Volltext: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde und der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, 115.1990

Conflict and violence at the local level: 
a world-system perspective 
Sabine Schmidt 
Völkerkundliches Institut, Universität Tübingen, Schloß, D-7400 Tübingen, Deutschland 
Abstract. World-system theory has become the major paradigm for evaluating the influence of global eco- 
nomic and political linkages on preindustrial societies. The position within one of the zones of the world- 
system is assumed to explain internal phenomena of these societies. While this should apply to the expla- 
nation of warfare as well, it is shown in this article, that variations in patterns of warfare are not explained by 
world-system position, this being too course of a grid. Rather the interaction of particular external in- 
fluences, as for example the introduction of cash crop economy, with internal features, such as the specific 
subsistence strategies found in a society, jointly influence patterns of conflict and violence. 
In this article! I explore the possibilities of applying a world system perspective for the 
explanation of conflict and violent conflict management in small-scale preindustrial 
Anthropologists are increasingly challenging the view of the small-scale prein- 
dustrial societies as being static and without a history of their own. Recent reviews by 
Nash (1981) and Vincent (1986) give evidence of the growing concern with the embed- 
dedness of local communities within larger political and economic networks. Eric 
Wolf reminds us of the fact, that anthropology itself is the offspring of European and 
American encounter with the *supposed bearers of a pristine past" Wolf (1982: 18) 
and calls for an integration of ethnohistorical findings about the interrelationships *at 
Work in separate cases" (19) within a larger theoretical framework, which in turn will 
change the perspective in empirical studies as well. This has first been done in peasant 
studies of the 1950°s, acknowledging the link of peasant villages to wider economic and 
political networks. It is reflected by Redfield’s terminology of the “great” and “little 
traditions”, implying the existence of a world beyond the local community which does 
have an influence on the life of the peasants and consequently needs to be understood 
by anthropologists (Roseberry 1989: 109). In the 70's a new paradigm was introduced 
! Preliminary versions of this paper were presented at a conference sponsored by the DFG “Theory con- 
Struction and comparative research on violent conflict in Third World Countries: Nomothetic explanations 
versus ideographic descriptions”, Bonn 1989 and at the annual meeting of the Society for Cross-Cultural 
Research, Claremont 1990. I wish to thank Jutta Daszenies, Klaus Krajewski and Rafael Wittek for their 
helpful comments and criticism. 
Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 115 (1990) 13-22 © 1992 Dietrich Reimer Verlag


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