In This Review

War: a Cruel Necessity? The Bases of Institutionalized Violence
War: a Cruel Necessity? The Bases of Institutionalized Violence
Edited by Robert A. Hinde and Helen E. Watson
I. B. Tauris, 1995, 260 pp

Most academics who write about war and appeal to a policy audience are political scientists or historians. There is, however, a rich anthropological literature about war that repays an occasional visit, and this volume edited by two Cambridge University scholars shows some of it off. The authors will be unfamiliar to most readers of this journal, with the possible exception of George Mosse, whose short essay on the myth of the air war experience of World War I and the interwar period is particularly intriguing. The other essays are rather scattershot. The unsurprising theme is that the causes of war are many, and that aggression is deeply rooted in human nature and human society. Nevertheless, for those who still cherish the illusion that primitive warfare was somehow benign, ritualistic, and worthy of imitation by modern societies, Gilbert Lewis' essay "Payback and Ritual in War: New Guinea," will be instructive. Some of the studies in communal animosity are also interesting.