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. Introduction 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. SS ES 1 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