Browsing All Posts published on »July, 2012«

History’s Lessons

July 31, 2012 by


Those of you who’ve read my books know that in addition to my research on the evolution of large-scale human societies and the rise of centralized states and empires, I am also interested in the reverse process by which an empire loses cohesion and gradually crumbles into a ‘failed state’ (these two directions in my […]

The Western Way of War II

July 28, 2012 by


My previous blog discussed the problems associated with the idea of the Western Way of War. I was very skeptical of two claims: (1) the supremacy of infantry over cavalry and (2) the supremacy of shock (close-quarters) combat over ranged weapons. Historical evidence does not support  either of these claims. There is another serious problem […]

The Western Way of War?

July 25, 2012 by


In a blog posted some months ago (Why Social Scientists Need to Study War) I argued that warfare is one of the most important forces in social evolution and that it deserves a careful study. In this and following blogs I’d like to continue this line of reasoning. The main question I am interested in […]

Cultural Evolution of the Fork

July 20, 2012 by


After I wrote the blog, the Inertia of Culture, a reader pointed me to this excellent post by Chad Ward: The Uncommon History of the Common Fork This cultural history of the fork provides more details about its initial adoption as an eating utensil in the Middle East and Byzantium in the 7th century, its […]

Michael Hochberg. Pinker redux: We need data

July 18, 2012 by


The Pinker essay has generated a lot of commentary on different websites. This can only be a good thing, insofar as channels for reactions remain open.  The Social Evolution Forum is committed to this. Needless to say, there is a tinge of hegemony in various essays on the Edge website.  How can two individuals, who are […]

The Inertia of Culture

July 18, 2012 by


Norbert Elias discusses an interesting case of cultural evolution in his opus magnum, The Civilizing Process. As we know, during the Middle Ages Europeans did not use forks. During meals they simply grabbed greasy pieces of meat from the serving dish with their fingers (or, at best, speared them with belt knives). The first known […]

Douglas M. Jones: History and Group Consciousness

July 16, 2012 by


I teach a course every year or two called “The Anthropology of Violence and Non-Violence.” I’ve used Peter Turchin’s “War and Peace and War” as one of the assigned books the last several times; the next time I’ll be adding Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Natures” to the reading list. Pinker’s book reflects […]


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