BLOODLUST by Russell Jacoby


On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present
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An astute historian makes the case that knowing your enemy may be precisely why he is your enemy.

It’s all relative and quite familiar, writes Jacoby (History/UCLA; Picture Imperfect, Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age, 2007, etc.). Cain smote Abel, Romulus slew Remus, Tutsis fought Hutus and Shiites battle Sunnis. The world of humankind has always been a world of fraternal violence. The nastiest wars are civil, and neighbors murder neighbors because of minor differences in belief or contrary notions of behavior. Assimilation, consanguinity and common history do not guarantee good relations; thus, it is sometimes necessary to identify enemies by forcing them to wear distinctive garb or badges. But how can we account for the proverbial clash of civilizations—that of militant Islamic jihad against the West? The crimes of 9/11 and the onslaught in the name of the Prophet may be explained as the Muslim world finds itself increasingly influenced by the West and succumbing to its values—they resist becoming us. Jacoby provides a careful consideration of fratricide as a political phenomenon, delving into psychiatry and Freud’s construct of the narcissism of small differences, and spending considerable thought on anti-Semitism, misogyny and the timeless suppression of women, which often originates in the same fear of feminization. Possible amelioration is not so clear, but surely understanding the roots of the human penchant for fratricide can’t hurt.

An acute analysis of internecine violence based on pertinent historic episodes.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-0024-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2011


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