Cross-Cultural Correlates of War

In this article, Dr. Rudmin employs a 53-year-old data base of 10.9 variables measured in 71 tribal cultures by L.W. Simmons in a re-analysis using modern techniques of cluster analysis. ‘A conservative analysis showed the prevalence of warfare to correlate (p < .01) with 18 variables which clustered as 1) vesting of immanent power, 2) designating dispensible people, 3) agricultural society, and 4) agricultural wealth. There was little support for theories that war is related to patriarchy or the subjugation of women.’

Some excerpts from the article follow –

Of all types of cultures, it is the hunting-gathering people who are least prone to war …, and the salient characteristic of hunting-gathering peoples is their egalitarianism … They have little social stratification and minimal systems of social authority. It is the more complex, stratified, politically structured societies that are prone to war …


To make killing and being killed bearable it may be necessary to structure thought and social institutions internally so that people are devalued and dispensible. It is also possible that devaluation of the enemy in combat and the capture of devalued human beings during war brings into a society lower castes, slaves, and sacrificial victims. However, this would seem a weak explanation. American Indians, for example, had warrior traditions, were fierce combatants, took scalps, but adopted captives into family relations …

And (in commenting on a positive correlation between the influence of women in government and war) –

This study is not alone in these findings. In 1935, Margaret Mead wrote … belief that women are naturally more interested in peace is undoubtedly artificial, part of the whole mythology that considers women to be gentler than men.’ … Eckhardt (1989) has (also) recently reviewed the literature and found that there is little evidence in the research record for gender explanations of war. He concluded, ‘While warriors and hunters have been largely men, women have cheered on (their) activities and celebrated their victories …’

And –

Finally … there is little evidence that practices of violence and the availability of weapons are correlated with warfare. This would argue against those peace researchers and peace activists, usually psychologists and psychiatrists, who equate violence with war … violence is distinct from war. The former is evident in all societies; the latter is socially organized and socially sanctioned. Violence and weapons may be necessary conditions of war, but they are not sufficient conditions.

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)