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*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
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.
"Noting that the high costs of violence almost always make peaceful agreement a better solution to antagonisms than violence, University of Chicago economist Blattman analyzes forces that often counteract that logic, including the self-interest of leaders, ideological passions, miscalculation of an opponent’s strength or motives, and mistrust… This stimulating discussion of violence illuminates a fraught subject with sober reason."—Publishers Weekly
“Blattman shows us things we don’t normally see and takes us to places we might be terrified to go. A captivating and intelligent book.”—Tim Harford, author of The Data Detective and The Undercover Economist
“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
“A surprisingly and refreshingly optimistic book, one that deserves a place both on living room and diplomats’ shelves.”—Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America
“An important, radical book that leaves you hopeful that peace is not a dream and conflict is not inevitable.”—David Miliband, president and CEO, International Rescue Committee
“The most important book on this most important topic.”—Tyler Cowen, author of Average Is Over and Marginal Revolution
“Economists imagine that people in poor countries wake up every day worrying that they are poor. Maybe, but more fundamentally they are insecure and subject to violence. Foregrounding this most basic human problem is essential for understanding the world we live in today.”—James A. Robinson, coauthor of Why Nations Fail
“Blattman is the go-to social scientist on war. His insights are essential reading.”—William Easterly, author of The White Man’s Burden and The Tyranny of Experts
“Why We Fight not only reflects Blattman’s expertise in economics, political science, and history, it also introduces us to an intriguing range of characters and locations. We meet a warlord from Liberia called White Flower, and in the same chapter learn why George Washington became America’s wealthiest president. 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
“As we move into the third decade of the twenty-first century, humanity is still mired in wars and deadly conflicts. Avoiding the useless dichotomies that either claim violence is an inseparable part of human nature or declare that humanity has all but conquered its proclivity to war, Christopher Blattman explains how human communities make use of many different strategies to resolve conflicts, and why these efforts sometimes stumble.”—Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of Why Nations Fail
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.
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An acclaimed expert on violence and seasoned peacebuilder explains the five reasons why conflict (rarely) blooms into war, and how to interrupt that deadly process.
It's easy to overlook the underlying strategic forces of war, to see it solely as a series of errors, accidents, and emotions gone awry. It's also easy to forget that war shouldn't happen-and most of the time it doesn't. Around the world there are millions of hostile rivalries, yet only a tiny fraction erupt into violence. Too many accounts of conflict forget this.
With a counterintuitive approach, Blattman reminds us that most rivals loathe one another in peace. That's because war is too costly to fight. Enemies almost always find it better to split the pie than spoil it or struggle over thin slices. So, in those rare instances when fighting ensues, we should ask: what kept rivals from compromise?
Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation.
From warring states to street gangs, ethnic groups and religious sects to political factions, there are common dynamics to heed and lessons to learn. Along the way, we meet vainglorious…