There is No Instinct for War
III. An Example of Warfare Page 3

Title Page

I. Introduction
Page 1

II. Motivational Systems
Page 2

III. An Example of Warfare
Pages 3 - 4

IV. History of Warfare
Pages 5

V. Warfare and Marriage
Page 6

VI. Conclusion
Page 7

Page 8

As an example of warfare, I have chosen the warfare of the Mae Enga culture of New Guinea, as it has been described by Meggit (1977). The warfare of the Mae Enga is typical of the warfare of the so-called "primitive" cultures, and it is especially well documented by Meggit. Rather than using the word "primitive," I prefer the term "stateless" which refers to cultures that do not have a state structure. Warfare among the Mae Enga is very similar to the warfare described for other stateless cultures, including the Australian aborigines (Warner, 1937) , other New Guinea cultures (Heider, 1970) , the Yanomamo of South America (Chagnon, 1968) , the Kwakiutls of North America (Boas, 1966) and the Angami Naga of Southern Asia (Hutton, 1969). These are among the best anthropological descriptions of warfare. Warfare becomes more complex in societies with a state structure, since there is a formation of a warrior class of men, but that question is beyond the scope of the present analysis. Presumably, if there were an instinct for war, it would be seen in stateless societies as clearly, if not more so, than in complex societies.

The warfare of the Mae Enga, as described by Meggit (1977) may be understood by breaking it down into five stages of a typical war. They are: (1) the immediate event that caused the war (pages 11-15 and 70-94); (2) the group's decision about whether and how to attack (pages 76-83); (3) the preparation of weapons and supplies for the attack (pages 53-60); the march to the place of attack (pages 88-89); and (5) the attack itself (pages 89-98). In addition to these five stages, which occur over several days or weeks during the course of events of the war, there is another level of analysis. The other level of analysis extends over hundreds of years in time. It consists of the traditions of warfare that are transmitted through myths, rituals, and practices of child-rearing, training, marriage practices, etc. Any "instinct' for war would be more likely to be found by studying the events that take place during a war, rather than in the traditions of warfare which involve a more abstract level. Therefore, the latter will not be considered here in detail.

Stage one of warfare is the immediate event that caused the war. Out of 71 incidents of warfare recorded by Meggit, 61 could be classified into only three types of events. There were 41 caused by disputes over land, 12 caused by theft of pigs, and 8 that were meant to avenge a homicide. Other events, more rarely described as causes of war, included accusations of sorcery, rape, and the jealousy of a jilted suitor. The most common causes, disputes over land and pigs, need not have involved any of the various social motivational systems that we described earlier. The Mae Enga live in an area of severely crowded population and disputes over land and pigs could well arise without any particular necessity of anger, fear, or sexual desire.

(Chapter continued on next page)

previous page
home page
next page