THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WAR

COMPREHENDING ITS MYSTIQUE AND ITS MADNESS

Psychotherapist LeShan (The Dilemma of Psychology, 1990, etc.) digs into the causes of—and cures for—war. LeShan rejects all conventional explanations for the existence of war, including those based on genetic inheritance (as championed by Robert Ardrey), innate destructive tendencies (Freud), lust for power (Nietzsche), or economic gain (Marx). War, LeShan believes, springs from the tension between two conflicting psychological drives: our desire for individuation, and our need to be part of a group. LeShan contends that only mystical experience or war can reconcile these drives; obviously, war is much more popular. But how do ordinary men and women get enticed into war? According to LeShan, we pass our lives in various ``modes'' of perception; the most significant here are the ``sensory,'' in which we see the world through common sense, and the ``mythic,'' ruled by irrationality. In most wars, the mythic mode prevails: A complex situation becomes black-or-white; the enemy becomes the incarnation of evil; force is the answer. Some wars, however, remain in sensory mode and never capture the public imagination, Vietnam being the prime case. Given this analysis, what can we do? LeShan urges self-awareness, so that we can see when we are slipping into mythic mode (as happened in the Gulf War). He also advises better education, so children can find peaceful expression for their mythic impulses; recognition of the ways in which war is used to solve personal problems; and a full-scale study of governmental structures, to discover whether they can be redesigned to wage peace. An intelligent study that offers a glimmer of hope (if war depends upon perception, then it can be curtailed if not eradicated)—although, truth be told, LeShan's admonitions will probably have all the effect of lighting a match in a hurricane.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-879360-20-9

Page Count: 163

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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