THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WAR by Lawrence LeShan

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WAR

Comprehending Its Mystique and Its Madness
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-879360-20-9
Page count: 163pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992