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War! What Is It Good For?

Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


A powerful and provocative exploration of how war has changed our society—for the better

"War! . . . . / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothing," says the famous song—but archaeology, history, and biology show that war in fact has been good for something. Surprising as it sounds, war has made humanity safer and richer.

In War! What Is It Good For?, the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tells the gruesome, gripping story of fifteen thousand years of war, going beyond the battles and brutality to reveal what war has really done to and for the world. Stone Age people lived in small, feuding societies and stood a one-in-ten or even one-in-five chance of dying violently. In the twentieth century, by contrast—despite two world wars, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust—fewer than one person in a hundred died violently. The explanation: War, and war alone, has created bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments that have stamped out internal violence. Strangely enough, killing has made the world safer, and the safety it has produced has allowed people to make the world richer too.

War has been history's greatest paradox, but this searching study of fifteen thousand years of violence suggests that the next half century is going to be the most dangerous of all time. If we can survive it, the age-old dream of ending war may yet come to pass. But, Morris argues, only if we understand what war has been good for can we know where it will take us next.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 20, 2014 – Big thinker Morris (Why the West Rules for Now) returns with an ambitious, epoch-spanning study of violence writ large across time and place. The author posits the counterintuitive and controversial view that war has made the world safer and richer over the long run. As humanity evolved biologically and culturally, he argues, it learned that imperious Leviathans were necessary to cage the violent beast within; these ruling powers "in turn created bigger societies, pacified them internally, and allowed economies to grow." Dominant polities then became superpowers or "globocops that keep the peace by raising the costs of breaching it to prohibitive levels." By surveying germane, timely issues from containment to ICBMs and "doomsday devices," as well as speculating on the potentials of the transhuman and posthuman, Morris casts a wide net. But in oscillating between doom-and-gloom predictions and sunnier scenarios, he leaves little room for nuanced eventualities. His overconfidence in computerization and technology as the ultimate means of obviating the need for waging megawar elides the human variable in his calculus. Still, this is a fascinating and stimulating work sure to compel readers of anthropology, archaeology, history, and futurity. Illus.

Customer Reviews

Amazing book ..

Amazing book to see the otherside of war .. What are the benefit from the war to states & civilization .. we should read it carefully to understand the points of view that made the author & archeologist Ian Morris written this book ...

War! What Is It Good For?
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: Apr 15, 2014
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 512 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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