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

Resource competition and violent conflict 
Cross-cultural evidence for a socio-ecological approach 
Rafael Wittek 
Lehrstuhl für Soziologie und Sozialanthropologie, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Findelgasse 9, D—8500 
Nürnberg 1, Deutschland 
Abstract. The present paper provides a statistical test of alternative theories related to the resource scarcity 
hypothesis in anthropological conflict research. Existing demographical, ecological, and evolutionary 
theories are criticized for conceptualizing scarcity as an one-dimensional phenomenon. An alternative “so- 
clo-ecological” model is developed, in which the distribution of scarce goods plays a key role. The power of 
the discussed models in explaining ten different forms of violent conflict management is examined by apply- 
Ing a hierarchical logit-analysis. The results provide strong support for the socio-ecological approach. 
The idea that scarce resources may be one factor leading to warfare or other forms of 
Violent conflict has been discussed for a long time in the social and political sciences 
alike. In cultural anthropology, this topic has attracted special attention with the rise 
Of the cultural-ecological paradigm in the 50's and 60's (Ferguson 1984). A great many 
of scholars began to focus on this relationship, and the majority of their rather detailed 
Case studies provide strong support for this argument.! Since then, some cross-cultural 
Work has followed, where these assumptions have been tested on a regional or world- 
Wide scale. Most of these studies arrived at a confirmation of the hypothesis, thus im- 
Plying that the connection between warfare and such phenomena as rising population 
densities or food stress can be accepted even as a statistical law. 
. Up to now, however, no attempt has been made to assess the theoretical compati- 
bility of the different approaches. Furthermore, the existing hypotheses have never 
een tested simultanously using the same sample. This will be done in the present 
Paper? I will start with a short review of existing cross-cultural studies dealing with re- 
Source scarcity as a cause of violent conflict. In trying to overcome some theoretical 
Weaknesses of previous attempts, a new theoretical perspective is developed in the sec- 
Ond section. It will be statistically tested against the previous explanations thereafter, 
using a hierarchical logit-analysis. 
3 For an exhaustive bibliography on these studies see Ferguson and Farragher (1988). 
= r climinary versions have been presented atthe DFG-Conference “Theory construction and comparative 
Ee on violent conflict in Third World Countries: Nomothetic explanations versus ideographic des- 
Ptions” (Bonn, November 1989) and the annual meeting of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research (Cla- 
lemont, March 1990). 
Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 115 (1990) 23-44 
© 1992 Dietrich Reimer Verlag 


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