Book review: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence
In Evolutionary Psychology, anthropologist Craig T. Palmer reviews the book The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence. Douglas P. Fry shows in this book how anthropology "can provide unique insights into the nature of war and the potential for peace". The description of the book sounds promising:
Challenging the traditional view that humans are by nature primarily violent and warlike, Professor Fry argues that along with the capacity for aggression humans also possess a strong ability to prevent, limit, and resolve conflicts without violence. (...) The Human Potential for Peace includes ethnographic examples from around the globe, findings from Fry's research among the Zapotec of Mexico, and results of cross-cultural studies on warfare. In showing that conflict resolution exists across cultures and by documenting the existence of numerous peaceful societies, it demonstrates that dealing with conflict without violence is not merely a utopian dream.
But the reviewer isn't convinced. Fry's book is according to him too polemical, his presentation too biased, most of his claims are untestable:
The various problems with the book all stem from Fry's decision to structure it as a contest between two supposedly opposite views of human nature, instead of a straight-forward presentation of his massive array of anthropological data on both violence and peace. (...) A straightforward presentation of the data on human violence and peace would have been much more useful to researchers actually trying to reduce war and violence by identifying its causes. However, such a presentation would have made for a much less dramatic book. This is because it would have revealed little if any difference between Fry's view of human behavior and those he portrays as his opponents.