Scott Holmes prefaced his second-last post [10/26] with some very kind
remarks about my not 'parrying',ie evading, counter-arguments to my
"primitive war" stance, but nobody's more aware than I that there's still a
large element of 'parrying' in my position! That's partly because I'm *not*
presenting a rock-solid fully-developed case, partly because I'm on the
defensive swatting away at incoming challenges to my stance, and partly
because I lack the energy, time (and skill!) to deal with all these
challenges simultaneously. I s'pose the simplest solution to my dilemma
would be to go all Rushton-like, dismiss everything disagreeing with my
hypothesis, and just toss in the odd magisterial assertion: But my
upbringing told me that's not polite, and my training told me that's not
science. So therefore,

1) Re the Blackwell post of 10/31: Bonnie, my initial point picked up and
tried to run with Clastres' distinction b/w tribal chieftainship and
leadership in states. As I understand it, he sees these processes as
opposed to each other - the former, in fact, is a deliberate 'strategy' to
prevent the formation of the latter. In what I'd uncharitably term
typically Gallic academese, the guts of his argument runs like this:

'Hence there is no king in the tribe, but a chief who is not a chief of
State. What does that imply? Simply that the chief has no authority at his
disposal, no power of coercion, no means of giving an order. The chief is
not a commander; the people of the tribe are under no obligation to obey.
*The space of the chieftainship is not the locus of power*, and the
"profile" of the primitive chief in no way foreshadows that of a future
despot. There is nothing about the chieftainship that suggests the State
apparatus derived from it...*the chief's word carries no force of law*...'
(1987: 205-6, emphases in the original).

In short, tribes operate on a different basis to 'advanced' societies
inasmuch as the chief is *not* a 'shaper' of 'public opinion', and cannot
within his (her? that's another issue!) "term of office" act contrary to a
'general will' (which he embodies). Secondly, how applicable are concepts
of 'public opinion' and a corollary like 'private interest' to tribal
societies anyway? Thirdly, I have serious misgivings about the validity of
holding constant the 'manipulation of public opinion' across a range of
political contexts, as when you claim that it not only "looks the same" in
tribes and states, but also within monarchies, democracies and
dictatorships. Fourthly, your example of the Russian army's 'desertion' and
subsequent part in the Revolution of 1917 *itself* shows just how different
processes of support for a war-leader/commander-in-chief can be; and
finally, re your serious 'doubt that the process is different whether the
society is literate or not', Carlo Cipolla's (1967) _Literacy and
Development in the West_ notes that both Russia as a political entity and
the Russian armed forces had the highest levels of *illiteracy*, relative
to other European powers, prior to and during WW 1: Might this not be a
factor in lack of support for Romanov war aims, and the dynasty itself? And
is it stretching an analogy to far to tie this into Clastres' conception of
tribal behaviour?

2) Kenneth Gauck's post of 10/31 bewilders me a bit. I've obviously not
been clear in prior postings, and I'm being dim and missing something now.
I fail to see why 'the Classical Greeks are below the military horizon' as
I 'define it'. I see their society as (a) not 'primitive', (b) employing
writing, (c) statist, (d) regularly engaged in warfare, and (e) regarding
war as 'extraordinary' to the degree that, as the writings of the
ex-Athenian general Thucydides tell us, the undertaking is enmeshed within
an infrastructure of protocols, conventions, formal alliances, etc. If
we're to discuss this aspect further, could I rope Dan Tompkins - who (I
think) is on this list, is an active and invaluable contributor to
CLASSICS-L, and far more expert on this than I - into this PW thread? On
Kenneth's second point , I'm in almost complete agreement: The State IS a
warmaking institution, and DOES monopolise violence. I said as much
(ironically, and using Sahlins' commentary) on Oct 31, Oct 19 (drawing on
Hobbes and Weber) and as far back as Oct 7 (citing Charles Tilly). Where I
part company with Hobbes (and, I assume, Kenneth) is in the idea that war
can exist *without* (some kind of) nascent or actualised Leviathan.

3) I thank Pat Crowe (10/31) for moving Keith Otterbein's 1970 analysis
closer to the centre of this discussion. It's helped immensely in shaping
my thinking on this issue, and for what its worth I consider it one of the
most remarkably astute pieces of research into war not only in
anthropology, but in the social sciences in general. However, I can't
concur with Pat's statement that it shows 'there are some researchers who
accept the existence of "primitive" war without assuming that warfare is an
inherent part of all cultures'. Why not? Firstly because of the
implications of Otterbein's statement, that

' appears from this study that for cultural units and their
constituent political communities *to remain social entities*, they must
have the means, through capable military organizations, to defend
themselves from attack' (1970: 21, emphasis added).

In other words, groups *without* 'capable military organizations' either
AREN'T 'societies', or won't be for long (ie, they're doomed). Secondly,
looking closely, the key characteristic of his 4 (out of 50) non-warring
"exceptions to the rule" - the N. American Copper Eskimo, the Dorobo of E.
Africa, the Melanesian Tikopia, and the Toda of S. India - is geographical
isolation. All four were driven into inhospitable climes by their 'warring'
neighbours, so their ecological niches are determined by their status as
*victims* of war (they're not so much 'non-warring' at all, just less
technically proficient at it). Moreover, Otterbein cites Firth, who *does*
see 'war' as an element of Tikopian life, and the Toda are described as a
most likely a formerly 'warring' entity - so that in the finer-grained
elements of the analysis, even what are technically 'exceptions' are
reduced from four to two. What strikes me about the work is the inclusion
of an endnote by Quincy Wright quoted at the book's conclusion, which
tallies with my own position rather than what I read as Keith Otterbein's
own premise of war as culturally pervasive:

'Out of the warlike peoples arose civilization, while the peaceful
collectors and hunters were driven to the ends of the earth, where they are
gradually being exterminated or absorbed, with only the dubious
satisfaction of observing the nations which had wielded war so effectively
to destroy them and to become great, now victimized by their own

OK. Checkout time at the Procustean motel. Let me close for now with one
general observation: When we get down to cases in this thread, we seem to
end up talking about Classical Greeks and China, Mongols and Sumerians, US
military activities in Haiti, the Gulf War, etc. As I recall, in a
brilliant e-mail tour-de-force Dan Foss gave us a potted history of the
civilised world in something like 4 or 5 paragraphs! I'm not saying that
this isn't entertaining and/or useful, but I'm starting to doubt that its
the most productive way to proceed. So I'd like to make a small request
that might bring us closer to the heart of the matter. It's addressed
chiefly to my able opponents in this debate, and it goes like this: If I'm
wrong and "primitive war" IS a reality, could we start to have a closer
look at a few examples of the phenomenon in some detail? ie, kicking into
an analysis of particular H-G 'wars', test-casing the Murngin, Yanomamo,
Maori, or any of Keith Otterbein's 46 'warring' societies? That'll give me
a shot at specifying *why* I think these conflicts aren't wars, and other
people a shot at showing me *why* my hunch is so far off the beam.

Muchas Gracias,