War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots


By (author) Ian Morris

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  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Format: Hardback | 512 pages
  • Dimensions: 165mm x 231mm x 43mm | 748g
  • Publication date: 15 April 2014
  • ISBN 10: 0374286000
  • ISBN 13: 9780374286002
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Sales rank: 118,882

Product description

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.

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Author information

Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor in History at Stanford University and the author of the critically acclaimed "Why the West Rules--for Now." He has published ten scholarly books and has directed excavations in Greece and Italy. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California.

Review quote

Praise for "War! What Is It Good For? ""[A] n exuberant and wonderfully entertaining tour de force of history, archaeology, anthropology, geography, evolutionary biology and technological and military speculation that improbably combines a hardcore intellectual seriousness with a larky, almost blokeish note that would go down just as well on "Top Gear" as it clearly does at Stanford." --David Crane, "The Spectator""[Morris's] argument is brilliantly made, argued across a huge sweep . . . It is a magnificent and stimulating read, and should be given to anyone involved in the business of war and peace, or the human fate in any respect--and already a book of the year." --Robert Fox, "The Evening Standard""Morris's effort is in a different league . . . He is a much wittier and more self-deprecating writer than most of his competitors, has a sharper eye for facts and ancedotes, and steers well clear of preening bombast . . . Clear, acute and counterintuitive, his book is a pleasure to read." --Dominic Sandbrook, "The Sunday Times" "This erudite yet compulsively readable history of war (and actually much more) by archaeologist-historian Morris ("Why the West Rules--For Now," 2010) takes the provocative position that, over time, the value of war, despite its horrors, has been to make humanity both safer and richer . . . Throughout this rare mixture of scholarship, stunning insight, and wit, Morris cites the widely divergent opinions of past philosophers and scholars, and, though he makes his case convincingly, future (and, oh yes, the future is projected) students, readers, and critics of this book are likely to continue the fascinating argument Morris raises here. "War! What Is it Good For? "appeals to (indeed, may broaden) the largeaudience that has made Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel "(1997), much quoted in it, a modern classic and should join it on personal and library bookshelves." --Mark Levine, "Booklist "(starred review)