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Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace

Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace

by Christopher Blattman
Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace

Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace

by Christopher Blattman

Hardcover

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Overview

Why We Fight  reflects Blattman’s expertise in economics, political science, and history… Blattman is a great storyteller, with important insights for us all.” —Richard H. Thaler, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and coauthor of Nudge

“Engaging and profound, this deeply searching book explains the true origins of warfare, and it illustrates the ways that, despite some contrary appearances, human beings are capable of great goodness.”—Nicholas A. Christakis author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Why did Russia attack Ukraine? Will China invade Taiwan and launch WWIII? Why has the number of civil wars reached their highest level in decades? Why are so many cities in the Americas plagued with violence? And finally, what can any of us do about it?

It feels like we’re surrounded by violence. Each conflict seems unique and insoluble. With a reason for every war and a war for every reason, what hope is there for peace? Fortunately, it’s simpler than that. Why We Fight boils down decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions, giving us some counterintuitive answers to the question of war. 

The first is that most of the time we don’t fight. Around the world, there are millions of hostile rivalries, yet only a fraction erupt into violence. Most enemies loathe one another in peace. The reason is simple: war is too costly to fight. It’s the worst way to settle our differences.
In those rare instances when fighting ensues, that means we have to ask ourselves: What kept rivals from the normal, grudging compromise? The answer is always the same: It’s because a society or its leaders ignored those costs of war, or were willing to pay them.

Why We Fight shows that there are just five ways this happens. From warring states to street gangs, ethnic groups and religious sects to political factions, Christopher Blattman shows that there are five reasons why violent conflict occasionally wins over compromise.
Through Blattman’s time studying Medellín, Chicago, Liberia, Northern Ireland, and more, we learn the'common'logics driving vainglorious monarchs, dictators, mobs, pilots, football hooligans, ancient peoples, and fanatics. Why We Fight shows that war isn’t a series of errors, accidents, and emotions gone awry. There are underlying strategic, ideological, and institutional forces that are too often overlooked.
So how to get to peace?

Blattman shows that societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence when they want to—even gangs do it. The best peacemakers tackle the five reasons, shifting incentives away from violence and getting rivals back to dealmaking. And they do so through tinkering, not transformation.

Realistic and optimistic, this is a book that lends new meaning to the adage “Give peace a chance.”


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984881571
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/19/2022
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 246,181
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Christopher Blattman is the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the University of Chicago, where he coleads the Development Economics Center and directs the Obama Foundation Scholars program. His work on violence, crime, and poverty has been widely covered by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, Slate, Vox, and NPR.

Table of Contents

Maps ix

Introduction 1

Part I The Roots of War

1 Why We Don't Fight 21

2 Unchecked Interests 32

3 Intangible Incentives 49

4 Uncertainty 81

5 Commitment Problems 109

6 Misperceptions 133

Part II The Paths to Peace

7 Interdependence 171

8 Checks and Balances 189

9 Rules and Enforcement 203

10 Interventions 219

11 Wayward Paths to War and Peace 256

Conclusion: The Peacemeal Engineer 273

Acknowledgments 301

Notes 307

Bibliography 345

Index 371

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