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Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy$
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Karl Widerquist and Grant S. McCall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678662

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678662.001.0001

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Nasty and Brutish? an Empirical Assessment of the Violence Hypothesis

Nasty and Brutish? an Empirical Assessment of the Violence Hypothesis

Chapter:
(p.132) Chapter 9 Nasty and Brutish? an Empirical Assessment of the Violence Hypothesis
Source:
Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy
Author(s):

Karl Widerquist

Grant S. McCall

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678662.003.0009

This chapter empirically investigates two hypotheses often used to support the claim that virtually everyone is better off in state society than they could reasonably expect to be in any stateless environment. “The strong violence hypothesis” is the claim that violence in stateless societies is necessarily intolerable. “The weak violence hypothesis” is the claim that violence in stateless societies tends to be higher than in state society. Section 1 uses anthropological and historical evidence to examine violence in prehistoric stateless societies, early states, and contemporary states. Section 2 reviews evidence from modern stateless societies. Section 3 attempts to assemble anthropologists’ consensus view of violence in stateless societies. Section 4 evaluates the strong and weak hypotheses in light of this information, arguing that societies in which sovereignty is most absent maintain the ability to keep violence at tolerable levels. Although it is reasonable to suppose that stateless societies tend to have higher violence than contemporary state societies, some stateless societies have lower violence than some states. Because these findings reject 350 years of accumulated theory of sovereignty, Section 5 briefly discusses how bands are able to maintain peace without state-like institutions. Section 6 concludes.

Keywords:   State of nature, Social contract (theory), Lockean proviso, Hobbesian hypothesis, Violence hypothesis, Statelessness (stateless people), Band society, Hunter-gatherer(s) (hunter-gatherer society (-ies)), Reverse dominance hierarchy

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