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  • Published: 10 October 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241989258
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $24.99

Why We Fight

The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace

Based on two decades of research, the five causes of wars and four ways to stop them

It's easy to overlook that most of the time, war doesn't happen. Around the world there are millions of hostile rivalries, yet only a tiny fraction erupt into violence. With a counterintuitive approach, Blattman reminds us that most rivals loathe one another in peace. That's because war is too costly to fight. Enemies almost always find it better to split the pie than spoil it or struggle over thin slices. So, in those rare instances when fighting ensues, what kept rivals from compromise?

Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions - drawing on examples from vainglorious European monarchs to African dictators and British football hooligans - to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. Realistic and optimistic, this is book that lends new meaning to the old adage, "Give peace a chance."

  • Published: 10 October 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241989258
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Christopher Blattman

Christopher Blattman is the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the University of Chicago in the Harris School of Public Policy and The Pearson Institute. As a young man, he met his future wife in a Kenyan internet café, where she set him on a path to working on conflict and international development. He's now done so for 21 years. Through his academic work he has witnessed (and helped to stem) violence around the world. Blattman writes regularly for The New York Times, Vox, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs, among others. For 13 years he has run one of the most popular blogs on international affairs and global development, and is one of the 25 most followed economists on Twitter. This is his first trade book.

Praise for Why We Fight

A great storyteller with important insights for us all

Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge

Captivating and intelligent

Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist

Avoiding the useless dichotomies that either claim violence is an inseparable part of human nature or declare that humanity has all but conquered its proclivity to war, Blattman explains how human communities make use of many different strategies to resolve conflicts, and why these efforts sometimes stumble

Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail

Essential for understanding the world we live in today

James A. Robinson, co-author of Why Nations Fail

Brings together the passion of the activist and the cool head of the economist to offer practical solutions to one of humanity's most intractable problems

Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules – for Now

Timely, powerful, hopeful

Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion

Important, readable, radical

David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee

Wise, intriguing, imaginative

Rory Stewart, author of The Places In Between

Blattman has produced a valuable guide, supported by engaging anecdotes, to what makes people turn to violence - and why, mercifully, they are usually too sensible to do so


Blattman deftly translates knotty ideas from game theory and social choice theory for a lay audience, weaving in colorful anecdotes from his own life and travels

Foreign Affairs

If you've been a foreign correspondent for any length of time you end up wondering what has pushed so many of the societies you cover into conflict and what can be done to prevent a repeat. Why We Fight answers many of those questions . . . Contrary to expectations, it's an optimistic book . . . outbreaks of violence are the aberration, not the norm, and small, incremental measures can have a disproportionate impact when it comes to avoiding strife. Tinkering trumps transformation

Michela Wrong, Spectator Books of the Year