Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War

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Granta, 2011 - War - 256 pages
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In Blood Rites, renowned social critic Barbara Ehrenreich confronts a subject that has challenged thinkers from Homer to Freud: What draws our species to war and even makes us see it as a kind of sacred undertaking?. Ehrenreich takes us on an original journey from the grasslands of prehistoric Africa to the trenches of Verdun, from the spectacular human sacrifices of precolonial Central America to the carnage and holocaust of twentieth-century "total war." Sifting through the fragile records of prehistory, Ehrenreich discovers the wellspring of war in an unexpected place - not in a "killer instinct" unique to the males of our species, nor in our Paleolithic hunting tradition, but in the blood rites early humans performed to reenact their terrifying experience of predation by stronger carnivores. It is in these ancient blood rites that Ehrenreich finds the first form of organized, socially sanctioned violence - and the spiritual antecedent of war. Moving into historical time, Ehrenreich traces the evolution of war from the sacred undertaking of a privileged warrior caste to the central rite of the mass religion we know today as nationalism and shows the persistence of ancient fears in the most modern rituals and passions of war.

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BLOOD RITES

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Social critic and Time magazine essayist Ehrenreich (The Worst Years of Our Lives, LJ 4/15/90) turns her attention here to anthropology, delving into the causes of man's age-old interest in war. Her ... Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of "Blood Rites"; "The Worst Years of Our Lives"; "Fear of Falling", which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, & eight other books. A frequent contributor to Time, Harper's, Esquire, The New Republic, Mirabella, The Nation, The New York Magazine, she lives near Key West, Florida.

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