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Publisher's Summary

"War! . . . . / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothing," says the famous song - but archaeology, history, and biology show that war in fact has been good for something. Surprising as it sounds, war has made humanity safer and richer. In War! What Is It Good For?, the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tells the gruesome, gripping story of 15,000 years of war, going beyond the battles and brutality to reveal what war has really done to and for the world. Stone Age people lived in small, feuding societies and stood a one-in-ten or even one-in-five chance of dying violently. In the 20th century, by contrast - despite two world wars, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust - fewer than one person in a hundred died violently. The explanation: War, and war alone, has created bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments that have stamped out internal violence. Strangely enough, killing has made the world safer, and the safety it has produced has allowed people to make the world richer too. War has been history's greatest paradox, but this searching study of fifteen thousand years of violence suggests that the next half century is going to be the most dangerous of all time. If we can survive it, the age-old dream of ending war may yet come to pass. But, Morris argues, only if we understand what war has been good for can we know where it will take us next.

©2014 Ian Morris (P)2014 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A disturbing, transformative text that veers toward essential reading." (Kirkus, Starred Review)

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Not What I Expected At All!!!

When I first saw this listing on Audible, my mind went back to the Seinfeld episode where Elaine works for a publishing agency and during a conversation with a "famous" author tells him that Tolstoy originally wanted to call War and Peace - "War, What is it good for?" to which she adds "Absolutely Nothing"

I did not know what to really expect but this turned out to be a great sociological treatise and an insightful history into the results of war and warfare. His concepts of "productive" and "unproductive" war are interesting, but given that he is looking at events in hindsight, it appears man has stumbled into a success of sorts.

Overall, this is a very thought provoking book, a little long at times, but very enjoyable. The narration was excellent and really enhanced the audio experience. I am not familiar with any of his other works but will have to check them out.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Provocative and Well-Argued.

Should be re-titled: "The Positive Side of War and Conflict and Their Role in History and Society". Whether or not you agree with Morris, he lays out his thesis clearly and with considerable evidence. His method is rigorous and scholarly. His conclusion is that war is the historical and sociological underpinning of the state, and that the state is responsible for creating a social, economic, and political reality in which the individual quality of life is dramatically better, and more peaceful, than it was in "traditional" societies. These are points bound to be controversial, and building a case and explaining all of his qualifications takes the entirety of the book. The presentation of that argument is solid, with a thorough analysis that is nonetheless engaging, interesting, and well structured.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great story telling but leaves me skeptical

It was a great argument overall. I feel like his understanding of evolution is just enough to make his argument and even then it seems lacking in its limits. Instead it comes off as a well argued social Darwinism and attempted to remove or not discuss it's falsities (social Darwinism is not evolution at all but an argument to say that one group is better than another). It's also strange to me that a seemingly historical book provides predictions rather than just an interpretation of history. However they are interesting predictions.

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not what I was expecting

I did not love it. I struggled to finish it. The futurism surprised me and stands as the most memorable moment. I feel the author doesn't understand human nature and feel he could have arrived it his points quicker. I also have problems with his argument. He argues for "productive war" and against "unproductive war." How can you discern that at the time when war strikes a nation at the most peculiar times and in strange and confusing circumstances.

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Incredible, multidisciplinary worldview.

The amount of facts and dates listed in this book are staggering and they only make me wish I had a better memory for that type of detail, because the points made in the concepts delivered are incredibly insightful and well thought out.