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War & the Noble Savage

A Critical Inquiry into Recent Accounts of Violence amongst Uncivilized Peoples

War & the Noble Savage cover

War & the Noble Savage approaches its contested subject matter with elegance, wit and a keen critical intellect, and exposes the role of our modern culture wars in our imaginings of the prehistoric past. Its thrilling historical sweep offers a fresh perspective on our chaotically evolving present.

Mike Jay, author of The Atmosphere of Heaven and The Air Loom Gang

An excellent job on a most central topic.

Dale Pendell, author of Pharmako/Poeia

Lucid explanation and intelligent analysis. (8/10)

Fortean Times

I experienced an explosion of insight, elegant thinking, and funny writing.

Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn

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Over the past decade or so, works such as Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and Lawrence H. Keeley’s War Before Civilization have attacked the idea that indigenous and prehistoric societies were more peaceable than modern states. This brief study surveys this recent literature, digging beneath polarized surfaces using less publicized anthropological scholarship. The debate’s age-old frame, emerging from an opposition between Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Noble Savage” and Thomas Hobbes’ vision of primitive life as “nasty, brutish and short,” is analyzed afresh, and related fields, such as studies of chimpanzee violence, are reviewed. Also included is a look at the closely entwined recent controversy over whether tribal cultures have an ecological record as spotless as that often attributed to them.

Always at stake is the inevitable drama of Progress: has the modern world degraded human freedom and the environment, or does it represent an emancipation from millennia of conflict and ignorance?

Pages: 88

Format: A5 perfect-bound book (2009)
ISBN 0955419611
ISBN-13 9780955419614

Format: PDF eBook (2010)
ISBN 095541962X
ISBN-13 9780955419621


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This is from my talk, based on some of this book’s arguments, given at The October Gallery in London on 27th October 2009. Thanks to Mark Pilkington for the recording. You can also download the MP3.

N.B. Press the play button at the bottom to start the audio & auto-slideshow. The big arrow over the right of the screen just jumps to the next slide!

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