Cover image for The worth of war
Title:
The worth of war
Author:
Ginsberg, Benjamin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, New York : Prometheus Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
256 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
"Although war is terrible and brutal, history shows that it has been a great driver of human progress. So argues political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg in this incisive, well-researched study of the benefits to civilization derived from armed conflict. Ginsberg makes a convincing case that war selects for and promotes certain features of societies that are generally held to represent progress. These include rationality, technological and economic development, and liberal forms of government. Contrary to common perceptions that war is the height of irrationality, Ginsberg persuasively demonstrates that in fact it is the ultimate test of rationality. He points out that those societies best able to assess threats from enemies rationally and objectively are usually the survivors of warfare. History also clearly reveals the technological benefits that result from war--ranging from the sundial to nuclear power. And in regard to economics, preparation for war often spurs on economic development; by the same token, nations with economic clout in peacetime usually have a huge advantage in times of war. Finally, war and the threat of war have encouraged governments to become more congenial to the needs and wants of their citizens because of the increasing reliance of governments on their citizens' full cooperation in times of war. However deplorable the realities of war are, the many fascinating examples and astute analysis in this thought-provoking book will make readers reconsider the unmistakable connection between war and progress"--
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781616149505
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Although war is terrible and brutal, history shows that it has been a great driver of human progress. So argues political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg in this incisive, well-researched study of the benefits to civilization derived from armed conflict. Ginsberg makes a convincing case that war selects for and promotes certain features of societies that are generally held to represent progress. These include rationality, technological and economic development, and liberal forms of government.

Contrary to common perceptions that war is the height of irrationality, Ginsberg persuasively demonstrates that in fact it is the ultimate test of rationality. He points out that those societies best able to assess threats from enemies rationally and objectively are usually the survivors of warfare. History also clearly reveals the technological benefits that result from war--ranging from the sundial to nuclear power. And in regard to economics, preparation for war often spurs on economic development; by the same token, nations with economic clout in peacetime usually have a huge advantage in times of war. Finally, war and the threat of war have encouraged governments to become more congenial to the needs and wants of their citizens because of the increasing reliance of governments on their citizens' full cooperation in times of war.

However deplorable the realities of war are, the many fascinating examples and astute analysis in this thought-provoking book will make readers reconsider the unmistakable connection between war and progress.


Author Notes

Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at the Johns Hopkins University.  He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Value of Violence ; How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism; The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters ; Do the Jews Have a Future in America? ; and Political Science as Public Philosophy , co-edited with Gwendolyn Mink.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"At the risk of being excommunicated from the faculty club," Ginsberg, director of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, gives an unexpected answer to the question "War! What is it good for?" He proposes four ways in which war encourages significant elements of human progress. First-and arguably most surprising-war is an "agent of rationality." States that practiced "magical thinking" suffered disaster, while those able to "rationalize authority"-from the Aztecs and the Mayas to the Third Reich-moved toward a more modern world. War was also central to the development and diffusion of technology through "conquest, imitation, and civil-military technology transfer." Ginsberg offers another unconventional judgment when he concludes that wars diminish government brutality: subjects become citizens; citizens become consumers of war-induced production. During WWII, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. both learned the links between "warfare and welfare," voluntary participation, and victory. Finally, Ginsberg argues, war "has served as a great spur to economic development," as economic strength tends to be a consequence of military power-to a point where administrative and coercive capacities can be turned inward: swords beaten into "malign plowshares." Ginsberg's work is certain to stir controversy-particularly his conception of "human progress." Agent: Claire Gerus. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

Building on Charles Tilly's insight that wars make states and states make war, Ginsberg (Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, Johns Hopkins Univ.) argues that state violence can be beneficial to nations. In particular, wars can foster the development of governmental institutions and promote the economic progress of societies. Because success in war requires developed institutions, states that are well organized are likely to be successful not only in war but also in other endeavors. As Ginsberg sees it, the development of successful war planning presupposes effectiveness in areas such as planning, organizing, recruiting and training, engineering, procuring supplies and generating logistics, and establishing effective command. Human progress is not inevitable, however, because it can occur only if government leaders use reason and not "magical thinking" in their decision making. Although this well-written book raises important issues about war, the analysis is suggestive, not persuasive. Given the breadth of the analysis, this provocative study will be of interest chiefly to general readers, not scholars or students of international relations. Summing Up: Optional. General readers and lower-division undergraduate students. --Mark R. Amstutz, Wheaton College


Table of Contents

Introduction: War, Peace, and Progressp. 9
1 War as an Agent of Rationalityp. 15
2 War and Technological Progressp. 59
3 Why War Mitigates Governmental Brutalityp. 93
4 War and Economic Progress: Has the United States Lost Its Immunity to Imperial Overreach?p. 129
5 Beating Swords into Malign Plowshares: Surveillance, Secrecy, and Popular Governmentp. 169
Conclusion: The Truths of Warp. 211
Notesp. 221
Indexp. 239

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