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"Humans are often said to be intensely tribal. Indeed we are. But if “tribal” refers to a sense of solidarity with a large social group, the same is true of most primates. Tribalism does not distinguish us, nor does reactive aggression. It is coalitionary proactive aggression that makes our species and societies truly unusual.
Among our ancestors, coalitionary proactive violence directed at members of their own social groups enabled self-domestication and the evolution of the moral senses. Now it enables the functioning of states."

(Richard Wrangham: The Goodness Paradox: How Evolution Made Us Both More and Less Violent)

By Matias7
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I can easily relate to solidarity in the face of physical attack. I'm not half as sure about ideological solidarity. Maybe it needs to be fleshed out as to what the benefits and the disadvantages are. It's weird how it's a bit like a new civil war in America these days.

brentan Level 8 Mar 15, 2019

Where is the research?

Chance2 Level 1 Mar 15, 2019

In the book "The Goodness Paradox: How Evolution Made Us Both More and Less Violent"


Interesting, you may find this a good read too.

The only thing that the two do not address, which I think comes into the picture, though I have nothing more than hunch, is the effects that weapon technology has on aggression. Making inter group aggression both more dangerous to the aggressor and more likely to result in the deaths of near relatives with common genes.

Fernapple Level 7 Mar 15, 2019

Thanks for the link! In Wrangham's book that I quoted from the weapons are taken in to account. But you are right: after the invention of real weapons like spears or arrows any weakling could easily kill a stronger man, which is an important aspect of egalitarism amonh hunter-gatherers (Chris Boehm in his excellent book "Hierarchy in the forest" is more explicit about that than Wrangham in his book

@Matias it is not just that but also the stronger could also kill the weakling, but that would leave his family/tribe smaller and weaker.


We are indeed tribal animals. But not all human groups practice coalitionary proactive aggression. Whether a group or tribe adpots such behavior depends entirely on the experiences and dominant norms, mores, and values of the group. Groups with excessively exclusionary values adopt such behavior both to prove and protect their falsely adopted "special" status.

wordywalt Level 8 Mar 15, 2019

If we are "domesticated", then my definition of that term needs modification.

There are signs of domestication in our bones and in our behavior. Humans generally are quite docile and mild-mannered.
Just imagine you want to take a plane. You gather with hundred strangers (!) in hall, you wait, then you quietly board the plane, you sit side by side with strangers, you even do small-talk... all without aggression (if there is a rare indicident where somebody, usually drunk, is running wild, it is in the media, becuase it is so rare).
Now imagine to do this with a group of chimps or baboons or wolves or hyenas.... it would be a mayhem and carnage.

I've flown a few times with the equivalent of chimps and/or baboons on board. That mental image though is quite striking!!!


Surely you mean us apes, all of us, not just Homo sapien.

Savage Level 7 Mar 14, 2019

Chimps or other apes do not practice coalitionary proactive violence. It is a specialty of Homo sapiens

@Matias I'd suggest that Chimpanzees and Baboons do indeed practice this. But us 'Hoomans' have taken it to an art form.

@Matias They use peer control violence, protective violence, aggressive teaching, racial violence, by degree. Even if never met, close relatives will be friendlier and seen as less threat. Group violence is known, tribal wars over resource. We become the most foolish of the apes if we think we are all that much different from our genetic peers.

@bigpawbullets Much of that can be be put down to our numbers, Like termites, our advanced thinking is a product of the group, bigger the group more advanced the thinking. Humans are a very big group.


It's really simple- murder everyone who doesn't think or act like you and you have more resources for those more like you. Then you have to be nice to everyone who is left, unless they deviate from the social norm. Then you need to get rid of them.

That's not what Wrangham meant. Murder only the would-be tyrants, the bullies, the truly anti-social - and you'll get a domesticated species

@Matias So what you are saying is that because society tends to remove perversion from themselves the state trends away from violence. It is a paradox though- The more conformist a society is the more likely they are to accept large scale atrocities, and the easier it is for violent members of that species to rise to the top to commit said atrocities.

@Happy_Killbot That is exactly the "Goodness paradox": Homo sapiens is extremely cooperative and even peaceful within groups - but quite aggressive against deviants and traitors (of the in-group) and against strangers outside the own in-group


Among all the studies...I wonder! No society has all mentally healthy people, even if the most are non-violent! It seems the tipping point is only a short stretch away!


I am not sure but it seems to me that at least in most major Western cultures only the remnants of tribal culture remain, the positions of power and authority are now business related, and for the most part these relationships are outside the family considered as a tribe. Position and to an extent personal success in such cultures is not guaranteed.

There are other cultures which are more strictly tribal, where social positions are given in birth, where a lowly individual may have very little chance of moving beyond the position of their birth. Life is easier on tribal members in the sense that they don't have struggle to find their way in life, certain possibilities have been predetermined for them from birth

cava Level 7 Mar 13, 2019

Tribalism is a catchy word.
Humans are social animals ie we form group. This allows us to survive, we are a "herd" species so to speak. Yes, a human can survive without a group but the norm, what you would normally expect, is to find humans in groups.

powder Level 8 Mar 13, 2019

"Me against my brother. My brother and I against my cousin. My brother and my cousin and I against the world." Said to be an old Arab aphorism. It would seem that "tribal" depends upon the scope.

dahermit Level 7 Mar 13, 2019

Exactly, ""tribal" depends upon the scope." is well-stated!


Give an example of how “coalitionary proactive violence...enabled self-domestication.” Make a show of force to discourage dissent/uphold the social contract?

PaigeM Level 6 Mar 13, 2019

Wrangham distinguishes two types of violence: "Reactive aggression is the “hot” type, such as losing one’s temper and lashing out. Proactive aggression is “cold,” planned and deliberate."
"coalitionary proactive aggression" is when people form a coalition, when they cooperate to use violence in order to punish or kill someone else (what policemen or soldiers do)
His theory: Our ancestors domesticated themselves (there is evidence that Homo sapiens is a domesticated species, we are closer to "dog" than to "wolf"!) by killing the most aggressive males, those who threatened to dominate the whole group, the bullies


Would you explain "coalitionary proactive aggression"?

Aristopus Level 6 Mar 13, 2019

Wrangham distinguishes: "Reactive aggression is the “hot” type, such as losing one’s temper and lashing out. Proactive aggression is “cold,” planned and deliberate."
"coalitionary proactive aggression" is when people form a coalition, when they cooperate to use violence in order to punish or kill someone else (what policemen or soldiers do)

@Matias Gotcha. How about a pack of wolves? Do they display "coalitionary proactive aggression."?

@Aristopus That is an interesting question. Wrangham would say no, but I am not convinced, because when wolves hunt they form coalitions and I'd call the type of violence "proactive". He writes that up to 40 per cent of deaths (among adult wolves) are due to attacks from other wolves, but only between packs, not within a pack, where wolves rarely kill each other (which led Konrad Lorenz to the misconception that wolves - and animals in general - have a natural inhibition to kill conspecifics, a false idea that prevailed until Jane Goodall and others found out that chimps often enough kill other chimps from neighboring groups

@Matias On the Goodall case we mustn't jump to conclusions. The great Louis Leakey tells a story of a baboon named Proconsul in the London Zoo. People were dismayed to see the primates viciously fighting all the time and they went away with erroneous conclusions. The display was of alpha males taken from various tribes. Of course they're going to fight because a tribal order was never established.

Goodall's account might be similar in that chimps are victims of fragmentation of habitat like many other African animals.

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