PEACEMAKING AMONG PRIMATES by Frans de Weal

PEACEMAKING AMONG PRIMATES

By

KIRKUS REVIEW

Primate-scientist de Waal (Chimpanzee Politics, 1983) attempts "to correct biology's bleak orientation on the human condition" in this massively researched, expertly written book, which contends that peacemaking among primates--including human beings--is as normal as aggression. De Waal bases his conclusions on more than a decade of close observation of various primate species. Watching chimps in a Netherlands zoo, he discovers that they often resolve a conflict with hugs and kisses. Male chimps prove to be far more conciliatory than females, leading de Waal to question the claims of Marilyn French and others for a peaceful, prehistoric matriarchy among humans. Throughout, he likes to exchange his lab coat for a philosopher's robe, using primate observations to comment on human nature and behavior ("both violence and nonviolence can be taught") and to ruffle scientific feathers by courting heresy (e.g., asserting that "anthropomorphism is a very good step" in studying animal psychology). This is fun, and makes the potentially dry ethological information more inviting. De Waal finds that rhesus monkeys seek a subtle, restrained form of peacemaking suitable for their highly complex social structure; that stump-tailed monkeys and bonobos both use sex as the great reconciliator. All this points again to human behavior, justifying the author's optimistic conclusion that forgiveness is not a recent--and precarious--social invention, but rather "over thirty million years old. . .a shared heritage of the primate order." A radical look at simian behavior, sure to generate much excitement amongst the smartest, most aggressive--and, one hopes, most peace-loving--species of them all.

ISBN: 674-65920-1
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:




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