Tuesday, July 27, 2010

War in Human Civilization - NBIH

I am amazed at New Books in History. Marshall Poe manages to produce new chapters every week. He reads the book and he interviews the author for about an hour. He must be reading more than just those books. He has got his position as a history professor at the University of Iowa, he has to write and he has to teach. In addition he must have got all those would be interviewees, but he won't pick each and every book only those whom he deems good enough.

What a selection we therefore get every week. Still it is one thing Poe gives an implicit recommendation of the book, it means even more if he explicitly does so. When he speaks with Azar Gat about War in Human Civilization, he recommends with special enthusiasm. And he adds he is going to use Gat's book for a course he wants to give. That kind of endorsement we have not yet witnessed often in NBIH.

Sure enough, Gat and Poe are off to a very spirited discussion. The subject is huge: how does war feature in human civilization? Has it always been there? Has it become worse, or perhaps better? Should we go with Rousseau and assume that war comes with civilization and man is deep down a noble savage. Or should we lean towards Hobbes and agree that man is a wolf to man and war is the state of nature, which civilization so feebly attempts to restrain? And what about nationalism and globalization? Poe and Gat are not done in the end. They will continue with Gat's next book.

More NBIH:
Always recommended: New Books in History,
The best varied history podcast,
The Caucasus,
The genocide and the trial,
Nation and Culture.