Realistic Evolutionary Materialism and War

The evolution of man as a species saw the change from a nomadic isolated groups to formed communities. Eventually this reality evolved into what we call cities and by extension civilizations. That being said, despite the evolution of man into the enlightened condition of today the same imperatives to survive and maintain life as a priority has remained. Though classifying this reality according to international relations theory has proven difficult, it most closely seems to resemble an empirically verifiable critical theory that closely resembles a systemic factor emphasized realism. Perhaps this particular reality is a new form of neo-realism but thus far no other literature has been located to elucidate the classification.

Combining the evolutionary anthropological theory with the materialistic principles found within dialectical materialism–or Marxist Communism–shows that the primary driving manifestation of the evolutionary theory applied to politics is the acquisition and continued protection of resources. A distinction between the materialism of communism that focuses upon economic systems and the manifestation of evolutionary materialism is key for this application. Resources in this context includes the raw materials, education, and technology necessary to sustain and expand a given nation. In a modern context then for example, resources includes oil, stem education, and server farms.

Combining this materialistic principle with realist ideas within international relations theory demonstrates that anarchy manifests itself in the untapping and/or mismanagement of the resources within a given geographical region. Therefore, the work of international relations is centered around reducing the conflicts and waste of resources within the pursuit of acquiring and sustaining control over said resources. At the service of this principle, many distinct phenomena emerge including governments, economies, militaries, and religions/idealist systems. Therefore, the actions of these systems are all evolutionarily geared toward preserving the life of the members of these communities through acquisition and sustained control over resources.

As this realistic evolutionary materialism encounters other independently developed nations, an inevitable conflict between competing and incompatible ideals and motivations emerges. At this point, a realistic perspective of international relations certainly seems the most apt approach to the understanding of the interactions of these conflicts. Therefore, the motivation to war is ultimately centered around threats to the acquisition and/or sustainment of resources. However, the breakdown of the methods in place to prevent anarchical constant conflict leading to war is the misestimation of the capabilities of adversaries.

Two distinct examples from history readily illustrate the veracity of the above theory as to the cause of armed conflict. First, the United States Civil War was motivated by many factors including but not limited to economic competition between geographical locations, moral claims on human rights, and legal interpretations of political documents. The economic competition between the ‘north’ and the ‘south’ can be linked directly to the materialistic portion of the theory. The moral differences are also closely linked to the economic considering the economic advantages of chattel slavery. Moreover, ultimately morally deviant behavior is ultimately a threat to the cohesion of a nation and thus the nation’s resource capability and capacity. Threatening the resource in turn reduces the likelihood of evolutionarily required survival. Furthermore, the interpretation of the US Constitution within the Civil War is directly related to differing opinion on which system is best suited to ensuring the survival of the constituents of both possible systems–being federal and state centric. Therefore, the motivations fit the realistic evolutionary materialistic theory.

In terms of how the conflict turned violent, history informs that at the outbreak neither side truly believed that the conflict would emerge into one of the most violent conflicts of the 19th century. The federal forces did not think the confederate forces possessed the logistical, strategic, or tactical capabilities to even wage a single battle. Therefore, federal forces were caught wholly unprepared to meet the staunch and able resistance the Confederacy mustered in response to armed enforcement of unity of the states. On the other hand, the Confederacy assumed that staunch response against federal military forces would deter against a sustained campaign to reunify the United States. This misestimation then helped lead to a long sustained civil war.

The second World War is another historical example of this theory. While there are many actors in this conflict that all attest to the veracity of this theory in its own way, Japan and United States are the most clear. The Japanese expansionist mentality can be linked to the necessity for Japan to acquire and sustain resources especially considering geographical limitations and western expansionism. While idealistic factors helped motivate this expansionism, those ideals ultimately still served the need to preserve the life of the community/nation. On the other hand, Japanese expansionism directly threatened the United States highly invested position of controlling the naval shipping in the Pacific ocean.

Therefore the stage was set for possible armed conflict. While the United States might have anticipated Japanese aggression against the United States Navy, the technological capabilities of the Imperial Japanese Navy were highly underestimated attested to by the unpreparedness of the US Navy during the attack at Pearl Harbor. On the other hand, the Japanese military did not account for the United States industrial capacity to meet the challenge of sustained military campaigns in the Pacific theater. This misestimation of military and industrial capability ultimately lead to the conflict turning hot and a bloody four year war being fought.


Fearon, James. “Rationalist Explanations for War,” International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 3 (1995): 379-414. Accessed April 9, 2017 at //

Frankel, Benjamin. “Restating the realist case: An introduction,” Security Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3 (1996): 9-20. Accessed April 9, 2017 at /10.1080/09636419608429274.

Levy, Jack S. “Domestic Politics and War,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988): 653-673. Accessed April 9, 2017 at /login?url=

Sagan, Scott. “Why do States Build nuclear Weapons? Three Models in Search of a Bomb,” International Security, Vol. 21, Winter 1996/97. Accessed April 9, 2017 at 54-86.

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