Michael Mann

Oct 31, 2023

On Wars

A Discussion with Michael Mann

Yale University Press 2023

“Irrationality rules” in war, Michael Mann writes in his magisterial 2023 book, On Wars (Yale UP, 2023), a history that begins with the Roman Republic and ancient China and works its way through the world wars of the 20th century and up to present times. Mann is a Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. His irrationality thesis, which posits that many wars are the product of miscalculations by over-confident rulers with little regard for their own people, offers an insightful and persuasive challenge to the Realist school on war, which stresses a rational aspect to the designs of war-making states. Then, too, Mann notes, wars can be driven by religious convictions and by a lust for revenge. Our conversation touches on the conflict in Israel-Palestine reignited by the Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians in October, 2023 as well as on the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war launched by Vladimir Putin in February, 2022.

Veteran journalist Paul Starobin is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week and a former contributing editor of The Atlantic. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. His latest book, Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia (Columbia Global Reports) will be published in January.

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Paul Starobin

Veteran journalist Paul Starobin is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week and a former contributing editor of The Atlantic. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. His latest book, Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia (Columbia Global Reports) will be published in January.

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