War! What Is It Good For? Book Summary - War! What Is It Good For? Book explained in key points

War! What Is It Good For? summary

Ian Morris

Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

4 (16 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

War! What Is It Good For? by Ian Morris traces the history of war and argues that, despite its horrors, it has contributed to the formation of stable societies and the development of technology and democracy.

Table of Contents

    War! What Is It Good For?
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    War brings new technological innovations.

    Death. Destruction. Desperation. These are among the things that war brings us. How then could anyone consider war to be anything other than pure hell?

    It’s easy to look at the bad at the expense of the good. For example, while war has brought incalculable misery to millions of people, it is also deeply connected with innovation.

    Indeed, military needs are directly responsible for some of humanity’s most important innovations.

    One way to win the upper hand in a war is by gaining a technological advantage. Throughout history, military technological advancements have equated to the end of war, to victory, and to continued innovation, based on the technology first created for wartime purposes.

    Practical things, like bronze and iron, are the results of military research. Iron, for example, was invented very early in human history, and in 1200 B.C. technology made it possible to produce iron in larger quantities.

    Its mass production and wide distribution resulted not from civilian application, but because it was a better material for weapons and armor than bronze.

    What’s more, many basic inventions and ideas underwent further development as a result of war. These ideas, originally developed for other purposes, were propagated and expanded upon as a result of their wartime application.

    Gunpowder, for example, was invented by Chinese alchemists and first used only for small fireworks. It was when the military picked it up that new and better recipes were developed.

    Competition among warring nations spins off constantly evolving technologies.

    For example, when large ships were employed to transport valuable goods, rival nations and pirates developed smaller, quicker ships to rob the traders. This in turn led to the creation of even larger and better armed trading ships, which led to even faster rival ships, and so on.

    While technologies made with noble intentions find ignoble applications in war, the opposite holds true as well.

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    What is War! What Is It Good For? about?

    War! What Is It Good For? takes a look at the history of conflict and comes to a startling conclusion: while wars are horrible for those who endure them, postbellum societies enjoy the positive consequences of war, namely peace, prosperity and organization.

    War! What Is It Good For? Review

    War! What Is It Good For? (2014) by Ian Morris explores the relationship between war and human progress throughout history. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Provides a fascinating perspective on the role of war in shaping societies, challenging conventional wisdom and sparking critical thinking.
    • Offers an accessible analysis of complex historical events, enlightening readers on the impact of warfare on technology, governance, and cultural development.
    • Engages readers with thought-provoking arguments that delve into the paradoxical nature of war, making it a captivating read that is anything but boring.

    Best quote from War! What Is It Good For?

    Incorporation into a bigger society, gradually...makes conquered and conquerors alike safer and richer.

    —Ian Morris
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    Who should read War! What Is It Good For??

    • Anyone interested in the history of war and great empires
    • Anyone interested in politics and conflict management
    • Pacifists and war hawks

    About the Author

    Ian Morris is a British historian, archaeologist and Stanford professor who has written a number of critically acclaimed books, such as Why the West Rules – For Now and The Measure of Civilization.

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    War! What Is It Good For? FAQs 

    What is the main message of War! What Is It Good For??

    War! What Is It Good For? challenges the conventional belief that war is inherently bad and argues that it has played a crucial role in shaping human civilization.

    How long does it take to read War! What Is It Good For??

    The reading time for War! What Is It Good For? varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is War! What Is It Good For? a good book? Is it worth reading?

    War! What Is It Good For? is a thought-provoking book that challenges our preconceptions about war. It offers valuable insights and is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of War! What Is It Good For??

    The author of War! What Is It Good For? is Ian Morris.