The Psychology of War: Comprehending Its Mystique and Its Madness

Overview

"Why war?" Albert Einstein once asked Sigmund Freud, a question that Freud was not alone in being unable to answer. War has bedeviled humankind at least since the beginning of recorded history. But whatever instincts, beliefs, or economic imperatives drove people to armed conflict in the past, they have been far outstripped by war's ever greater destructiveness - now, more than ever, in our post-nuclear era. Even though the fate of the world may be at stake, why does war continue to exist? And what, if anything, can be done to stop it? In this
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Overview

"Why war?" Albert Einstein once asked Sigmund Freud, a question that Freud was not alone in being unable to answer. War has bedeviled humankind at least since the beginning of recorded history. But whatever instincts, beliefs, or economic imperatives drove people to armed conflict in the past, they have been far outstripped by war's ever greater destructiveness - now, more than ever, in our post-nuclear era. Even though the fate of the world may be at stake, why does war continue to exist? And what, if anything, can be done to stop it? In this book Lawrence LeShan furnishes a masterful overview of how different cultures, historians, and thinkers have regarded war over the centuries, and acknowledges humankind's undeniable attraction to war. His analysis of the "psychology of war" illustrates how war fulfills crucial human needs. Despite its horrible costs, humans pursue war because it allows them to become part of a larger cause, while at the same time intensifying their sense of individuality. By better understanding this process, LeShan believes we can discover what we have to do to eradicate war.

LeShan tells how perceptions of war are managed by "mythicizing" rulers and propagandists. Using last year's Persian Gulf War as a touchstone, he illustrates how, in order to alter our perceptions of war and warfare, we have to adjust our perception of its "reality." "How good it would be if every legislator and cabinet member read and took to heart the practical suggestions . . . LeShan has for making peace planning as potent as war planning."--Hugh Downs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
LeShan, a clinical psychologist and author of Cancer as a Turning Point , argues that wars are an aspect of human behavior. War--widespread, easy to start, difficult to control--he maintains, fulfills psychological needs and eases tensions by creating an alternate reality structure, a binary vision of good versus evil. Like a mythic event, war makes the lives of individual participants more intense and more meaningful, at the same time creating the sense of a collective engaged in a noble enterprise. LeShan's explanations of war's appeal are more convincing than his ideas for calling on psychology and other social sciences to make us less susceptible to warmongering. Educational reforms to foster self-acceptance and government reforms to encourage peace-seeking appear fragile barriers against the powerful forces LeShan describes. (Jan.)
Library Journal
The author of 11 books on psychology, including the recent Cancer as a Turning Point ( LJ 4/15/89), Shan turns here to the question of war. He centers his explanation on the psychological phenomenon of shifting from one conception of reality to others, and especially to ``mythic reality.'' Once this shift has been made, the checks and balances of sensory reality are discarded and humans begin to see reality as a clash of good and evil that allows for no shadings or subtlety. LeShan argues that such thinking is used to justify initiating war and committing atrocities--acts that are unthinkable in other circumstances. By glorifying past wars and preparing for future wars, society reinforces this mindset. War is even welcomed, for it allows individuals to project inner hatreds, displace aggression, find a transcendental purpose in life, and achieve a sense of belonging in a group. LeShan suggests that to address the question of war, we must recognize the temptation of mythic thinking, educate individuals to find fulfillment outside the satisfactions of war, and restructure governments to seek peace with as much vigor as they prepare for armed conflict. Written in an accessible style with solid scholarship, this slender volume is recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Richard B. Finnegan, Stonehill Coll., North Easton, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781879360204
  • Publisher: Noble Press, Incorporated, The
  • Publication date: 11/1/1992
  • Pages: 163
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.85 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Human Attraction to War 21
2 War and the Perception of Reality 33
3 Alternate Realities and Human Behavior 43
4 Mythic and Sensory Wars 59
5 War and the Psychological Needs of the Individual 71
6 War and Governmental Behavior 99
7 A Beginning 107
Appendix: A Classification System for Self-Destructive Behaviors 127
Notes 143
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