Method to the Madness of War

In one of many dissertations, R. Brian Ferguson reveals that warfare has only existed for around 10,000 years and became frequent about 6,000 years ago. Before that, war was almost non-existent.  Sure there were fights, but never on a country wide scale. Usually, they were simply family vendettas.  Douglas Fry and Patrik Soderberg recently published a study stating that among 21 modern age hunter gatherer groups, there were only about 148 deaths by violence among coexisting groups. This number seems small when compared to the death toll in World War One, ranging from 5 million- 13 million, and microscopic when compared to 50 million in World War Two. This influx of death can be attributed to better weapons, but made us think we needed those devastating weapons in the first place?

War is often caused by clashes between different identity groups such as Catholics and Protestants, Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, ect. Extremists on both sides build up anger and frustration until most of the society becomes so volatile and filled with rage that the majority of the population participates in “moral exclusion” which is withdrawing moral and human rights from opposing groups, and denying them respect. This unfortunate side effect of group mentality makes it all too easy to belittle, oppress, or even kill those with opposing views. William James suggests warfare was so prevalent because of its positive psychological effects. Now before you begin thinking of the negatives of war, consider this: during war society feels a sense of unity, the sense of belonging as you fight a collective threat. It inspires not only soldiers, but the common people to behave unselfishly and honorably for the sake of the country or identity group. War time breaks up the monotony of everyday life and individuals feel more alive, more alert, feelings which release a number of positive “feel good” chemicals that can have unbelievable effects on morale.

Unfortunately, there is only speculation about what factors go into waging wars. Other popular opinions include the drive to gain territory, wealth and power. War is often initiated by governments but is often desired by the general population. We also know that war is related to group identity. Humans have a need for identity and belonging. We tend to cling to our groups identity and feel a sense of pride in being American, Catholic, Muslim ect.

Taylor, Steve. “The Psychology of War.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.

“Profile: R. Brian Ferguson.” Profile: R. Brian Ferguson. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 201


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