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Book Review Irving Louis Horowitz, The Idea of War and Peace: The Experience of Western Civilization, 3rd ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Pp. 364, paper. $29.95 US. Reviewed by Christopher Burdett, Department of Politics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville The third edition of The Idea of War and Peace is appropriately timed, considering the prominence of the Iraq war in the popular discourse, amplified by the intensity of the presidential campaign in the United States. While his endeavor is more broadly framed, Irving Louis Horowitz, Hannah Arendt University Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, nevertheless offers a worthy, thought-provoking contribution valuable to generalists and students of political theory alike. Horowitz seeks to understand the causes of war with the aim of extracting an integrated theory of peace. To pursue this question, he scrutinizes a sample of thinkers whose arguments embody dominant themes in the field of peace studies, ranging from the ‘‘subjective positivism’’ of Bertrand Russell to the ‘‘Providential harmony’’ of Alfred North Whitehead to the ‘‘humanism’’ of Albert Einstein. In fact, the mix of influences seems a bit eclectic, but it works because of the breadth of ideas brought to the table. The analysis divides according to a ‘‘consistent dualism’’ in the study of war and peace. ‘‘On one side is political idealism,’’ Horowitz explains, which is identified by its placing of primary causation in subjective or introspective factors, such as innate propensities to violence, inherent human restlessness, or the spirit of adventurism and heroism realized fully only in combat. Standing in sharp contrast is political realism, which is characterized by its belief in the primacy of external, socially conditioned causes of aggression. (24) It is clear from the outset that Horowitz identifies himself as a realist, and he bases much of his critique of the idealist school on the disconnect between their assumptions and the historical evidence. Realism simply offers greater leverage over the question, because it operates from empirical observation. To understand the causes of war, Horowitz asserts, we must understand the social structures within which we live. This is not as easy as it sounds, however. He rebukes a number of realist thinkers for confusing the causes of war because they wrongly identify the social structures that affect behavior. Emery Reves, for example, targets the contradictions of the modern state, arguing that scientific, technological, and industrial developments have increased the reliance of the individual upon the state for protection while simultaneously destroying the capacity of the state to provide for this end other than through violent means. Ultimately Reves promotes a universal association of humankind and an end to the nation-state. Yet according to Horowitz, this scheme is doomed to failure, since Reves does not account for uneven development between nations, which would likely intensify conflict within a larger international legal community. In fact, Horowitz’s analysis of realism as well as of idealism rests upon a core belief in the material foundations of society, which, in turn, condition our understanding of Christopher Burdett, review of The Idea of War and Peace: The Experience of Western Civilization by Irving Louis Horowitz. Genocide Studies and Prevention 3, 2 (August 2008): 263–265. ß 2008 Genocide Studies and Prevention. doi:10.3138/gsp.3.2.263 what we want and need as well as of the most appropriate and effective means to achieve either end. The roots of conflict lie in our alienation from what we desire. This is essentially a material question; the usual suspects—ideology, morality, politics, and power—are derivative phenomena. It is critical to recognize, however, that the cause of war in the abstract also lays the groundwork for a sustainable peace, as humanity continues to innovate and evolve in order to overcome its alienation and master nature. Horowitz identifies this ‘‘progress’’ as a motive force for peace in two respects. On the one hand, humans are better able to provide for their needs, thereby lessening tensions attributable to economic and technological differences. On the other, and perhaps more significantly, peace acquires practical value in the furtherance of progress. War is anathema to progress, because it threatens our very existence while eroding our material gains. The incentives to employ violence merely reflect...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-9933
Print ISSN
1911-0359
Pages
pp. 263-265
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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