Award-winning University College Dublin researcher, Professor Siniša Malešević, launches his compelling new book ‘Why Humans Fight: The Social Dynamics of Close-Range Violence’ (2022, Cambridge University Press) 29 November 2022.
In this volume, Malešević offers a novel sociological answer to the age-old question: 'Why do humans fight?'. He argues that fighting is not an individual attribute, but a social phenomenon shaped by one's relationships with other people.
Delving into the role biology, psychology, economics, ideology, and coercion play in one's experience of fighting, this volume emphasises the cultural and historical variability of combativeness. By drawing from numerous historical and contemporary examples from all over the world, Malešević demonstrates how social pugnacity is a relational and contextual phenomenon that possesses autonomous features.
A leading expert in the study of war and violence, nationalism, empire and ideology, Malešević says: ‘This book explores the social dynamics of close-range fighting. Drawing on interviews with ex-combatants and analysis of letters from frontline soldiers, I aim to show that fighting is rarely based on one’s individual motivations. Instead human beings regularly fight for other humans – to impress and please others, to hide fear and to avoid shame from others, to conform with values of others, to profit from others or to show emotional commitment to others.
Professor John Hall of McGill University, Canada said: 'Sinisa Malešević now commands the field dealing with nationalism, war and violence, gaining prize after prize as a result. This is his best book, full of new material, handled with enormous style, knowledge and subtlety. This book will last.'
Professor Erica Chenoweth of Harvard University said: 'Sinisa Malešević has delivered a sweeping social history of face-to-face violence. In this masterful book, Malešević shows how violence is an inherently social, relational phenomenon, and he identifies the social structures that lay the foundation for organized killing. This book is ambitious, rigorous, and deeply convincing.'
Professor Michael Mann, University of California, Los Angeles said :'Malesevic begins with a penetrating critique of genetic, biological, and psychological explanations for why humans fight, whether they be mere brawlers or trained soldiers. He then proceeds to a more sociological approach, while stressing the variability of fighting experiences. His arguments are supported by immense learning and a flow of acute insights into human violence. This is a must read for anyone interested in violence and war.'
The online Launch on 29 November includes a discussion panel with international experts: Prof Erica Chenoweth (Harvard University, USA), Prof John Hall (McGill University, Canada), Prof Donatella Della Porta (Florence University, Italy), Prof. Ugur Ungor (Amsterdam University, The Netherlands), with Moderator Dr Lea David (UCD) and responses from Malešević. See details here.
Endorsements from other prominent scholars:
'Like Goya's war paintings, Why Human Fight surveys its horrible subject matter with an unblinking gaze. One of the many achievements of this extraordinary survey is to zoom in closely upon the often-overlooked micro-solidarities that enable social pugnacity to develop. Here Malesevic's own interrogation of diverse literatures is relentless; his curiosity boundless; and his insights often startlingly original. A dark, and exhilarating, survey: and, in the troubled 21st century, an urgently needed book.' Tim Wilson, University of St Andrews
'This exceptionally wide-ranging study lives up to its multidisciplinary ambitions by offering both in-depth research on particular instances of violence, and panoptic breadth in terms of its comprehension and digestion of an ever-widening research field. Malesevic manages to bring together and offset different strands of scholarship and formulate a clear new perspective that will offer food for thought for a good while.' Ugur Ungor, University of Amsterdam