by Anthony Stevens
Published by Continuum, London (2004)
Publishers Description
Since the dawn of history, and probably a good deal longer, human beings have enthusiastically ganged up together in order to maim and kill other people in pursuit of their own economic, political and religious objectives. In the past, this murderous activity contributed to the success of our species by selecting the fittest males, and promoting the evolution of our brains and the development of human consciousness. But now that we possess biochemical and thermonuclear weapons it has become our greatest liability, threatening the very existence of our civilization and the survival of life on our planet. So why do we do it? And can it ever be stopped?
In The Roots of War and Terror, psychiatrist Anthony Stevens provides profound insights into the nature and origins of armed conflict, locating the problem primarily in the psychology and anatomy of the human male. The evolved propensities for warlike behaviour, essentially unchanged since Paleolithic times, continue to prompt men to seek aggressive confrontation in groups, motivating modern soldiers and terrorists, armed with weapons of unprecedented destructiveness, to slaughter their enemies in the same spirit as Stone Age warriors.

In his far-ranging final chapters, Stevens discusses ways of inhibiting the archetypes of war (through genetic engineering, educational policy, and the admission of women to the citadels of masculine power), of diverting them into less destructive channels (through competitive sports, ritualized battles, the arms and space races), and, eventually, of rendering them  obsolete (through development of a global consciousness and mobilization of the transcendent function possessed by the universal symbols of humanity).

This is an indispensable work for anyone wishing to understand the psychological basis for war and terror, or hoping to discover ways in which the unimaginable catastrophe of nuclear or biological warfare may be averted.

"Throughout history, cycles of war have been followed by peace. War has been with us since the beginning of time, but so has peace. This is the simple, but brilliant, twist in Stevens's argument: peace is as much an evolutionary impulse as war and is therefore also an archetypal phenomenon. We are hard-wired for peace as much as for killing."   
The New Statesman, 1 March 2004.

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