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Constant Battles: Why We Fight Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312310900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312310905
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #794,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
From the above reviews of LeBlanc's "Constant Battles," we can clearly see that the "noble savage" interpretation of pre-history engenders strong emotional responses, more in the vein of current TV political shows where name calling is the norm and less in the vein of academic discourse where there should be an appeal to facts and clear reasoning. In fact, in approaching this subject, it might be best to try and put both emotions and political views, if not aside, at least in the background.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title seems to be more biased than the book. The book actually does not claim that all peoples have always been in "constant battles", he does not try to avoid talking about known non-agressive and peaceful peoples at all. He is debunking the "peaceful past" myth quite well, but when I read the book, I get a picture about "mostly warlike" past instead of "constantly warlike" one. I tend to agree that there was lots of wars and violence in the past. I am more suspicious about LeBlancs claims about constant "overexploitation of the environment" of the prehistoric and modern humans.

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 ?).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A well reasoned and amply evidentially supported of two glaring anthropological myths: the peaceful and ecological past. Both have been maniacly promoted since WWII. The golden age that never existed and is religiously promulgated.
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.
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Writing to an educated reader who need not be a scholar, LeBlanc reviews the myth of the noble savage in actually very exhaustive detail that includes 17 pages of references to the important ethnographic literature, an index, and illustrations. The book is a five-star product because of its agreeable language, consistent argument, and comprehensive organization. LeBlanc combined archaeological, historical, and ethnographic data to review human development through primitive, archaic, and historic phases.

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.
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