Sazuru The Chronicle of Higher Education. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. It provides details of the evidence and the statistical methods used by Iam to construct the social development index that he used in Why the West Rules to compare long-term Eastern and Western history. University of Birmingham ; Cambridge University. Ian Morris It has been translated into 13 languages.

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Start your review of War! What Is It Good For? I really do not know how to rate this book: while this book is doubtlessly a In these troubling times when two intellectually challenged clowns, equally gifted with ridiculous hairdos and sharing the same emotional immaturity of a year-old boy, keep exchanging infantile insults such as "little rocket man" or "dotard" and insist on threatening each other with Nuclear Armageddon, I thought it quite apt for me to read a book about the role that war has played in the course of human history.

The last chapter is totally in la-la land, when the author indulges the most hawkish power fantasies of the far right of the US Republican Party as well as the most belligerent reveries of the US military-industrial complex , when he describes how the US must significantly increase its military presence overseas, and the associated military spending, in order to maintain military supremacy and dominate China and Russia, so to maintain world dominance until the "singularity" when merging of humans with machines and with each other will negate the need for war will finally arrive.

It seems like the author must have been on some drug-induced trip when he wrote the last chapter. It also seems that the author is blissfully unaware of the full consequences of what happened in Vietnam or as a result of the illegal invasion of IRAQ. The author also tries to refine his thesis by positing a somewhat artificial dichotomy between "productive" wars and "unproductive" wars with an example of the former being the expansion of the Roman Empire, and an example of the latter being the "Germanic" invasions that triggered the demise of such Empire.

There is definitely some merit in pursuing a nuanced and dispassionate analysis of the actual role played by war in the development of human progress and civilization, and it is undoubtedly true that war did enable in the historical past, in more than one occasion and at least indirectly, the creation of more sophisticated and relatively peaceful societies: and the author carries the reader through a well-written and exhilarating narrative description of the evolution of human societies and civilizations across the millennia of human history.

So the book is thought-provoking and definitely worth reading. I find this measurement only very partially informative in describing the overall "success" or desirability of a society even though there is undoubtedly some correlation between such measurement and several other metrics that can describe the overall sophistication of a society. For example, the author does not consider that an "empire" might promote internal security and efficiently repress internal violence, but also at the same time choke, or at least seriously limit, freedom of exchange of goods, ideas and innovations, and therefore stifle cultural and economic innovation - his theory that colonization was an example of productive war for the globe, and a good thing for the progress of human kind, is a theory that leaks like a sieve from many perspectives to say the least - the dichotomy between productive and unproductive war seems very artificial: using the very approach and arguments of the author, you may for example argue as a few historians have actually done that the "Barbarian" invasions of the fifth century were an example of productive war because they ultimately enabled the creation of the successor polities from which ultimately the embryonic European states would emerge.

It is ultimately all a question of perspective - there is a big logical difference between stating that war might have in some occasions been a catalyst for societal development, and that war is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for economic and political progress. The author, quite disingenuously, conflates the two aspects and while his analysis may well prove the former assumption, it definitely does not go anywhere near proving the latter which appears to be the more or less explicit overarching claim of the entire book.

Science, rationality and democracy can be a creative force towards the development of political, cultural and economic progress without necessarily always having to bring into play some destructive wars. Moreover, there are several historical examples of "organic" evolution of societies, characterized by progress that did not necessarily requite the usage of military force as a primary element for development - aspect completely and conveniently ignored by the author in pursuing his personal theory - in general, I am extremely wary of this type of mega-history analysis that adopt an overly simplistic, mechanistic, and ultimately reductionist approach to the complexity and sheer number of factors historically responsible for the evolution of human societies and to the very different relative weight that such factors demonstrated in the different historical periods , reducing it to one single element.

It is a simple truth that history is just not conducive to this type of simplifications. Anyway, I think that, even with all its many weaknesses, it is a book worth reading, entertaining, well written and thought-provoking.


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Ian Morris (Historiker)



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


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