Kirkus Star


Email this review


Educated as an anthropologist, a playwright by profession, Robert 'Ardrey billed himself as anthropology's Rip Van Winkle when he returned to the field in 1955 with a visit in Africa to view Professor Dart's cache of bones. Out of his reawakening came African Genesis (p. 836, 1961), a stimulating, controversial book about evolution. Now in The Territorial Imperative he climbs farther out on the ethological limb to present territory as a fundamental aspect of man's nature along with the will to survive and the sexual impulse. It is a fascinating book, fertile in ideas, illustrations, expression, and if its concepts and inferences proliferate beyond proof (is human behavior really comparable to that of the Capricorn beetle or even the brown lemur?) or even consistency, it serves to open the brain cells to new patterns of thought and consequently, hopefully, to new solutions for ancient problems. Mr. Ardrey's main thesis, or one of them, is that man is not alone in his morality, that it is a part of his evolutionary heritage. A biological morality emerges again and again in the behavior of animals in which the concept of territory plays an eminent part, acting not so much in the interest of the individual as in restricting the individual in the interests of the group, the population, the species. The principle cause of modern warfare arises from the failure of an intruding power correctly to estimate the involvement of a territorial defender. Man with his pride may well ponder, after this ethological excursion, the author's commentary on the atomic era: ""For all of its show and all of its splendor, just how much has the natural experiment with the big brain been worth?"" But the reader will not dwell long on his assertion that nature abhors a vacuum, but abhors boredom more...he will be too busy responding to many ideas and examples that make this book a genuinely exciting reading experience. Life and Bom exposure.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1966
Publisher: Atheneum