The Gestalts of War,An Inquiry into its origins and Meanings as a Social Institution.The Dial Press,New York.1984.
Author: Sue Mansfield.
"Is War inevitable?" This is the question, rather the issue addressed by our distinguished anthropologist Sue Mansfield in her informative book. She begins by putting forth her own definition of War as "an organized, socially approved action involving groups of men in relatively complex operations of aggression and defence, and pursued in a rational fashion in order to accomplish certain goals." Then she moves on to marshal her evidence postponing her answer to the end.
However,Mansfield argues convincingly against the claim that war making is a human urge, citing the historical record which suggests that warfare has been a minority experience. From the rise of peasant-agrarian civilizations in 5000 B.C.E. until the middle of the 19th century., warfare has tended to become increasingly the province of professionals. In peasant societies it was very rare for more than 1 to 2 percent of the male population to be actually engaged in soldiering .So it is extremely likely that in historic times the majority of men(let alone women) have never participated in warfare.
Mansfield further persists in arguing that none of that vast majority of men never felt any sort of repression of an urge or instinct, as they would have done if a real instinct of theirs, like sexual drive, was repressed. By contrast, the vast bulk of men have been satisfied never to experience being warriors.
Our scholar recalls to mind that there was a theme much beloved by orthodox Christian art in which the newly resurrected Christ is depicted emerging from hell, holding his cross as if it were a sword and leading the liberated patriarchs by the hand as if they were children. In that one scene, she says, one can catch the ambiguities toward war that have plagued Christianity and made the civilization founded upon it both more pacifistic in intent and more profoundly violent in action than any other culture that has existed.
As far as aggression is concerned, Mansfield says that all animals, including human beings possesss aggressive capacities-invaluable as instruments for furthering the survival and growth of the individual and the species. She goes on to ascertain that humans, because of their long childhood and their genetically based drive to create and transmit culture, are capable of separating this aggressive capacity from the satisfaction of simple physiological needs. Indeed all human societies impose taboos on some aspects of eating, sexual relations, thus inhibiting total physical spontaneity of adults. At the same time societies create culturally defined gestalts that direct aggressive capacities into symbolic and utilitarian channels perceived as useful to the community. Because the human infant is genetically coded to learn, our tendency to assimilate both taboos and culturally defined goals as a part of our psychic structure is a normal part of our species'' survival capacity. Even if aggressive energy channeled into building a dam, or constraining oneself to conform to an ascetic ideal is individually harmful, it is functional for the group. She also refers to two psychological characteristics of the human species. The first of them is that the human consciousness is inclined to create,out of the multifarious sense data of daily life, patterns that impose order/meaning upon the chaos of experienced reality:dreams, rites, language, art, and scientific theory.
In the end Mansfield proclaims that she believes that human survival depends eventually on moving entirely away from the ritual of war. I think that this proclamation suffices as an answer to our initial question about the inevitability of war. Write your abstract here.