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Through the study of civil society, the evolution of social relations, and the breakdown of social order, Order and Anarchy re-examines the role of violence in human social evolution. Drawing on anthropology, political science, and evolutionary theory, it offers a novel approach to understanding stability and instability in human society. Robert Layton provides a radical critique of current concepts of civil society, arguing that rational action is characteristic of all human societies and not unique to post-Enlightenment Europe. Case studies range from ephemeral African gold rush communities and the night club scene in Britain to stable hunter-gatherer and peasant cultures. The dynamics of recent civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, Chad, Somalia and Indonesia are compared to war in small-scale tribal societies, arguing that recent claims for the evolutionary value of violence have misunderstood the complexity of human strategies and the social environments in which they are played out.