War - Primitive and Otherwise

Scott Holmes (sholmes@NETCOM.COM)
Thu, 13 Oct 1994 19:21:19 -0700

to the social level of the participants. This was due to both where my
earlier thread left off (from some time during the Neolithic to pre-Sumeria)
and Warren Sproule's question:

> (a) the prescence or absence of writing *is* a valid demarcation b/w
> 'types' of societies;
> (b) there is no such thing as "primitive warfare"; and
> (c) a prime reason for (b) is (a).

I didn't actively respond until Mike Salovech answered with:

> Maybe a sedentary population can worry about territorial
> control, but nomads by definition don't hang around a fixed spot all
> year long. Permanent control of territory ain't their game. As for
> gaining control over some subject population, what could you want
> with captives/slaves/subjects when your way of life demands getting
> down to scattered and VERY small social units for significant parts
> of the year? For that matter, how could you feed them or even hold
> them and get on with the business of hunting and gathering? (Here
> I'm talking about band-level societies, in the manner of Julian
> Steward, not the sedentary folks of the Columbia River Basin or ...

My first post began with a reaction to the use of the term "Nomad" but
I failed to state that I'd recognized the distinction between the societies
Mr. Salovech was speaking of and the steppe peoples. I did offer an out,
however, by suggesting a re-classification of the steppe peoples (I bow to
Daniel Foss' statement that "Mongol" is a linguistic group) as "Predatory"
or "Parasitic", at least for those involved in the European adventures.

The bulk of my post, however, was more directly concerned with the
initial question (re: writing). I offered possible examples of warfare
amongst people that did not utilize writing (at least I'm not aware of them
being literate). I've yet to see any responses to WS's query nor any
to my counter argument.

As for permanent control of territory and/or the taking of slaves, I don't
believe either is required for war. Nor do I see a need for a requisite level
of technology. My working definition of war is still ratified social violence.
I see no reason not to classify a group of Neolithics attacking (in a
cooperative/cohesive manner) another group of Neolithics as warfare. The
motivation may be short term control of a water hole or merely the fact that
they don't like each others looks. This removes any need to worry about an
Advanced/Westernized vs Primitive paradigm. It's not the social/technological
condition we need to worry about, if our concern is indeed prevention of war.
(We only need to keep "the others" too starving and poor to be able to engage
in warfare). I believe what we need to be concerned with is the fact that
a group of people (from an LA "tagger" gang to a national entity) can decide
that it's justified to use violence against other people. All the rest
is just a matter of scale.

----------- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, ----------------
Scott Holmes <sholmes@netcom.com> Informix 4GL Applications
---------------- Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ------------------------