War Is Not Inevitable

War Is Not Inevitable : On the Psychology of War and Aggression

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In 1932 Einstein asked Freud, 'Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war?' Freud answered that war is inevitable because humans have an instinct to self-destroy, a death instinct which we must externalize to survive. But nearly four decades of study of aggression reveal that rather than being an inborn drive, destructiveness is generated in us by experiences of excessive psychic pain. In War is Not Inevitable: On the Psychology of War and Aggression, Henri Parens argues that the death-instinct based model of aggression can neither be proved nor disproved as Freud's answer is untestable. By contrast, the 'multi-trends theory of aggression' is provable and has greater heuristic value than does a death-instinct based model of aggression. When we look for causes for war we turn to history as well as national, ethnic, territorial, and or political issues, among many others, but we also tend to ignore the psychological factors that play a large role. Parens discusses such psychological factors that seem to lead large groups into conflict. Central among these are the psychodynamics of large-group narcissism. Interactional conditions stand out: hyper-narcissistic large-groups have, in history, caused much narcissistic injury to those they believe they are superior to. But this is commonly followed by the narcissistically injured group's experiencing high level hostile destructiveness toward their injury-perpetrator which, in time, will compel them to revenge. Among groups that have been engaged in serial conflicts, wars have followed from this psychodynamic narcissism-based cyclicity. Parens details some of the psychodynamics that led from World War I to World War II and their respective aftermath, and he addresses how major factors that gave rise to these wars must, can, and have been counteracted. In doing so, Parens considers strategies by which civilization has and is constructively preventing wars, as well as the need for further innovative efforts to achieve that end.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 280 pages
  • 153 x 228 x 22mm | 472g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 2 black & white illustrations, 2 tables
  • 073919786X
  • 9780739197868

About Henri Parens

Henri Parens, FACPsa, is professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College as well as training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia.show more

Review quote

In War Is Not Inevitable: On the Psychology of War and Aggression, Henri Parens eloquently refutes Freud's death instinct, arguing that it predisposes man to inevitable patterns of self-destruction. Parens's experience as a child of the Nazi Holocaust and years of extraordinary research have been crystallized in his latest and most important book. If only we could all begin to be revivified by these writings and start the process of prevention he has outlined. This wise man should give all of us pause to think. -- Stuart W. Twemlow, MD, Baylor College of Medicine After the last century with all its wars, the Holocaust, and the other genocides, Henri Parens takes up Einstein's question to Freud: 'Why war?' Parens's profound and impressive knowledge from his extensive research on child rearing, aggression, and the relationship of injured narcissism and hostile destructiveness in individual relationships and large groups which he uses to answer this question. He provides a passionate and thought-provoking approach linking psychoanalysis and history to present ways to have a future without war. -- Werner Bohleber, PhD.show more

Table of contents

Foreword by Vamik D. Volkan Preface Acknowledgments Introduction PART I: FREUD'S ANSWER TO EINSTEIN WAS WRONG Chapter 1: The Problem with Freud's Answer to Einstein's "Why War?" Chapter 2: Why I Say Freud's Answer Was "Wrong" PART II: CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS OF HUMAN CONFLICT Chapter 3: Human Narcissism Chapter 4: Pathways from Narcissism to Human Conflict Chapter 5: Determinants of Prejudice PART III: REACTIVITIES, EXPLANATIONS & RATIONALIZATIONS Chapter 6: Conflict-Causing Human Reactivities Chapter 7: Post-Conflict Human Reactivities Chapter 8: Explanations and Rationalizations PART IV: WHAT WE CAN DO: DIRECTIONS OLD AND NEW Chapter 9: What We Can Do-Part 1 Chapter 10: What We Can Do-Part 2 Addendum: Freud's Evolving Theory of Aggression Bibliography Index About the Authorshow more