Cities of the Gods is a historical study of the theory of Utopian communism in ancient Greek thought, identifying and assessing its several currents. The author looks at the reason for the decline of the Utopian traditions after c. 150 BC and suggests that the main factor was the Roman conquest of the Greek world, which produced a more conservative intellectual climate. He concludes by looking at the evidence for the survival of utopian traditions, particularly their influence on early Christianity.
Evolutionary anthropology has focused on the origins of war, or rather ethnocentricity, because it epitomizes the problem of group selection, and because war may itself have been the main agent of group selection. The neo-Darwinian synthesis in biology has explained how ethnocentricity might evolve by group selection, and the distinction between evoked culture and adopted culture, suggested by the emerging synthesis in evolutionary psychology, has explained how it might be transmitted. Ethnocentric mechanisms could have evolved by genetic selection in ancestral (...) hominids, or through the interaction of genetic and cultural selection in modern humans, or both. The existence of similar behaviors in chimpanzees and the parallel development of early human societies around the globe are arguments for such inherited mechanisms. There may have been some adaptive breakthroughs in purely cultural evolution, but this process does not seem likely to produce long-term Darwinian adaptations because of the prolificity of cultural traits. Warfare may once have been a major agent of group selection, but the rates of extinction among human groups are so slow as to render this improbable since the rise of state-level societies, whose warfare tends to become a cyclical balance-of-power situation. Perhaps the most serious implication of current evolutionary thought is that the individualistic model of culture common in the social sciences and humanities is outmoded, and should be replaced by a new model that recognizes the organismic nature of human societies. (shrink)
This article surveys the history since the Enlightenment of the controversy over the origins and functions of warfare, focusing on the question of whether war is caused by nature or nurture. In the earlier literature five positions are distinguished. The Hobbesian thesis: war is part of human nature and serves both the internal function of solidarity and the external function of maintaining the balance of power. The Rousseauean thesis: war is not in human nature but was invented by states for (...) the functions mentioned above. The Malthusian thesis: war serves the grand function of reducing population, quite apart from its conscious proximate functions. The Spencerian thesis: a combination of Hobbes and Malthus--war serves the grand function of human evolution. The cultural anthropologists' thesis: an extreme version of Rousseau--war is a dysfunctional historical accident.Most of the article is devoted to the recent controversy, distinguishing three major theories: sociobiology, an updated version of the Spencerian thesis; cultural ecology, an updated version of the cultural-anthropological thesis, combining Rousseau and Malthus; cultural Darwinism, which holds that the process of cultural evolution mimics natural selection. The last theory is favored here. It implies that warfare has no grand functions, either sociobiological or ecological. War is neither nature nor nurture, but nurture imitating nature. Hobbes was right in thinking war has always been around; Rousseau was right to think primitive warfare was not the same thing as the wars of states. (shrink)
Recent attempts to develop scientific research strategies for cultural evolution have mostly drawn upon evolutionary biology, but within anthropology there is also an influential tradition of non-biological evolutionary thought whose basic principle is adaptation to the environment. This article is mainly concerned with the "cultural materialist" school of Marvin Harris, but also treats the recent attempt of Jared Diamond to create a more radical model of evolutionary ecology. I argue that the ecological tradition does not represent a real alternative to (...) neo-Darwinism and is in fact a pseudo-Darwinist theory. I also suggest that the bias in favor of materialistic explanation in cultural evolution may not be justified. (shrink)