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War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Fate of Civilization from Primates to Robots (Anglais) Relié – 15 avril 2014

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  • Relié: 512 pages
  • Editeur : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (15 avril 2014)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0374286000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374286002
  • Dimensions du produit: 16,3 x 4,1 x 23,4 cm
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Serious and thought-provoking analysis and discussion of "the role of conflict in civilisation" since prehistoric times. Conjectures for the decades to come may be less convicing though.

Note: one may want to start reading chapter 6 before chapter 1 and subsequent chapters
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26 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Magnificently Counter-Intuitive 14 mai 2014
Par John D. Cofield - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
One of the hallmarks of a great work of history is a bold and controversial claim which is then supported by a heavily documented and fascinating text. Ian Morris, a professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has demonstrated with War! What Is It Good For? that he fully deserves to be numbered among modern masters of the craft of producing brilliantly counter-intuitive history. I found War! What Is It Good For? to be both absorbing and provocative, filled with impresive analyses of the past and predictions for the future and supported by meticulous notes, suggestions for further reading, and a long and detailed bibliography.

It is a truism that war is a "Bad Thing," wasting resources and human potential and, even when it is brief and relatively unbloody, leaving the world much worse off. Morris does not necessarily disagree here (it is an enormous exaggeration to maintain, as have some, that he is a war-monger), but his main thesis holds that war has been beneficial to humans throughout history by encouraging the development of bigger, more complex societies with governments powerful enough (Morris aptly calls them Leviathans) to enforce law and order, thus allowing civilization to expand and prosper.

Morris amplifies and expands on this thesis in a series of five chapters tracing humanity's warlike ways from prehistory through the end of the Cold War. He freely makes use of such paradoxical terms as "productive war" and provides a series of fascinating and colorful anecdotes to illustrate his claims. I enjoyed his cross cultural comparisons and appreciated his refusal to fall into the trap of "Western exceptionalism," even in Chapter 4 which covers Europe's rise to global power. The final two chapters are probably the most important. Chapter 6: "Red in Tooth and Claw: Why the Chimps of Gombe Went to War," hearkens back to some of Morris' themes in the earlier chapters in examining what it is about human beings and our closer relatives that seems to pre-dispose us to violence, while 7 "The Last Best Hope of Earth: American Empire, 1989 -?" provides some intriguing (if sometimes disturbing) analyses of various scenarios which might play out over the coming decades.

The counter-intuitive nature of Morris' title and thesis will cause many to assume that he is advocating for war and violence as positive goods. Those who bother to read more than the blurbs will recognize that the title is not meant to be a celebration but rather an ironic acknowledgement of a truth we may be reluctant to accept. And even more importantly, they will also recognize that Morris not only explains the benefits of conflict, he also points the way towards a future in which conflict has become less necessary.
46 internautes sur 60 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Necessary argument and necessary book. 19 avril 2014
Par Curt D - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Ian Morris,

While I agree with your premise, I'd like to suggest a minor refinement to your theory.

It is not that states are bigger, but that the more homogenous the rules are within any geography the lower the transaction costs (friction of cooperation), and therefore the decrease in risk and increase in velocity of trade. And with the increase in velocity of trade comes the resulting wealth.

This is perhaps too much economic-speak for your audience but it is the causal reason behind your observation. I think that given certain examples: Greece, Rome, and England, your argument is true. But I think the counter examples are the Mongols, Arabs, the Russians and the Turks. All of which are predatory and extractive governments.

What troubles me about your argument is that as you've positioned it, without this clarification that it's the homogeneity of rules and whether the rules are extractive or constructive, then it's not exactly true. Because the highest trust, most economically advanced regions of the world - Northern Europe - did not evolve from or into large states, and instead maintained a large number of very small states, all of which adhered to the same ethical rules.

It was the large state that was created by Napoleon, and his invention of "total war" combining credit, conscription and total mobilization of the state for the conduct of war, that destroyed the small state model by forcing the german principalities to unify into the german empire. It was this series of actions that eventually led to the great european civil war that appears to have brought european civilization to an end.

Large states are an inhibition on progress, not a contributor to it. They make it easier to finance war, and increase the militarization of those around them.

The problem of creating prosperity is in evolving a large number of small states on the greek or northern european model that conduct mutually beneficial and constantly competing systems of trade wherein the governments cannot be terribly extractive because traders will move to other governments - competition is good for governments too. This resulting trade forces the migration or evolution of local ethics to conform to the Smithian ethics of trade.

So what produces prosperity and peace are not one in the same. Peach can be achieved in a slave colony. But prosperity is created when war is conducted for the purpose of improving trade by imposing trade-advancing rules. In the west we call these private property rights because we have extinguished the tribal and familial boundaries. You can think of war for the purpose of facilitating trade as beneficial and war for the purpose of conquest and extraction as not.

Russia for example, as were the Mongols, and the Arabs, is a net promotor of corruption that harms trade. Soviet conquests in eastern Europe, as well as Turkish conquests in Europe, were culturally and economically devastating to those countries because Russian an Turkic and Arab societies rely upon the low trust tribal and familial ethics, not individualism. The Anglosphere is at the other end of the spectrum, which imposes its high-trust ethics on the world by both military and financial means, using the wealth from trade as an incentive.

Curt Doolittle , The Propertarian Institute , Kiev
8 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Politically incorrect but fascinating 17 août 2014
Par William Henley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
This is a highly interesting and well-writtten book, which I can recommend to history buffs and people who are interested in how the world got to be the way it is. But be warned; this book is extremely "politically incorrect" from multiple standpoints, even including my own. If you are a pacifist or just an ordinary peace-loving citizen who views war as a necessary evil at best and never a positive good, you'll be horrified by this book. If you share the view that the last several centuries of human history have consisted of a struggle between evil white European colonizers and exploiters and noble, victimized "indigenous peoples", you'll be outraged. And as for me, I'm a libertarian, a believer in the virtues of smaller and less powerful governments, so I'm not exactly comfortable with the author's conclusion that one of the things war is good for is creating bigger and more powerful governments. But Ian Morris makes a case for his heretical viewpoint that is hard to dismiss.

It's not that Morris is unaware of the death, destruction, and horror that that war has caused throughout history. Nor does he deny that most wars have been started by would-be conquerors who are, morally speaking, little better than "stationary bandits"-- bent on plundering the people of a particular geographical area on an ongoing basis rather than, like ordinary bandits, robbing and then moving on to rob other people elsewhere. And Morris doesn't claim that all wars are beneficial to humanity. He makes a sharp distinction between what he calls "productive" and "counterproductive" wars. Productive wars, in his view, are those that result in the establishment of large, powerful and stable governments. Counterproductive wars are those that break down such governments. For example he views the series of wars by which the Romans built up their empire as productive, and the barbarian invasions that destroyed the Roman Empire as counterproductive.

His argument basically is that, even if conquerors or "stationary bandits" have the most selfish of motives and the most cruel of methods, nonetheless over the long run, they tend to do more good than harm, even to the people they conquer. They discover that, in order to keep a steady supply of plunder for themselves, they have to hold down the amount of their robbery (otherwise known as "taxation") to a level that does not cause people to starve or rebel. They find it profitable to build roads and other "infrastructure" and to encourage trade and productive activities that make everybody, rulers and ruled, richer. And as well as guarding their subjects from conquest by rival large-scale robbers, they keep their subjects from killing each other in individual murders and private quarrels. The result-- at least if the statistics Morris quotes are correct, though some of them going back to prehistory and early historical eras are speculative-- despite all the deaths caused by so-called "productive wars," the total death rate over time goes down and the level of prosperity for most people goes up. But couldn't the same result be achieved peacefully by people agreeing to join forces and cooperate with each other on a large scale? In theory, perhaps, but in practice people just don't seem to behave that way. Only the use or threat of force-- "productive war"-- can bind people together into large-scale governments and empires which Morris believes promote human progress.

Morris views the five hundred years from 1415 to 1914, during which Europeans and their colonists came to dominate the rest of the world, as the ultimate "productive war" to date, in which even the non-Western conquered peoples-- those who survived, anyway-- ultimately benefited. (Hence, as I said, the book's extreme incorrectness from an "anti-colonial" political viewpoint.) The wars of the 20th century, World Wars I and II and the Cold War, were both counterproductive and productive, breaking down old empires and largely eliminating the power of Great Britain which had served for centuries as a kind of "globocop"-- but also establishing America as a new "globocop", which ultimately achieved a mostly bloodless defeat of its chief rival, the Soviet Union, and established a world system that has brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to most of the world. (If you object that much of the world still suffers from terrible poverty and recurring war-- well, real history buffs know how much worse it can, and usually does, get.) Morris argues that at least for the next few decades, the peace and well-being of the world depend on America continuing to shoulder its "globocop" role. This is another area where this book is politically incorrect from my own point of view, since, like most libertarians, I am uncomfortable with the idea of America as world policeman and quasi-empire, feeling that this kind of activity not only threatens our freedoms at home, but is liable to exhaust our military and economic resources to the point where we can no longer protect our own nation, let alone all the others. But Morris offers a thought-provoking challenge to this non-interventionist (critics call it "isolationist") line of thinking.

Other sections of the book go farther back into prehistory. Morris, an archeologist as well as historian, offers observations about the origins of violent behavior in apes and proto-humans, and notes recent archeological findings indicating that the Stone Age, rather than being a time of noble savages living mostly in peace, was a time of small-scale but continuous war and killing in which the average human faced a far greater likelihood of violent death than the inhabitant of a later civilized empire, let alone a modern-day citizen. And the parts of this book dealing with historical events offer a wealth of fascinating historical stories and details, even if you don't end up buying the book's basic thesis.

So if you're absolutely sure that the only answer to the book's title question is "Nothing!", and that anyone who suggests otherwise is simply an evil warmonger, reading this book may be bad for your blood pressure. But, even if Morris isn't totally right, his book is a fascinating alternative to conventional and politically correct thought.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Enjoyable read with serious flaws 15 août 2014
Par Bob Kopp - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I want to give this book four stars, because it's an enjoyable, thought provoking read on the role of war in the sweep of human history. I have at least a couple major concerns, however:

1) Much rides for Morris's theory on the distinction between "productive" war, which leads to increased social complexity, and "counterproductive" war, which leads to decreasing social complexity. Though he provides some suggestions as to the character of each, much of the distinction seems apparently only after the fact. But after the fact, this distinction is tautological -- by definition a war was productive if it led to increased social complexity. This wouldn't necessarily be a huge problem if Morris's aim were only to provide a framework for describing the past,

2) After providing an overview of patterns Morris argues are visible only at the multi-century scale, he goes a bit off the rails in trying to say something useful about the 21st century. (Note that he has not established previously that his model has any predictive, rather than merely descriptive, power.)

A single historical analogue (to the British Empire), he says, seems to suggest that the American-led global system will fall apart in a couple decades. Counterproductive war with modern technology would be extraordinarily counterproductive, so hopefully that won't happen. Then he pulls a rabbit out of a hat in the form of a technological Singularity, which will replace the Pax Americana with a globally-connected Mind and bring violence to zero.

However, if a Singularity is actually a Singularity, known laws break down and we can't say anything informative; moreover, the post-Singularity peacemaker Morris describes sounds like nothing so much as the Borg, though he apparently isn't familiar enough with science fiction to realize that attempts to assimilate humanity will probably provoke a very violent reaction...

I understand why Morris felt the need to say something useful, but he's already established that he is only talking about patterns that are visible at a time scale longer than the next few decades, so this chapter is largely groundless speculation. It's an unfortunate conclusion to an otherwise engaging book.
8 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An excellent book but.... 16 juin 2014
Par J. Hale - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
Ian Morris makes an excellent argument that war has spurred economic and scientific progress and even the growth of civilization. But the introduction to his book shows the degree that his argument rests almost on pure chance. He cites an incident from 1983 when a software bug in the computer system that oversaw the Soviet Union's missile forces signaled that the United States was launching ICBMs over the north pole. If not for a skeptical officer on duty that night, everything Morris says in his book about the benefits of war would have been proved very, very wrong.
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