This model is helpful for international relations, because it suggests that every war is a negotiation and resolution waiting to happen. The theory suggests that humans form cultural groups such as tribes and nations because they need to believe in something that will live on after they die. We all fear our own mortality, but our cultures give us beliefs and rituals that buffer us from that fear.
Margaret Mead’s war theory kicks butt of neo-Darwinian and Malthusian models
Problems arise when these beliefs are threatened. Terror management theory suggests that for many people, an attack on their nation or group arouses their basic fear of death. You can see traces of the Rubicon theory here, where threats to the group cause people to cross a threshold where they are willing to make violent decisions that they would never make in everyday life. Terror management theory holds that crossing this threshold makes people willing to die to preserve their culture — because, after all, it is only their culture that can live on after them.
Aggression is a fighting instinct that helps individuals and species survive.
In animals, there are innate inhibitions against killing others of the same species, such as the display of submissive gestures. But it's different for humans : weapons and communal aggression "militant enthusiasm" escalate our ability to defend ourselves, but also to inflict violence on other groups.
The Irrational Root of Conflict
The inevitable expression of human aggression is war. This idea suggests that war is specific to humanity, as a result of our advanced tools and social organization. First proposed by anthropologist Margaret Mead in the early twentieth century , this hypothesis suggests that war is not the inevitable consequence of our competitive, aggressive nature. Rather, it is a social invention that can be unlearned.
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This actually dovetails with the "aggressive drive" theory, which suggests that humans may be aggressive like other animals — but our social organization is what leads to war. It is also a sharp rebuke to the evolutionary psychology idea of warrior men, and to the neo-Malthusian notion that war is inevitable when our population grows.
Given that war is a social response to our environment and to each other, it makes sense that the solution to war would be social as well. We can learn peace instead of learning war — and we don't have to change our genomes to do it.
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When these bullies get mad, watch out. Passive aggressive people seem to be supportive, logical, and even helpful—until you read between the lines. Fighting with these people is like shadow boxing. Disagreements and even true conflict are inevitable at work, for some pretty good reasons: the constant flood of information means that we are always touching different parts of the elephant and constant change requires constant debate.
In a perfect world, we follow the textbook advice, treat these sources of conflict logically, behave like adults, and get on with it.
Wars are not won by military genius or decisive battles
We each bring our own baggage to work each day. And, some of our issues rear their heads again and again. We are all insecure about something. We try to hide our mistakes, avoid healthy debate, shy away from disagreements and even lash out unnecessarily, just to protect ourselves. Sometimes we even start fights just to distract people.
So why spend so much time and energy trying to prove that we are? Desire for power. Most people want to feel that they have some control over their lives and actions—at work as well as at home. We want to have impact. We want to help people achieve goals, and we want the recognition we deserve.
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This is natural and healthy: proactively looking for ways to influence and impact people for the sake of the group is the epitome of good leadership. Unfortunately, many people are at the mercy of this very human need.
Instead of working with others, the goal becomes to position ourselves above others. This stance, however well hidden, puts everyone on high alert and on the defensive. This is because we know that even normal disagreements about things like resources are actually primal struggles about who has power over whom.
Katherine E. Register is a writer working in the Boston area. Constant Battles : Why We Fight.
LeBlanc , Katherine E. Register St.