Translated by Anthea Bell
A fascinating and timely study of violence and war and the psychology behind them. What makes people act violently, either alone or as part of a mob? Why do they commit atrocities in times of war? Why do gangs, tribes, and even football supporters resort so readily to violence? Wolfgang Sofsky pursues answers to these questions in a book highly praised by the German critics for its ‘great intellectual power’. He argues that our propensity for violence is a reaction we have evolved as a response to our own mortality, and one which has taken many different forms in the course of human history. His wide-ranging account takes in which-hunts, gladiatorial combats, and inter-tribal conflict, but his greatest concern is to explore the violence of the modern age. He writes with especial power about the Nazi atrocities of the Third Reich and his book’s conclusion amounts to a powerful condemnation of that era’s untrammelled brutality.