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The Causes of War 1st Edition

2.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0745641997
ISBN-10: 0745641997
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Editorial Reviews


"Provides good summaries of a wide range of debates in conflict theory alongside a diverse array of historical
material and case studies. The book commends itself to the attention of researchers, advanced undergraduates and postgraduates in the field of international relations theory, security studies and peace and conflict studies."
Acta Politica

"A fine overview of the major factors influencing decisions for interstate war – power, democratic peace, and trade – across different levels of analysis. The inclusion of frequent case applications and a discussion of civil war are bonuses."
Paul F. Diehl, University of Illinois

From the Back Cover

Wars often spring out of nowhere with little warning. One need only look at the recent troubles at the Lebanon-Israeli border for evidence of this claim. At other points in history, such as the run-up to the Second World War, wars seem all but foretold. How does one understand a phenomenon that, at times, seems so random, while at others so predictable? Is there an underlying "cause" of war and, if so, what is it? In this book, David Sobek argues that there is no single explanation for war: factors leading to war in one case may well lead to peace in another. Understanding the onset of war, he contends, requires a movement away from single theories towards one that embraces the multi-faceted causes of war.

The characteristics of individual states, the strategic interaction of multiple states, and the broad structure of the international system all affect the risk of war. Throughout the book Sobek draws on a wide range of examples – from the rise of Japan in the 19th century to the emergence of Hamas in the 21st century – to show how both domestic and international politics push states to, or pull them from, the brink of armed conflict. While civil war and terrorism are often viewed as a from of violence distinct from interstate war, Sobek examines them as simply an extreme form of asymmetric warfare. From this perspective terrorism emerges as just another tactic used by actors engaged in armed conflict.
The Causes of War will be essential reading for students of security and strategic studies as well as anyone seeking to understand the rise of violent conflict in the contemporary world.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (December 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745641997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745641997
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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I have taught undergraduates using this book and unfortunately it doesn't meet basic requirements. Problems include: long overly detailed empirical/historical examples (often taking up half or more of a chapter) that contain little analysis or pertain only very loosely to the theories being explained; unexplained/defined jargon in a few places; digressions into narrow arguments in scholarly literature that distract from key points and will likely confuse undergraduate readers; repetition of material (both examples and theories) in a poorly executed attempt to divide theories into levels (e.g democratic peace material gets repeated in two chapters, at state and dyadic level with little value added but plenty of confusion caused and 'power' gets a state-level chapter that makes little sense in isolation from dyadic and system level explanations).
This probably could have been a useful book (there is a gap in the market) and the introductory chapters on methodology were helpful - but their interesting themes of emergent causality, etc, were barely carried forward into the main chapters. I suspect several rounds of revision would have solved some of the problems so poor editing may be part of what's at issue. It's not a bad idea to resist the division of material into 'liberal', realist', etc but more thought has to go into what replaces those divisions.
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