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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Reading this book I had the sense of Anthony Storr as a very decent, modest and wise person. One reason for this is his concluding chapter where he speaks about not having a cure- all for violence, or not expecting there is a way where humanity can wholly rid itself of its own destructiveness.

Storr began this research in part because of his seeing some of the survivors of the Shoah, the Holocaust.

This is what he says about this." I am not alone amongst those of my generation in feeling that the original newsreels of Belsen and the other concentration camps constituted the most shocking experience to which we had ever been exposed: even more shocking than the photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those concentration camp pictures profoundly altered my view of so called civilized nature...That the rulers of Germany had willfully instituted a policy through which millions of human beings wuld be subjected to starvation, humiliation, degradation, torture , and finally extermination came as an appalling revelation.To my mind, even the gas chambers werenot so horrifying as the deliberate destruction of living personalities: the obliteration of everything which gave meaning and dignity to human existence."

Storr goes on to consider the nature of human aggression, aggressive personality disorders, sadomasochism, the ubiquity of paranoia, and then ask 'what is to be done'.

He on the way provides many insights into various forms of human cruelty and destructiveness. He writes about the effect of early childhood deprivation ,and neglect on destructive personalities. He presents the idea ( which would seem to be contradicted by what we know today about the background of suicide- bombers) that the most cruel often come from the poorest elements of society. He considers Maslow's work on 'obedience and authority' and tries to probe the degree to which , as it were normal people, can within a certain system follow the rules to the point of being inhuman. He even makes certain examinations and comparisons with destructive behaviors between animal and human worlds. He considers other factors which may foster destructiveness such as the distance between perpetrator and victim. He warns that in a world in which there are nuclear weapons it is important that " no one group or nation should perceive another as wholly evil and therefore seeks its destruction".

This book was published in its revised edition in 1991 I wonder what Storr would have to say about the world today in which radical Islam and especially that practiced by the leaders of Iran is openly threatening others with annihilation.

In fact I suspect had Storr written the book today he might have included a chapter on 'collectivst and absolutist madness'.

I cannot say that this book gave me the answers I was looking for in trying to understand aggressive destructive violence , but it does provide insights and a degree of understanding.
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