This fascinating book examines Western perceptions of war in and beyond the nineteenth century, surveying the writings of novelists, anthropologists, psychiatrists, poets, natural scientists, and journalists to trace the origins of modern philosophies about the nature of war and conflict.
Daniel Pick compares philosophical and historical models of conflict with fictions of invasion and biological speculation about the nature and value of conquest. He discusses the work of such familiar commentators on war as Clausewitz, Engels, and von Bernhardi, and examines little-known writings by Proudhon, De Quincey, Ruskin, Valery, and many others. He explores nineteenth-century English fears of French contamination through the Channel Tunnel and the widespread continuing dread of German domination. And he analyzes the history of the widely-shared European belief that war is beneficial or at least functionally necessary.
A central theme of the book is the disturbing relationship between machinery and destruction. According to Pick, relentless technological progress and the irresistible rise of the military-industrial complex risks turning conflict into little more than a sophisticated game played out by high-precision automata. Shorn of human agency or responsibility, war could become technologically unstoppable, a flawless mechanism for human slaughter.
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