uncentralised societies) to the nation state. This approach is
justiÔ¬Āed by demonstrating the applicability of the same analyt-
ical models (game theory, the Prisoner‚Ä™s Dilemma) to social
interaction in both simple and complex societies.
In this broader approach to civil society, no presumption is
made concerning the contribution that civil society makes to
coherence in the state, nor are some human societies treated
as ‚Ä˜more evolved‚Ä™ than others. Civil society may support or
undermine the unity of the nation state, depending on histor-
ical circumstances. Rationality is not seen as unique to social
action in market democracies. While it is entirely reasonable
to search for forms of civil society that promote co-operation
and order throughout the state, it is unhelpful to label those
that do not do so as ‚Ä˜primordial‚Ä™ or ‚Ä˜irrational‚Ä™. Their situ-
ational rationality must be investigated, even if the violence
they promote is condemned.
The narrow conceptualisation of civil society on which
Seligman (1992) and Gellner (1994) relied implies that tradi-
tional social institutions such as kinship and ethnic groups are
irrational and therefore followed blindly. Since allegiances to
kin or ethnic identities seemed intellectually inexplicable, the
only remedy appeared to be to introduce a universal market
Warfare, biology and culture 173
economy, dissolve traditional communities and thus infuse
behaviour with rationality. In practice, misguided implemen-
tation of the principles defended by Seligman and Gellner has
promoted social disorder rather than coherence. Failure to
understand the rationality of other forms of society makes it
harder to anticipate the consequences of social change. Pri-
vatisation of common land held by local communities has
enabled the rise of a landowning elite and, more importantly,
has destroyed the traditional local civil society. Local people
are dispossessed of productive resources and become vulner-
able to exploitation by potential patrons. We should rather
explore the rationality of allegiance to kin and ethnic commu-
nities in speciÔ¬Āc social contexts.
Violence is not inevitable, not an uncontrollable genetic-
ally programmed trait inherited from the common ancestor
of humans and chimpanzees, but a response to particular con-
ditions in the ecology of society. The desire to promote order
is equally entrenched in our behaviour. The wider approach
advocated here makes it possible to understand why it is in
some people‚Ä™s interests to promote a wider social order, but
in others‚Ä™ interests to disrupt it. Socially disruptive actions are
sometimes, from the actor‚Ä™s perspective, rational, and civil
war is not treated as an outbreak of irrationality, but as a rea-
soned response to particular social conditions. The aim of this
book has not been to defend violence but to explain the condi-
tions that compromise society and cause morally reprehensible
behaviour, as much as it has been to understand the origins of
social order. It has also sought to demonstrate that inter-ethnic
violence and feuding between kin groups in distant parts of
the world are precipitated by changes in the ecology of global
society, an ecology in which we also participate and which is
shaped by the policies of our own governments.
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