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War Machine: The Rationalisation of Slaughter in the Modern Age

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This intriguing study examines Western perceptions of war in and beyond the nineteenth century, surveying the writings of novelists, anthropologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, philosophers, poets, natural scientists, and journalists to trace the terms of modern thought on the nature of military conflict. Daniel Pick brings together philosophical and historical models of war with fictions of invasion, propaganda from the Great War, interpretations of shellshock and speculations about the biological value of ...
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Overview

This intriguing study examines Western perceptions of war in and beyond the nineteenth century, surveying the writings of novelists, anthropologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, philosophers, poets, natural scientists, and journalists to trace the terms of modern thought on the nature of military conflict. Daniel Pick brings together philosophical and historical models of war with fictions of invasion, propaganda from the Great War, interpretations of shellshock and speculations about the biological value of conquest. He discusses the work of such familiar commentators as Clausewitz, Engels, and Treitschke, and examines little-known writings by Proudhon, De Quincey, Ruskin, Valery, and many others, culminating in the extraordinary dialogue between Freud and Einstein, Why War? He analyses Victorian fears of French contamination through the Channel Tunnel as well as the widespread continuing dread of German domination. And he charts the history of the pervasive European belief that war is beneficial or at least functionally necessary. A central theme of the book is the disturbing relationship between machinery and destruction. Visions of relentless technological 'progress' and the inexorable advance of the military-industrial complex often seem to distort our understanding of war, even to reduce it to a sophisticated game played out by high-precision automata. Pick explores both the reassuring and troubling aspects of such representations. Shorn of human agency or responsibility, war apparently threatens to become technologically unstoppable, the remorseless 'perfect abattoir' of the industrial age. War Machine explores the enduring historical fascination with - and recoil from - brutal mechanical slaughter, and the modern aquiescence in, and enthusiasm for (in Rilke's phrase), 'these days of monstrously accelerated dying'.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Pick (history, U. of London) traces the history of modern thought on the nature of military conflict, bringing together philosophical and historical models of war with fictions of invasions, propaganda, interpretations of shellshock, the relationship between machinery and destruction, and speculations about the biological value of conquest--the pervasive European belief that war is beneficial or at least functionally necessary. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300054170
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1993
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.49 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
A Note on the Text
1 Introduction 1
2 Cobden's Critique of War 19
3 Clausewitz and Friction 28
4 Proudhon's War and Peace 42
5 Engels and the Devouring War of the Future 48
6 De Quincey's 'Most Romantic of All Romances' 59
7 Ruskin and the Degradation of True War 65
8 The Biology of War 75
9 The Wake of 1870 88
'The Prussian Race Ethnologically Considered' 88
Transfigurations 97
The Driverless Train 106
War's Saturnalia 110
10 Tunnel Visions 115
11 1914: The 'Deep Sources' 136
12 The Rationalisation of Slaughter 165
Time and Motion 165
'The Voice of the Machines' 175
The Perfect Abattoir 178
13 'The Unnatural and Terrible Wall of the War' 189
14 'The Revolt of the Machines' 205
15 'Why War?' 211
Reich's 'Machine Murder' 211
Freud-Einstein 214
Anxiety and Mastery 227
'All my libido...' 239
The Psychopathology of Everyday Death 243
Seismic Shifts? 257
Bibliography 271
Index 287
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