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Constant Battles: Why We Fight Paperback – August 1, 2004
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“Timely reading... LeBlanc's short book makes accessible to general readers controversial ideas well-known in (archaeology)... (and) offers a serious critique of both 'rational choice' by our leaders for short-term ends and of environmental neglect in a market economy as leading to disaster.” ―St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“In a provocative and simulating book, Steven LeBlanc places warfare at the center of human existence. He sees it as a constant battle over scarce resources from the earliest days of our history. In so doing, he gives us hope for the future, in a world where we have the potential to feed everyone. He gives us an important contribution to a growing debate over the causes and future of war.” ―Brian Fagan, professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of The Little Ice Age
About the Author
Steven A. LeBlanc, an archaeologist at Harvard, is the director of collections at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. He is the author of Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest. Katherine E. Register is a writer working in the Boston area.
Top Customer Reviews
LeBlanc is quite clear in stating his own academic history with this topic, the need for this and other studies on the topic, his methodology and his copious citations from peer reviewed scholarship. In addition, he points out that a very large portion of previous scholarship on early human societies assumed a great deal about the pacifist nature of these societies in the face of often clear but nearly universally overlooked evidence as to the bellicose nature of humans and our simian relatives, the chimpanzees.
To these ends, then, LeBlanc provides readers with an amply researched and argued thesis about the ubiquitous nature of warfare among human societies that is often triggered by a given group exceeding their own territory's "carrying capacity." In fact, this thesis is one that is echoed by Jared Diamond in his "Collapse" where Diamond provides clear cut evidence that much contemporary war is caused by environmental distress squeezing out carrying capacity.
Btw, one reviewer refers to the "Human Resource Area Files" when its proper title is, in fact, the "Human Relations Area Files.Read more ›
LeBlank does not appear to be very focused on the subjects of his chapters. Instead he likes to change the subject constantly between prehistoric foragers, chimpanzees and world wars, gulf war and so on. In most of time, it is interesting reading, sometimes is his point hard to follow. For example, he argues that modern "warlords" are actually pre-state tribal governments as they have existed about thousands of years (I agree with that very much) and then next sentence brings in collapse of Yugoslavia as an example (Does he think that Slovenia was a "chiefdom" ? What has a conflict between parts of modern, bureocratic state to do with pre-state tribal conflicts ?).
LeBlanc goes carefully through evidence overlooked by archaeologists and pulls in primatology and ethnography to reveal the obvious past that affects how you frame opinions about current events.
It is well written. Logical and consistent with insights on modern warfare you won't read elsewhere.
I bought it in kindle format and will probably buy it in book form. The kindle footnotes are embedded in the text and easy to use, but the illustrations are too small to see clearly.
Everyone who wants to understand history and human nature will appreciate this very readable book.
Chapter 1 sets out two axes of the myth that (1) earlier societies were peaceful organizations that lived in (2) ecological balance with nature. Chapter 2 shows that the earliest habitations stressed and exhausted their environment. Chapter 3 catalogues the weapons, armor, and the war practices like cannibalism that pervaded the 'toolkit' of the early settlements. Chapter 4 discusses aggression among hominids, describing how chimpanzee bands prey on neighboring chimpanzee bands by using all the devices of collective deceit to fool and entrap other chimpanzees. Chapter 5 shows how foragers like the Bushmen, pygmies, and Australian aborigines operated in regular war and the distribution of proteins in the diet show incipient class organization for male superiority. Chapter 6 details how tribal farming encourages and required predation among all neighbors. Chapter 7 reveals that warfare was the basis urbanization in archaic and historic societies.
Chapter 8 - 'War or peace for the future' - considers the archaeological data as evidence for the gradual decline of warfare among humans.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting and thought provoking. Definitely worth reading. Probably should be required reading for all students of history and psychology.Published 9 months ago by K. Coates
I particularly like the fact that the author states right from the start that this is not a PC book written to accommodate the university faculty committee. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Alma Jeanne Carman
It is long past the time that we took a realistic look at how humans have behaved during the past thousands of years. And not how we wished they had behaved..Published on May 9, 2013 by Reader
Interesting thesis--warfare has been constant in humans for at least a million years. But the first half of the book presents no evidence, just invective against those who... Read morePublished on April 25, 2012 by Robert A. Schultz
This book has two main points: that people often fight physically, and that they have always placed excessive pressure on their food resources. Read morePublished on February 14, 2011 by Sam Thayer
I decided to assign this book to an undergraduate seminar course on violence and warfare because LeBlanc has a readable writing style and he doesn't get bogged down in too much... Read morePublished on October 9, 2010 by Fools and Sages