Before embarking on a work that seeks to answer some questions about why and how human societies engage in protracted, violent and “intractable” conflicts, and what might be done about it, it really behoves an author to pause and consider a question — or a set of questions — that might render the whole exercise pretty pointless. After all, if — as some authors have implied or openly argued (for example, Ardrey, 1961; Morris, 1967; Buss, 2005) — the answers lie buried in “human nature”, in the fact that human beings are naturally or biologically programmed to be aggressive, to utilize violence, to organize so as to be able to kill large numbers of their fellow beings, to be compelled by their “nature” to engage in violence and destruction, then the analysis of conflict becomes relatively straightforward. It can focus on the nature of aggressive “drives”, on chemical processes within the brain, on the role of testosterone in fomenting wars, and on intra-personal tensions that lead to confrontations and conflict. Within this “natural born killers” framework, coping strategies logically take the form of therapy, behaviour modification including channelling of aggression, incarceration of the most violently aggressive, the pacifying use of drugs and, ultimately, the manifest forms of deterrence.
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