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Below are excerpts from Library of Social Science Review Essays. Please click any book title (or photo) to read the complete text. Some of the books we’ve reviewed are recent, some not. We select titles based on the insights they contain—and their capacity to shape the development of thought. We focus on books that illuminate the sources and meanings of political forms of violence.




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Library of Social Science Book Reviews is an established, unique resource for scholars, educators, students and publishers. We identify new and significant books—and bring them to the attention of readers around the world through our Library of Social Science Newsletter, which reaches 57,230 people. A review is not an end in itself. A book review—like the book itself—is a vehicle to transmit ideas and generate change. Our thoughtful, substantial review essays—written by top scholars—zero in on a book’s most consequential ideas or theories. They engage the author’s arguments and articulate their implications—in order to generate new insights and knowledge.

With the Internet and World Wide Web, scholars can no longer cloister themselves within an idiosyncratic, circumscribed discourse. The Internet not only enables interdisciplinary work, but requires it. Library of Social Science Book Reviews embraces interdisciplinarity. We are open to insights from every scholarly discipline and perspective, including History, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Religious Studies, Psychology and the Humanities.

We live now within an “attention economy.” Whereas once it was exceedingly difficult for people to be heard (to publish or “proclaim”), now nearly everyone has a voice. A new problem arises: in a sea of publications and authors, how does one identify those that are most significant—having something wise and original to say?

Though a publication may be of the highest quality, if it is not found by readers, it is useless. For a piece of writing to have an impact, an audience is required. Library of Social Science does not leave this to chance. By virtue of our Newsletter, tens of thousands of people read our review essays in a single day. Whereas once it took years to be “cited,” the pace of scholarly work has quickened. A new dynamic has emerged.

It is no longer possible to think of books as fixed entities. As the world flows on, so scholarship partakes in the reality of change. The Internet means that no argument is fixed, finished or complete. Our authors become part of an ongoing “developmental dialogue.” By bringing forth significant ideas and insights, Library of Social Science Book Reviews aspires to shape the course of scholarship—and perhaps history itself.

Published Review Essays

Click any book title below to read the complete review.

Brown, Norman O.
Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History
Who created the symbolic order? What is the source of the “power” of society?” Freud observed that the mythological conception of the universe is fundamentally psychology projected into the external world. Brown suggests that not just mythology, but the entirety of culture is a projection. In the words of Stephen Spender: “The world which we create—the world of slums and telegrams and newspapers—is a kind of language of our inner wishes and thoughts.”

Fornari, Franco
The Psychoanalysis of War
The spirit of sacrifice is intimately related to an ideology in the name of which one may sacrifice oneself. What is this “absolute and unconditional something” that would somehow justify the “establishment of a masochistic-sacrificial position?” The masochistic-sacrificial position (e.g., the role of a soldier) is idealized—becoming a kind of “supervalue”—because it is put into the service of “that absolute and unconditional something.”

Gentile, Emilio
Politics as Religion
The “fusion of the individual and the masses in the organic union of the nation” is combined with persecution against those outside the community. According to this totalitarian fantasy, there can be no separation between the individual and the state: they must exist in a condition of “perfect union.” Those Others who disrupt the experience of perfect union are branded enemies of the state who must be eliminated or removed.

Griffin, Roger
Modernism and Fascism
Fascist ideology revolves around the vision of a nation being capable of “imminent phoenix like rebirth.” The quest for rebirth gives rise to a revolutionary new political and cultural order that embraces all of the “‘true’ members of the national community.” Fascism constitutes a radical form of nationalism growing out of the perception that one’s country is in imminent danger—seeking resurrection.

Hauerwas, Stanley
War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity
The sacrificial metaphor at the heart of citizenship, and inextricably tied to war, has incredible power, all the more so because most citizens are unconscious of its active impact in our lives. Most citizens are blithely unaware of the contradiction between their assumptions regarding “the separation of church and state”—and the deeply religious sacrificial war-culture that so profoundly shapes their understandings of citizenship and the nation.

Herf, Jeffrey
The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust
National Socialism explained why a private war with Poland resulted in Germany fighting a life or death struggle against the combined might of the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States. Only Hitler and the Nazis could explain the war: the result of Jewish financial plutocrats in London and New York, and Jewish Communists in Moscow, working together to fulfill the Jewish dream of world domination. Only Germany understood the truth and was fighting to annihilate the Jewish threat.

Jones, James
Blood that Cries Out from the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism
Violent religious actions are linked to a particular image of God, namely that of a “vengeful, punitive and overpowering patriarchal divine being.” The believer who engages in acts of violence is relating to an omnipotent being who “appears to will the believer’s destruction.” This punitive God must be “appeased and placated.” In the face of such a God, the believer must “humiliate and abject himself.”

Kantorowicz, Ernst
The King’s Two Bodies
Nations function—like the Second Body of the King—as a double of one’s self: a larger, “more ample” body with which we identify. Our nation is a Body Politic that seems more powerful than our actual body. We project our bodies into a Body Politic and wage war to defend the fantasy of an omnipotent body that will live forever.

Kramer, Alan
Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War
The brutal combination of human and cultural destruction was not some kind of natural disaster, nor the logical extension of human (or masculine) violence. Instead, it “arose from strategic, political, and economic calculation.” This is the book’s most important contribution: awareness that people and cultural artifacts were not destroyed by a “whirlwind” or a “machine,” but by specific decisions of specific commanders, by orders decreed from above and carried out by armed men on the ground.

Lifton, Robert Jay
The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
The central fantasy uncovered by Lifton was that of the German nation as an organism that could succumb to an illness. Lifton cites Dr. Johann S. who spoke about being “doctor to the Volkskorper” (‘national body’ or ‘people’s body’). National Socialism, Dr. Johann S. said, is a movement rather than a party, constantly growing and changing according to the “health” requirements of the people’s body. “Just as a body may succumb to illness,” the doctor declared, so “the Volkskorper could do the same.”

Marvin, Carolyn & David Ingle
Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag
What is really true in any community is “what its members can agree is worth killing for,” or what they can be compelled to sacrifice their lives for. What is “sacred” within a given society is that set of beliefs “for which we ought to shed our own blood.” Warfare constitutes the central ritual allowing societies to enact or demonstrate faith in the nation.

Miller, Steven E.
Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War
The ideology of the offensive at all costs grew out of the desire to demonstrate the moral courage and will of one’s troops, and therefore the greatness of one’s nation. Such a strategy rarely resulted in breakthroughs. By virtue of attacking—even when slaughter was the result—soldiers exemplified the will to national self-sacrifice for the sake of one’s nation.

Mineau, André
SS Thinking and the Holocaust
Total war is total health, and the Nazi party portrayed Germany as a patient in danger of racial infection. The SS translated its biological worldview into dispassionate practice. War was a matter of self-defense, a prophylactic, and therefore ethical. In SS thinking, Mineau claims, Operation Barbarossa and the Holocaust combined to act as one “gigantic sanitary operation,” representing the “politics of antibiotics par excellence.”

Scarry, Elaine
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
The desire to resolve disputes through waging war revolves around the fact that the maiming and destruction of human bodies is necessary—a requirement. War seeks to establish the validity—the truth—of a sacred ideal. Warfare is characterized or constituted by a unique, radical form of verification: the maiming and destruction of human bodies.

Schantz, Mark S.
Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America’s Culture of Death
The political system of U.S. society in the Civil War era demanded that its citizens sacrifice their lives and commit violence against their fellow countrymen so the nation as a whole could survive. The dominant religious ideology of the time required citizens to voluntarily exchange the mundane world for the heavenly rewards of the afterlife. The individual could achieve the eternal life in heaven and could be commemorated as a hero if he was ready to sacrifice himself.

Skya, Walter. A
Japan’s Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism
To achieve the state of “one heart, same body,” the individual had to discard or annihilate the self. Any consideration of one’s own personal needs was wrong: one had to totally submerge the self into the collectivity. When Kakehi spoke of the bad aspects of Western culture that had entered Japan, he was referring to the evils of Western secularism and individualism. The Western focus on the value of the individual was the “greatest threat to the Japanese nation.”

Stein, Ruth
For Love of the Father: A Psychoanalytic Study of Religious Terrorism
Collective forms of violence are perpetuated in the name of an ideal that binds the group together and functions to “sanctify the actions of a (collective) perpetrator on a (collective) victim.” Large scale forms of violence are undertaken in the name of an ideal object that can move groups to decree the liquidation of anything that “challenges its validity and superiority.” Forms of behavior deemed criminal on the individual level may be “condoned and encouraged when perpetrated collectively.”

Strenski, Ivan
Contesting Sacrifice: Religion, Nationalism, and Social Thought in France
Nationalists attacked the deplorable state of French morale. Intellectuals were derided for “egoism” and “lazy melancholy;” workers for lack of enthusiasm for collective causes. War represented a spiritual force that would “bind citizens into common service for the nation,” incubating a spirit of national unity. Just as Jesus’ death cleansed the sins of humanity, so common soldiers’ self-sacrifices were seen as expiation for France’s sins.

Weitz, Eric
A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation
The key term is “individual.” It is individuality that must be eliminated in the genocidal process, the individuality of perpetrators as well as victims. Although the rituals enforcing mass compliance that Weitz studies help account for the passive and active participation of people in dominating groups, it is the abandonment of self-reflective thought that lies at the heart of “the banality of evil.”

Wittman, Laura
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Modern Mourning, and the Reinvention of the Mystical Body
The tombs give aesthetic expression to the need of modern man for redemptive myths despite, or maybe because of, the “death of God”. They marked yet another point where the modern West collectively expressed existential dissatisfaction and intimations of nihilism—and hence the concomitant longing to return to the ancestral state of mythic consciousness that had given rise to the first burial ceremonies.

Call for Reviewer: US War-culture, Sacrifice, and Salvation

Kelly Denton-Borhaug’s US War-culture, Sacrifice and Salvation is one of the most insightful books ever written on the dynamics of warfare. Excerpts from the book appear below. We seek an author to write a review essay on this exciting study. Please respond directly to this email or write to

Library of Social Science Book Reviews is the premier website publishing and promoting substantial review essays of scholarly books.

Parameters for an LSS review essay are directly below.


During the period of the First World War, with the experience of literally hundreds of thousands sacrificing themselves for the nation, the cognitive connection between war and Christianity grew even stronger. As one scholar writes: “Christian symbols, indeed, the very figure of Christ, were present in the cult of the fallen soldier—and in Germany, Italy and France, familiar Christian symbols represented nation sacrifice. The First World War was a climax in the evolution of modern nationalism, and in its quest for totality, the nation sought to co-opt Christianity.”

Nationalism has frequently been described and analyzed as a religion, yet with insufficient attention to the dominant theme of sacrifice that binds the experiences of nationalism and Christian religion, forming a sacred canopy encompassing both religious and national self-identity and representation.

The extensiveness of human resort to sacrifice makes it so ubiquitous as to reside largely ‘off the radar screen,’ of overt awareness and consciousness. As a result, analysis of sacrifice is simultaneously all the more difficult and all the more important. But the infusion of the sacred tone that justifies such sacrifice makes this construction impervious to moral analysis and criticism.

Thus, even while sacrificial practices lubricate patriarchal exchanges of power, this dynamic is mystified through its connection to religious understandings and practices. Blood sacrifice is at the heart of war-culture’s and the warrior’s ‘religiosity.’ Because of this, to question the cognitive framework of sacrifice, residing as a deep and largely unexamined anchor for warriors’ identity, is tantamount to a kind of heresy.

Christian proclamation that portrays the work of Christ as a sacrifice cements the architecture of this social structure in Western cultures such as the United States. To cast doubt on the soldier’s mission as sacrifice is as unsettling, challenging and frankly, jarring to common sensibility, as to question the sacrality of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.


In Germany, Greek ideals melded with Christian frameworks to create a grounding from which the actual experience of war would be confronted and transcended. In ‘the cult of the fallen soldier,’ Greek values of harmony, balanced proportions and controlled strength—celebrated as aspects of youth—meshed with popular Christian piety. The deaths of young soldiers were justified as a sign of military commitment, and glorified as a type of idealized inner control. At the same time, popular exclamations, such as ‘Now we are made sacred,’ juxtaposed the sacrifice of soldiers with the death and resurrection of Christ.

In this way, the passion of Christ became an analogy for the experience of the nation as a whole: through these sacrificial deaths of the most worthy citizens, Christ was understood to illuminate the very world, such that war itself was interpreted as a strategy for Christological revelation. Suffering as a purifying force was recommended to the troops in the trenches; more widely, suffering was advised to the nation as a whole, to lead to a stronger and purified Germany, ‘encased in armor.’

This popular piety grew into an important resource that could be manipulated to overcome fear of death itself. Eternal life, assured to those who had sacrificed themselves for the nation, now outweighed any value of the importance of living in the here and now. The expectation of an eternal and meaningful life—the continuation of a patriotic mission – not only seemed to transcend death itself, but also inspired life before death.

The corresponding growth of war memorials and cemeteries for the war-dead cemented and extended these same frameworks. These sites became popular destinations and shrines of public worship and pilgrimage in Europe following the war, and the development of commercial measures, such as cheap tours for mourners, enabled increasing numbers of civilians to participate in the growing cult.

The actual experience and dread of war thereby was ‘cleansed,’ or we might say, thrust into the distance. And once this took place, it was all too easy for the ‘Myth of the War Experience’ successfully to refocus the memory of war. Not long after, the Nazis reinvigorated this cult and made their own martyred dead central in its observance of the ‘Myth of the War Experience’.


If the search for greater honesty about ourselves requires peeling back the layers of sacrificial logic, memorials have the effect of tying our hands behind our backs. We are invited to honor those who participated in the war and especially, to mourn and honor those U.S. military who died, but we are not invited to question or ponder further. Ultimately, this memorial continues the process of reification of a particular national identity, an identity that comes from war, and from a deep cognitive framework regarding belief in the redemptive nature of violence and the necessity of sacrifice to achieve freedom and justice.

But such questioning leads to serious consequences, for once we begin to understand and interrogate these destructive connections, the cognitive ‘transcendentalization’ of war and war-culture begins to dismantle in our minds. A new kind of consciousness or awareness about our reality begins to dawn upon us. This is not necessarily a comfortable awareness or consciousness, because it is attended by many new questions.

‘Detranscendentalizing’ war and war-culture unsettles formerly unquestioned assumptions and values. How then should we think about what soldiers do? How will we describe their deaths if not as sacred sacrifice? Moreover, how will we understand the nation, its purpose, and our connection to it? What will we do differently with respect to decision-making regarding conflict and the use of armed force?

Finally, the exploration of these links also forces the question about the relationship of Christian following to American civil religion. What will it mean to uncouple Jesus’ death on the cross from the powerful national narrative of Christ’s sacrificial death as the archetype for the necessary sacrifices made in war to preserve ‘the American way of life’?
Detranscendentalizing war-culture means taking up these important questions, destabilizing some dominant frames of understanding, and reemphasizing others.

Parameters of a Library of Social Science Book Review Essay

  • Essays will be written in the spirit of the LSS Mission Statement.
  • Essays should be approximately 3,000 words in length (for a sample essay, click here).
  • Essays are to be completed no later than three months after receipt of the book.
  • Beginning with the text, reviewers may focus on important issues in order to present and develop their own views and theories on the topics treated.
  • Reviews will be edited by the staff of Library of Social Science.
  • Reviews will be announced through the Library of Social Science Newsletter, which reaches over 60,481 people in the U.S. and around the world.
  • With each review, LSS will promote a book authored by the reviewer (and/or will publicize an author event).
  • LSS reserves the right to decline publication of any review.

Call for a Reviewer: This Republic of Suffering

Library of Social Science seeks an author to write a review essay on This Republic of Suffering. To read an excerpt, please click here. A review appears in the New York Times.

The parameters for writing an LSS review essay are directly below. Please send an abstract of approximately 200 words to, telling us how you will approach writing your essay.

When I presented my plenary talk at the Colloquium on Violence and Religion on June 4, 1999 (with Rene Girard sitting in the front row), the concept of “sacrifice” was barely on the radar. It seemed that John Lennon’s dream of “nothing to kill or die for” was coming true. I myself felt I was providing a “wrap up:” explaining the sources and meanings of the massive political violence that had characterized the Twentieth Century.

It seemed, however, that the end of history was not to be. September 11, 2001 reminded us that some human beings still believed in and were willing to die for an idea. George Bush’s rejoinder was that Americans too possessed sacred ideals for which we were willing to sacrifice our lives.

Since 9/11—and particularly in the last four years—books have regularly appeared on the sacrificial meaning of political violence. The idea that war, genocide and terrorism reflect a sacrificial dynamic has been a central theme of the Library of Social Science Newsletter, as well as of our Ideologies of War website.

Drew Gilpin Faust states that the “work of death was the Civil War America’s most fundamental and demanding undertaking.” In the soldier’s emotional and moral universe, dying “assumed clear preeminence over killing.” The Civil war produced destruction, suffering and death that seemed meaningless. However, the war also “created the modern American union,” not just by shaping enduring national survival, but by putting in place “enduring national structures and commitments.”

Paul Kahn argues (in Sacred Violence, 2008) that the “sacrifice of the self is the creative act of destruction that is the realization of the presence of the sacred.” A nation with neglible external enemies created in the Civil War a “frenzy of killing and being killed.” This violence, Kahn says, may be understood as the practice of sacrifice for the sake of “maintaining the material reality of a transcendent idea.” In the Civil War, Americans died in order to preserve their “sacred union”—and to validate the idea that all men are created equal.

Library of Social Science Book Reviews is recognized as the premier website publishing substantial, thoughtful review essays of scholarly books. Please read our Mission Statement, and a sample Review Essay. For details on writing a review essay for Library of Social Science, please click here or see directly below.

We seek an author to write a review essay on This Republic of Suffering. To read an excerpt, please click here. A review appears in the New York Times.

Please an abstract of approximately 200 words to, telling us how you will approach writing your essay. We look forward to hearing from you.

With regards,

Richard Koenigsberg

Parameters of a Library of Social Science Book Review Essay

  • Essays will be written in the spirit of the LSS Mission Statement that appears here.
  • Essays should be approximately 3,000 words in length (for a sample essay, click here).
  • Essays are to be completed no later than three months after receipt of the book.
  • Beginning with the text, reviewers may focus on important issues in order to present and develop their own views and theories on the topics treated.
  • Reviews will be edited by the staff of Library of Social Science.
  • Reviews will be announced through the Library of Social Science Newsletter, which reaches over 60,481 people in the U.S. and around the world.
  • With each review, LSS will promote a book authored by the reviewer (and/or will publicize an author event).

LSS reserves the right to decline publication of any review.

Call for a Reviewer: Dying for a Sacred Ideal

Dear Colleague,

As the Twentieth Century drew to a close, it seemed we had reached the end of history and that John Lennon’s prophecy of “nothing to kill and die for” was coming true. September 11, 2001, reminded us that some groups continue to embrace dying and killing in the name of a political idea.

Many reacted to the suicide bombings with shock and amazement—as if such happenings were unique in the annals of human history. Mark S. Schantz’s Awaiting the Heavenly Country reminds us that sacrificial dying and killing is not foreign to American culture.

Schantz seeks to understand the Civil War, a momentous struggle that took the lives of 623,026 human beings and resulted in 1,084,453 casualties. Battles often took the form of organized massacre—men advancing to their deaths through close rifle fire. “Suicidal charges,” Schantz says, “punctuated the war from start to finish.” Men slaughtered each other with a zeal we “still grope to comprehend.”

The focus of Awaiting the Heavenly Country is Schantz’s hypothesis that it was religious values—Americans’ idea of heaven—that allowed the carnage to continue for four years (1861-1865). Americans who came to fight the Civil War, Schantz says, believed that a “heavenly eternity of transcendent beauty awaited them beyond the grave.”

This idea of heaven, according to Schantz, was not an “ethereal, dreamy state of the soul or a billowy universe of specified dimensions.” Rather, Americans conceived of paradise as a material place—a land in which the dead would be resurrected: “Individual bodies and souls would be perfected and the relations of family friendship restored.”

Schantz cites an 1857 book by Sarah Gould, The Guardian Angels, or Friends in Heaven. “We believe paradise to be our fatherland,” Gould wrote. “Why should we not haste and fly to see our home and greet our parents.” In heaven, she insisted, the departed would find “the glorious choir of the Apostles” and the “innumerable company of the martyrs, crowned on account of their victories in the conflict of suffering.”

If this sounds familiar, it is not because we are conversant with 19th Century Christian culture. Rather, the vision of heaven that Schantz conveys bears a striking similarity to the idea of paradise that allows Jihadists to kill and to sacrifice their lives:

Qur’an (9:111) – “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth.”

Qur’an (3:169-170) – “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.”

Those who fight for the cause of Allah—who slay and are slain—are not dead. Rather, martyrs find sustenance and bliss in the garden of Paradise.

Schantz comments briefly on the relationship between Civil War soldiers and Islamic jihadists, asking us to think about how ideas of a heavenly paradise “fold into the political behavior of suicide bombers in various parts of the world.” This contemporary example illuminates Schantz’s study of the Civil War, showing how “ethereal assumptions about the nature of eternity can influence the nitty-gritty world of politics.”

Michael Vlahos develops this idea more deeply in Fighting Identity. Citing a paper by Samuel Watson, Vlahos discusses the battle motivation and behavior of Southern soldiers:

At Fredericksburg some felt that they were “almost in heaven, and could hardly suppress their exultant religious shouts amid the loudest roar and din of the conflict…and the palpable peril of their own lives.” Upon receiving a wound, one man was virtually blinded by faith: “I was not only unafraid to die, but death seemed to me a welcome messenger. Immediately there came over my soul such a burst of the glories of heaven, such a foretaste of its joys, as I have never before experienced. The New Jerusalem seemed to rise before me. I was totally unconscious of any tie that bound me to earth.”

Vlahos poses a question about the relationship between these Civil War soldiers and Islamic radicals: “Was their sacrifice so different from Taliban who ambush American soldiers? Are they not armed as well with the sure foreknowledge of their death?” He concludes that the nonstate actors we face—the terrorists, insurgents and radicals—”fight and die like those men in blue and gray at Fredericksburg.”

Writing about suicide terrorism in the New York Review of Books, Christian Caryl observes that the “ethos of wartime heroism is perhaps not all that different from the forces that drive the suicide bomber.” In the Western World, the greatest hero is the soldier who has “died for his country.”

One can say “dying for Allah” or “dying for one’s country.” The object or entity in the name of which the individual sacrifices his or her life differs, but perhaps the dynamic is the same.

We find it difficult to understand sacrificial death in the name of an ideal that we do not embrace (e.g., “Allah”), but do not find it difficult to understand sacrificial dying in the name of our own ideal (e.g., “preserving the union”). The behavior of suicide bombers is sometimes described as incomprehensible. Yet we embrace and valorize the Civil War with its suicidal attacks (even though the magnitude of slaughter was far, far greater).

One may posit a “law of sacrifice”: an ideal becomes real to the extent that the members of a society are willking to kill and die for it. Sacrificial death functions to validate or verify an idea: that for which we die and kill is true.

We invite reviewers to begin with Schantz’s text—and then to interrogate the theme of the relationship between collective forms of violence and devotion to a sacred ideal.

Please join us in our project investigating the psychic and cultural roots of societal violence.

Best regards,
Richard Koenigsberg

Call for Book Reviewer: Dynamic of Destruction

Dear Colleague,

Library of Social Science Book Reviews is up and running.

Please take a moment to read our Mission Statement that appears below and on our website.

Library of Social Science Book Reviews identifies outstanding scholarly books and publishes thoughtful review essays that engage the author’s arguments and articulate the implications of the book’s ideas, placing them in the context of contemporary thought.

Review essays are published on our website—and distributed by the Library of Social Science Newsletter, which reaches over 65,000 scholars around the world.

We invite you to write a review essay on Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War.

Alan Kramer’s Dynamic of Destruction is significant—not only for the richness of its historical account—but because the book allows us to understand the First World War in a new way. Many studies provide step-by-step accounts of events leading up to the war and details of what happened. However, the large questions remain: Why did the same battle strategies persist in spite of their futility? Why did the slaughter go on and on?

Kramer suggests that First World War combatants embraced a “culture of destruction and self-destruction.” It was not simply the obtuseness of the Generals—the weakness of their strategies and tactics—that generated mass killing. Rather, a genuine dynamic of destruction evolved—defining the war. What does it mean to say that a nation or society embraces destruction and self-destruction?

We seek reviewers to build upon Kramer’s ideas—and to participate in our project of interrogating the sources and meanings of societal forms of violence (see our Ideologies of War website for additional information).Once you have read our Mission Statement and Parameters of a Library of Social Science Book Review (both directly below), please reply by email telling me why you would like to review Dynamic of Destruction.

Please respond by email to:

Parameters of a Library of Social Science Book Review Essay

  • Essays will be written in the spirit of the LSS Mission Statement that appears here.
  • Essays should be between 1300 and 3000 words in length (for a sample essay, click here.)
  • Essays are to be completed no later than three months after receipt of the book.
  • Reviewers may focus on several important issues in order to develop their own views and ideas on the topics treated.
  • Reviews will be edited by the staff of Library of Social Science.
  • Reviews will be published through the Library of Social Science Newsletter, which reaches over 65,000 people in the U.S. and around the world.
  • With each review, LSS will promote a book authored by the reviewer (and/or will publicize an author event).
  • Published reviews will be accompanied by an introduction or commentary written by an LSS staff member.
  • LSS reserves the right to decline publication of any review.

Library of Social Science Book Reviews

Mission Statement

Library of Social Science Book Reviews has been initiated in order to identify outstanding scholarly books and bring them to the attention of scholars, students and thinking people everywhere. We aspire to provide a space of freedom for the presentation and development of significant ideas. We will publish substantial review essays that critically engage and develop the author’s arguments and their implications.

Books will be selected based on their quality and ability to generate change both in the scholarly community and wider society. We will engage in scholarship across a range of disciplines including: political psychology, social theory, anthropology, political science, and twentieth century history. We especially wish to review books that address the sources and meanings of collective forms of violence that take the form of warfare, genocide and terrorism.

The rise of postmodern relativism brought the assumption that each author produces a work that is valid only within a particular discursive community. In our view, scholars should not be circumscribed by their discursive context. We believe that the pursuit of truth is still a primary objective of intellectual activity—and that one individual’s insights can build upon those of others in a collaborative and cumulative process. We seek to develop a community of people who see the possibility of moving towards a degree of consensus on core issues—through collegiality and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge.

The Library of Social Science is positioning itself as a challenge to entrenched ideologies—widening a field of vision that has been obstructed by a penchant for insular specialization. Our reviewers seek to develop new perspectives and theories on the relationship between history, culture, ideology and psychology—that may yield startling insights.

Guided by the academic interests of its founder, Dr. Richard Koenigsberg, Library of Social Science has been contributing to its community by sharing knowledge and advancing human understanding of the social world for several decades. We have helped numerous scholars share their views with the world by promoting their writings through our Ideologies of War website and the Library of Social Science Newsletter, which reaches 65,000 scholars in the United States and around the world.

For the past 40 years, Dr. Koenigsberg has been researching the psychological sources of war and genocide. He is the author of highly acclaimed books such as Hitler’s Ideology: A Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology and Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War, and has lectured extensively throughout the United States.

We have invited a group of dynamic scholars to join us in this endeavor. Some are established authorities in their fields. Others are young scholars seeking a space to convey their insights. We hope that Our Reviewers will have the drive and courage to pursue new ideas—wherever they may lead.