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Why We Fight
The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace198
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. 'Nothing could be more relevant today than war and peace. Why We Fight by Christopher Blattman is an outstanding and original book on this topic' Martin Wolf, Financial Times 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 European monarchs, African dictators, Indian mobs, Nazi pilots, British football hooligans, ancient Greeks, and fanatical Americans. What of remedies that shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to deal-making? Societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence when they want to-even the gangs of Medellin, Columbia do it. Realistic and optimistic, this is book that lends new meaning to the old adage, "Give peace a chance."
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Blattman has produced a valuable guide, supported by engaging anecdotes, to what makes people turn to violence - and why, mercifully, they are usually too sensible to do so * Economist * Wise, intriguing, imaginative -- Rory Stewart, author of The Places In Between A great storyteller with important insights for us all -- Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge Captivating and intelligent -- Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist 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, Blattman explains how human communities make use of many different strategies to resolve conflicts, and why these efforts sometimes stumble -- Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail If you've been a foreign correspondent for any length of time you end up wondering what has pushed so many of the societies you cover into conflict and what can be done to prevent a repeat. Why We Fight answers many of those questions . . . Contrary to expectations, it's an optimistic book . . . outbreaks of violence are the aberration, not the norm, and small, incremental measures can have a disproportionate impact when it comes to avoiding strife. Tinkering trumps transformation -- Michela Wrong * Spectator Books of the Year * Important, readable, radical -- David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee Essential for understanding the world we live in today -- James A. Robinson, co-author of Why Nations Fail Brings together the passion of the activist and the cool head of the economist to offer practical solutions to one of humanity's most intractable problems -- Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules - for Now Timely, powerful, hopeful -- Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion
Christopher Blattman is the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the University of Chicago in the Harris School of Public Policy and The Pearson Institute. As a young man, he met his future wife in a Kenyan internet cafe, where she set him on a path to working on conflict and international development. He's now done so for 22 years. Through his academic work he has witnessed (and helped to stem) violence around the world. Blattman writes regularly for The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs, among others. For 15 years he has run one of the most popular blogs on international affairs and global development. This is his first trade book.