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Learning to Live TogetherPreventing Hatred and Violence in Child and Adolescent Development$
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David A. Hamburg and Beatrix A. Hamburg

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195157796

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195157796.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 29 November 2021

Ethnic, religious, and nationalist factors in human conflict

Ethnic, religious, and nationalist factors in human conflict

(p.30) 3 Ethnic, religious, and nationalist factors in human conflict
Learning to Live Together

David A. Hamburg

Beatrix A. Hamburg

Oxford University Press

Contemporary education must try hard to understand where we as a species came from and how our ancient heritage and recent historical transformation contribute to our current tendencies toward hatred and violence. If we are to overcome or control these destructive tendencies, we must grasp the powerful currents that make the task at once difficult and essential. Development of our ancestors took place in the context of small, face-to-face groups that provided the security of familiarity, support in times of stress, shared coping strategies, and enduring attachments that sustained hope and adaptation for a lifetime. Reciprocity was crucial in relationships, both within and between groups. Disapproval in the form of reduced sharing, social isolation, and the threat of rejection from one’s group were powerful sanctions that reinforced conformity to group norms. Indeed, the importance of sharing within the primary group was strongly conveyed to children from infancy onward. These basic facts of small-scale, traditional life have been enduring and powerful from earliest mankind to the present day. They apply to the hunting and gathering societies in which our ancient ancestors spent several million years, to the extended families of agricultural village societies, and to the primary groups of the homogeneous neighborhoods in preindustrial towns of the past that foreshadowed modern industrial and postindustrial societies. Our ancient ancestors’ world began to change drastically with the onset of agriculture 10,000 years ago. The existing evidence clearly shows that–once humans developed agriculture, settled in larger population groups, accumulated goods, and came to rely on designated areas for growing food and grazing animals–a widespread intergroup hostility became common, and at times, severe. Patterns of intergroup violence in preindustrial societies have been confirmed and described in detail by anthropologists and historians. Whatever the evolutionary background and its biological legacy, the historical record clarifies that aggressive behavior between individuals and between groups has been a prominent feature of human experience for at least several thousand years. Everywhere in the world, aggression toward others has been facilitated by a pervasive human tendency toward harsh dichotomizing between the positively valued we and the negatively valued they. Such behavior has been easily learned, practiced in childhood play, encouraged by custom, and rewarded by most human societies.

Keywords:   Australian aborigines, Burundi, Cambodia, Eastern Europe, Holocaust, Indonesia, Judaism, Nazism, Paraguay, Rwanda, Sikhs

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