The Territorial Imperative

The Territorial Imperative

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A territory is an area of space which an animal guards as its exclusive possession and which it will defend against all members of its kind. In this revolutionary book Robert Ardrey takes a concept familiar to every biologist, brings together for the first time a fair sampling of all scientific observations of this form of behavior, and demonstrates that man obeys the same laws as does many other animal species.

With African Genesis Mr Ardrey stirred up enough storm to last an author, one would think, for a lifetime. In The Territorial Imperative, however, he explores more deeply and incisively man’s evolutionary nature and threatens even more forcefully some of our most precious assumptions. In a time when we attribute to man either no instincts at all, or instincts too weak to be of significance, Mr Ardrey’s conclusions concerning the instinctual force exerted on human life by territory will undoubtedly raise an even greater storm.

The author concludes, for example, that a common cause for war lies in our ignorance of man’s animal nature - in particular, in the aggressor’s ignorance of the enormous animal energies which his intrusion will release in a seemingly weak territorial defender. In a quite different vein, he concludes that family loyalty and responsibility, in men no less than in gibbons or beavers or robins, rests on joint attachment to a private territory. Perhaps the author’s most far-reaching, most controversial conclusion is that morality - our willingness to make personal sacrifice for interests larger than ourselves - has its origins in dim evolutionary beginnings, is as essential to the life of the animal as to the lives of men, and could probably not exist in the human species without property either privately or jointly defended and the ultimate command of the territorial imperative.

Like its predecessor, The Territorial Imperative is a work of wit, of literary wealth, of high adventure. Again the author draws on his inexhaustible knowledge of animal ways, and again his wife presents her intriguing sketches of animal life. But this time Mr Ardrey takes his readers on far deeper excursions into the ancient animal world, and on far deeper penetrations of the contemporary human wilderness.

While evolutionary science has advanced markedly since Ardrey’s times, his insights on human behavior have a timeless quality and The Territorial Imperative remains a classic reference for anyone wishing to begin an adventure exploring life’s biggest questions.

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