A sweeping history of war and peace—and an impassioned call to choose the latter over the former.
Author Vivo (Short History of World Religions, 2012) forwards a provocative argument that the world can be purged of war: “It is not a futile enterprise to propose a world without war, nor does this form part of utopian thought.” First, Vivo lays out the evidence for considering empathy, rather than violence, as the defining feature of human nature. Along these lines, the book provides as comprehensive a tour of peace, harmonious existence, and tranquility as it does of war, demonstrating the precedent for diplomatically brokered compromise winning out over conflict. Vivo contends that a variety of peculiarly modern conditions—like the development of weapons of mass destruction—makes war indefensible because it necessarily involves the murders of innocent civilians, often banally referred to as “collateral damage.” The end of war can be accomplished through its criminalization, says Vivo, which requires a strengthening of international law and, by extension, the improvement and expansion of those supranational institutions tasked with world governance. For those who would consider the end of war a quixotic charge, the author points to slavery, torture, and racism as examples of human darkness once ubiquitous but now nearly universally derided as morally repugnant. This is an ambitious book, one that treats the reader to a panoramic survey of Western intellectual history, discussing John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, Aristotle, and a huge cast of philosophical characters. The work is impressively rigorous, although some might find the author’s faith in the future of international peacekeeping institutions too sanguine. However, this book remains a fascinating combination of erudition and humane activism, and in this regard, it ably reflects the thinking of the Enlightenment, from which it so often draws inspiration.
An important contribution
to the study of both war and peace.