- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 10, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019538461X
- ISBN-13: 978-0195384611
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.1 x 5.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace 1st Edition
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"This is a passionate book containing a tidy account of systems of war and peace."--New Scientist
"This book offers a refreshing and timely look at the evidence that we have warfare in our genes. Clearly, the assumptions of those who argue this position exceed the facts. Using anthropological data, Fry argues forcefully that our species has not only a strong desire for peace, but also plenty of ways to achieve it."--Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape
"If you believe humanity is doomed to war, read this book. If you want to convince others that it is not, read this book. Fry does two very important things in Beyond War. He shows that humans are not innately warlike and are fully capable of living in peace. And he shows how past scholarship has been biased by an assumption of a 'beast within.' His magisterial tour of the evidence is clear, sensible, and entertaining."--Brian Ferguson, author of Yanomami Warfare: A Political History
"Few questions are as controversial and consequential as whether war is 'natural.' In this important book, Fry does a fine job of demystifying the argument, while making a strong case for optimism. Human nature is a slippery thing, a concept often misused, yet crucial to understanding our past, present, and future. Beyond War will help scholar and lay-person alike to grasp hold."--David P. Barash, author of Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Dawinian Look at Literature
"An important and timely volume, [Beyond War ]...is a valuable addition to the perennial debates on warfare."--American Anthropologist
About the Author
Douglas P. Fry teaches in the Faculty of Social and Caring Sciences at Åbo Akademi University in Finland and is an adjunct research scientist in the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. A renowned anthropologist and a leading authority on aggression and conflict resolution, he has worked in this field for over twenty-five years and has published many articles and books on this subject.
Top customer reviews
I won't get into the debate itself, better to buy the book and let Fry lay it out for you. I would, however, disagree with the previous reviewer about the importance of defining "war" before concluding that it is pervasive in human life. As Fry shows quite convincingly, you can only make the case for the universality of "war" if you define it as just about any lethal violence between three or more people. So a jealous man and his brother killing a third man (even within the same community) is considered to be "war" in these studies. Very misleading, dishonest science.
The example from New Guinea is equally misleading. The reviewer is correct about the aggressive relations between groups there, but does he really think a tightly-packed island is a relevant model for the conditions in which human beings evolved? The world was a big, empty place from the perspective of early humans. Walking away from conflict was always an option. By the time studies were conducted in New Guinea, population density had reached a point where there was no place left to go in order to avoid conflict. This is more relevant to present conditions than to prehistory.
But the reviewer's point about whether or not there is a universal human propensity to behave aggressively toward those not in our group (language, culture) is a good one. My reading of Fry's argument is that he acknowledges that humans have the "capacity" for violence, but not necessarily the "tendency." Obviously, we are capable of horrible brutality, but the notion that it comes naturally to us is belied by the severity and ubiquity of post-traumatic stress in those who have acted in violence -- other than psychopaths. Wolves and sharks don't suffer after having killed. Humans, by and large, do.
In any case, I highly recommend Beyond War to anyone who wants to hear the other side of the story, and who wants to enjoy themselves as they learn.
Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
Fry's is a marvelous way to gain insight into human possibilities. We lived most of our evolutionary history in hunter-gatherer societies, so human nature is without doubt the product of the social relations of hunter-gatherer life. Fry shows, through analyzing a welcome variety of small-scale societies that virtually every such society has complex and sophisticated rules for avoiding and resolving conflict, and there are many such societies that simply do not engage in warfare. Fry therefore uses anthropological evidence to persuade the reader that warfare in human society is not inevitable, and that human nature includes many tools for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
A second claim Fry puts forward in this book is that warfare is in fact uncommon in modern-day hunter-gatherer societies, and probably was uncommon in our Pleistocene hunter-gatherer past, To show this, he provides much argument but little evidence. Moreover, my colleague Samuel Bowles has recently completed a careful study of the extent of war among both prehistoric and historic hunter-gathers and comes to the opposite conclusion (Samuel Bowles, "Did Warfare Among Ancestral Hunter-Gatherers Affect the Evolution of Human Social Behaviors?" Science 324:1293--1298. He included the eight ethnographic sources and the fifteen archeological sources containing the relevant data on the fraction of adult males that perished in war, as opposed to natural causes and intra-group violence. He found that the ethnographic and archeological sources indicated a mean between 12% and 16% war mortality.
Moreover, Bowles found that this level of warfare was sufficient to explain a high level of intra-group altruistic predispositions in humans. If Bowles is correct, and if there are no other factors promoting human altruism, we are in the curious position of being the most prosocial and cooperative species outside the eusocial insects precisely because we are among the most warlike of social species. I suspect there is a lot more to be said on this topic, and I suspect that there are sources of human solidarity and altruism beside war. However, there is every reason to believe that Fry is correct is stressing the possibility of conciliation and peace in the future of our species, and his book is a welcome addition to the literature on the topic.
Fry correctly makes the distinction between nomadic hunter-gatherers being completely different from tribal horticulturalists and sedentary foragers when it comes to using them as exemplary models of lacking warfare. He covers their mechanisms of nullifying disputes and their kinship structure that prevents organized warfare.
The last chapter is pretty weak, but if you need a readable starting point for the anthropological dialog of warfare - this is the KEY place to start. if you dont have that above distinction in mind with nomadic foragers, your whole perspective is useless.