Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ferguson’s War and Society Paradigm I

Article: Ferguson, R. Brian (1999) “A paradigm for the study of war and society” in Raaflaub, Kurt, and Rosenstein, Nathan (eds) War and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: Asia, the Mediterranean, and Mesoamerica, Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University.

Brief Review: "R. Brian Ferguson provides an interesting essay and a paradigm for the study of war and society. Sociocultural phenomena are categorized into infrastructure, structure, and superstructure. Ferguson's chapter is a test of this paradigm's applicability to war and society in the ancient and medieval world, using both the essays in this book and previously published research. Some fascinating comparisons and conclusions are reached in this essay, too numerous to report. Suffice it to say that this chapter both summarizes and suggests, incorporating all available literature, how war and society are intertwined throughout history." [Source, Another Review]

My Outline Notes: In this article Ferguson provides a general framework and taxonomy for cross-cultural comparisons of warfare (especially pre-modern and non-western warfare) as well as an extensive review of the literature. The factors enumerated in this study could also be viewed as causal factors behind warfare. There are three anthropological levels in the paradigm:

1. Infrastructure: physical environment, population, practice (labor) and technology (capital)
2. Structure: social, economic, political organization of societies
3. Superstructure: mental constructs of a culture, belief systems, patterned emotional dispositions

And two political levels:

1. Intrapolity factors within states or societies
2. Interpolity: factors between states or societies

Here is a more detailed outline of the first part I made last night over a cup of coffee at a wonderful little caf้ in the garden (Sukhumvit Soi 24 Bangkok). Note, there are still factors at the end that haven’t incorporated into my notes yet.

1. Intrapolity:
a. Infrastructure:
i. “Subsistence practice, the way that food is extracted from nature, is intertwined with broad features of violent conflict” (391).
ii. “hunting techniques could be called a preadaptation to war” (391).
iii. “Nomadic pastoralists can strike at distances and are hard to attack, and livestock gives them a built in incentive for raiding” (391).
iv. “even farm implements can become weapons” (391).
v. “Seasonality of conflict” is a feature of armies of cultivators (391).
vi. Armies of cultivators often receive no pay. Their implicit compensation is the land they have been given to farm. Some have specific military functions to serve (musketeers, cavalry, elephant corps, royal bodyguard) others are general conscripts with not specialized function or weapons.
vii. “The intensified and extended production systems of expanding empires are able to generate food surpluses capable of supporting huge armies” (392)
viii. “the organization and capabilities of a military force are closely linked to the societal system of provisioning, in states no less than tribes.”
ix. An important variable is how long soldiers are removed from production. In mainland Southeast Asia, basically for one dry season, whereas for Roman soldiers, years at a time. This puts a limit on the length and distance of campaigns.
x. wars can be generated by “some critical scarcity of subsistence resources” (392).
xi. “Land becomes a more inviting target as production systems develop and invest more labor in it…especially when political structures are evolved enough to incorporate the bounty of land and its tillers into tribute and tax” (392). Sure, but the issue is whether the conquering center has enough control to tax and extract resources out of the conquered periphery. In fact, a logical continuum between raiding and taxation/tribute can be seen here. If taxes are not forthcoming, a punitive expedition is sent to extract them.
xii. Acquisition of land or territory versus acquisition of people or manpower.
xiii. “Having title to land was sometimes linked to an inherited duty of military service” (393).
xiv. In some ecological environments people were scarce, in others land.
xv. “Population determines the maximum size of an army that a society can mobilize” (394).
xvi. The large army size that can be fielded is one major reason behind the formation of confederacies (394).
xvii. The impact of war on populations is a longstanding issue.
xviii. Some claim that warfare is an adaptive mechanism, “slowing population growth and redistributing people for a sustainable balance with nature.”
xix. Others claim that it has maladaptive effects including “forced nucleations, large danger zones that cannot be exploited, and occasionally the breakdown of social structures which contributed to collective provisioning” (394).
xx. “tribal warfare where all the adult males are mobilized, can produce a very high death rate, exceeding 25 percent” (394).
xxi. War may have a negative demographic effect by reducing agricultural production (395).
xxii. Scorched earth defense tactics can lead to population decline. (395)
xxiii. Fortifications: “The presence of these massive structures was the central reality of all the combat that swirled around them, and the walls necessitated the massive logistical systems of siege warfare” (395)
xxiv. “Weapons technology is both a major determinant of military practice and an expression of overall level of technological development” (396).
xxv. “Development of technology goes in tandem with changes in combat practices” (396).
xxvi. “Changing weapons systems, and the interaction of technology, combat practice, and military organization are prominent themes…” (396).
xxvii. “Combat is men’s work” (396).

Intrapolity structure:

Internal Social Structure:
1. “Among elites inter-marriage is a frequent basis of solidarity and alliance” (398).
2. “Stratification is associated with two tiers (at least) of soldiers, elite and mass” (399).
3. “War offered an avenue for social mobility for men” (399).
4. Armies, civil administration, and organized religion are inter-related and are determinants of social organization (400).

Internal economics:
1. Who provisions a military expedition? (supply and logistics)
2. Land settlement: Are soldiers supplied with salaries or land allotments?
3. There is a connection between chronic warfare, the heavy expenses incurred, and taxation to finance it (401).
4. Tax collection: Wars are often fought over non-payment of taxes.
5. “imperial centers transformed the entire system of production and commerce around them to provide both material support for armies and a continuing supply of troops” (401).

Internal politics:
1. “Development of more expansive and cohesive polities cuts down on localized fighting” (402).
2. “The role of leadership increases in times of war” (402).
3. “Leaders during wars must carefully evaluate and navigate a course balancing internal factional alignments and oppositions with external alliances and conflicts” (402).
4. “Success in war can often be an avenue to wealth status and influence” (402).
5. “war can act as an evolutionary ratchet, a factor that promotes incremental eleboration of centralization and hierarchy” (402).
6. Succession Crises: “With the development of chiefly hierarchies comes the possibility of violent conflict over succession to high-status office” (402).
7. Tribute may necessitate wars just to keep in power (cf. Si Lun fa, maybe he needed to wage wars against secondary states to collect taxes, maybe his popularity was partially due to acquiescence to Ming tax demands.)
8. External military affairs have a major impact on the internal political position of military leaders” …allowing them to advance in position and esteem (403).
9. “Conflict can lead to to either fusion or fission of polities along a variety of social organizational lines, making internal into external, or vice versa” (404).
10. States have the ability to “compel men to fight, even on pain of death.”
11. States also have the “ability to suppress independent military initiatives by local forces” (404).
12. A difference between state and non-state societies is that in state societies their lives depended on military obedience (404).
13. Ancient armies sometimes, but not always, served as internal police (404).

Intrapolity superstructure:
1. Deals with the mental world and cultural psychology (405).
2. War is often an expression of cultural values (405).
3. There were sometimes “local logics of war” (405).
4. “Inculcation of martial values, the development of justifying political ideologies, and the harnessing of spiritual beliefs to the idol of war” are all important here (405).
5. In ethnography chronic warfare is sometimes associated with “belligerent, aggressive male personalities” (406).
6. “With military specialization, warrior classes develop an elaborate warrior ethos” (406).
7. “Writing provides an entirely new medium for valorization of war and warriors” (406).
8. “What distinguishes murder from killing in war is that the latter is provided with social justification. Every polity at war has a pattern of beliefs that accomplishes this vital task” (407).
9. “Revenge is invoked to do two things. First, it means ‘they started it’ --- in one way or the other the intended victims of an attack brought it on themselves…” (407).
10. “War is often seen as a reponse to enemy provocations” (407).
11. “State ideologies often…fuse military leadership, the sacred, and the right to rule” (408). [cf royal chronicle traditions]
12. “war is so thoroughly ritualized…that it is sometimes hard to say what is religion (or magic) and what is not” (408).

2. Interpolity:

1. “Dyadic relations between polities are the building blocks of a system that has its own emergent qualities, endemic warfare being a big one” (409).
2. “unlike much ‘realist’ international relations theory…, polities are not seen here as unitary, independent actors but as potentially divided congeries of people, dialectically interacting with the larger social system” (409).

a. Infrastructure:

1. “Geographic circumscription --- sharp ecological divides that restrict populations to one place – are important contributing factors to both war and political evolution” (409).
2. “Fighting may involve clusters of peer polities with equivalent subsistence systems..or may include adversaries with different ecologies” (409).
3. “Groups with less secure provisions may raid those with better supplies” (410).
4. “The Nile valley is a classic case of circumscription” (410).
5. “Generally, state armies do less well against scattered, mobile, autonomous groupings than against more dense and centralized polities” (410). (cf nomadic)
6. “Regional population characteristics may affect war” (410).
7. “Cross-cultural statistics have failed to establish any correlation between regional population density and intensity of warfare, although connections are apparent in particular cases” (410).
8. “regional population to resource balances affect whether war embodies the politics of exclusion or aims to garner people” (410).
9. Empirically, war is often avoided or exited when local groups have the option or relocating to unoccupied lands” (410).
10. Sometimes “war seems to propel people outwards from areas of high productivity and population growth to, ultimately displacing some into economically marginal areas that act as population sinks” (410).