Wednesday, April 09, 2014

War is a Boon?

Stanford historian Ian Morris has book on war, and British historian David Crane reviews it for The Spectator, informing us that Morris means "War is good for us" (April 5, 2014), and explaining that in War: What is it Good For? The Role of Conflict in Civilisation, from Primates to Robots, Morris offers the possibly counter-intuitive claim that "in the long run, the very, very long run, 'productive war' has always made the world a safer and richer place for the losers as well as the winners" by creating larger, more peaceful societies.

The problem lies in what is meant by that expression "productive war," for this turn of a phrase suggests there are also "unproductive wars," leaving us to wonder if we should win or lose the long 'war on terror' and other conflicts, except that Morris hopes we win:
In Morris's opinion these next three or four decades are going to be the most dangerous in human history. But if we do happen to survive not just all the known and unknown threats that Islamism, resources, climate change, China or a resurgent Russia might throw up, but also all the 'unknowable unknowns' as well -- if, as he says, we get lucky with our timing and do survive all this, then that very biological predisposition to violence that has made us so good at cooperating, organising, innovating and evolving in the pursuit of better ways of waging war and wielding power will finally put war out of business.

Then human beings (or at least the 'trans-humans' and 'post-human' hybrids that will succeed us in about 2050) will find themselves at the end of the 10,000-year-long trek that has taken our species from Stone Age violence to that mythical Happy Valley of tolerant, inclusive, multi-cultural, crime-free civilisation.
Let's see . . . in 2050, I will be 93. Except I won't be, probably, since I don't expect to live that long, not being one of those "trans" or "post" sorts expected to inherit the earth.

Without reading the book, I can't comment directly, so go and read for yourself Crane's entire review to get a sense of what you may think . . .

Labels: ,


At 3:01 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

I've long understood war to be a boon for (1) profiteers, (2) scavengers, and of course (3) the winners of wars (by "winners" I mean governments, and I'm assuming it's not a Pyrrhic victory). I'll be interested to learn more about this unusual take on "productive war."

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If only we needn't read books to learn these things . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like other sentient beings, human instincts are wired to the three Fs, food, fighting, and mating. Unless human instinct undergoes a transformational evolution, we won't see an end to warfare. War as competition has promoted technological advances but at the great expense of human lived and destruction of property. It would certainly be an intellectual challenge to make a case for wars as a net positive.


At 10:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, there's always eugenic bio-engineering . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home