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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Primitive war : a cross-cultural survey. Levson, Elliott Hastings


Problem: To isolate and analyze the patterned relationships between selected sociological elements and the severity of warfare. Methods of Investigation: Two scales of severity of warfare — based on frequency, and on estimated annual casualties — were constructed for 47 societies. These scales were then compared with 26 selected sociological elements — ranging from population density to political organization. Ethnographic data were obtained from the Human Relations Area File. Conclusions: A model was constructed outlining the organizational bases of the expansion and contraction of warfare: this model isolated two types of factors: I. Conditioning Factors: These referred to the social, economic,political and military organizations on the bases of which warfare expands. II. Limiting Factors: These refer to those institutions which contract warfare. Six basic propositions were postulated as primary influences in the severity of warfare: 1. The greater the size (population), complexity and authority of social, economic and political organizations, the greater is the severity of external warfare. 2. The greater the strength of the social, political, judicial and economic ties — that is interdependence — within a given society or group, the less severe is the internal warfare and the more severe is the external warfare. 3. The greater the structural stress, the greater the severity of the internal warfare. 4. The greater the strength of social, political, and economic ties — i.e., interdependence — between different societies or groups, the less severe is the external warfare. 5. The greater the strength of the institutionalized mechanisms for halting or containing war, the less severe is both internal and external warfare. 6. The greater the strength and occurrence of institutions necessitating warfare for the fulfillment of various roles in society, the greater the severity of warfare.

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