Show 175: Harold Barclay; Anthropologist

Harold Barclay discusses his book People without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy

Over the last three weeks, Equal Time for Freethought has asked scientists basic questions about human nature.

Is it within human nature to be aggressive, or is aggression the result of environmental circumstances?

Is war inevitable because humans have a natural tendency to inter-societal violence, or is there something unique in modern culture which brings out the soldier in many of us, particularly our males?

What if peace was closer to the “natural state” of human nature, and we have lived though an aberration of violence over the last few centuries?


The scientists were anthropologist Douglas Fry, author of The Human Potential for Peace; and biologist Judith Hand, author of Women, Power, and the Science of Peace. Fry and Hand spoke on how though aggression may indeed be a part of our genetic makeup – particularly in younger men – war and violence are not part and parcel of being human. Indeed, they pointed out that over 98% of human history was far more egalitarian, and almost never warlike, and that such violence seems to have arisen out of human centralization, mainly in the form of the state.

Fry and Hand, due to their belief that human hierarchies are also natural to our species, argued for a world court and other useful steps toward world peace. These are very much ideas which listeners ought to seek out. But will these steps bring us our goal (peace), if hierarchy is natural and human societies are so large?

Anthropologist Harold Barclay, in arguing against the necessity of the state, in responding to our species’ tendency toward anarchy, makes a stirring case for a peaceful future which would eliminate the state and other such centralized authority. But what kind of society would that lead us toward, if it is even possible?

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