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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society Cover

ISBN13: 9780316330114
ISBN10: 0316330116
Condition: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"...On Killing is...a quite readable discussion of a topic that gets commonly talked around, but is rarely directly talked about. A large part of America's military budget goes into training and psychologically conditioning people to kill other people; this book shows where some of those tax dollars are going, and why veterans' benefits (particularly psychiatric) are so important." Doug Brown, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The twentieth century, with its bloody world wars, revolutions, and genocides accounting for hundreds of millions dead, would seem to prove that human beings are incredibly vicious predators and that killing is as natural as eating. But Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a psychologist and U.S. Army Ranger, demonstrates this is not the case. The good news, according to Grossman - drawing on dozens of interviews, first-person reports, and historic studies of combat, ranging from Frederick the Great's battles in the eighteenth century through Vietnam - is that the vast majority of soldiers are loath to kill. In World War II, for instance, only 15 to 25 percent of combat infantry were willing to fire their rifles. The provocative news is that modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning, have learned how to overcome this reluctance. In Korea about 50 percent of combat infantry were willing to shoot, and in Vietnam the figure rose to over 90 percent. The bad news is that by conditioning soldiers to overcome their instinctive loathing of killing, we have drastically increased post-combat stress - witness the devastated psychological state of our Vietnam vets as compared with those from earlier wars. And the truly terrible news is that contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques and - according to Grossman's controversial thesis - is responsible for our rising rates of murder and violence, particularly among the young. In the explosive last section of the book, he argues that high-body-count movies, television violence (both news and entertainment), and interactive point-and-shoot video games are dangerously similar to thetraining programs that dehumanize the enemy, desensitize soldiers to the psychological ramifications of killing, and make pulling the trigger an automatic response.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

eglazier, August 28, 2010 (view all comments by eglazier)
i am sure the book is a good study but for one mistake. the canard that most riflemen did not fire their weapons during WWII was generally attributed to gen. s.l.a. marshall and he was wrong. the reviewer that thought this was a good idea would seem to be full of wishful thinking. in combat not using your weapon means not supporting your buddies and would seem to be a death sentence for those depending on your support. war is hell, but those in the middle of it deserve better from their comrades. it is also a way to stay alive.
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jmandert, May 29, 2007 (view all comments by jmandert)
This is an wonderful book that provides stunning insights to a tragedy that always seems to be with us. The idea that most soldiers will not shoot to kill an enemy, but will shoot over their heads or pretend to shoot, is somehow heartwarming. Well worth reading.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780316330114
Subtitle:
The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
Author:
Grossman, Dave
Author:
Grossman, LT Col Dave
Publisher:
Back Bay Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Military - General
Subject:
Military Science
Subject:
Government and political science
Subject:
Violence
Subject:
War and society
Subject:
Homicide
Subject:
Social Psychology
Subject:
Violence in Society
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1
Edition Description:
Pbk
Publication Date:
January 1996
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
8.24x5.90x1.10 in. .78 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
History and Social Science » Military » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Violence in Society

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society Used Trade Paper
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Product details 400 pages Back Bay Books - English 9780316330114 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "...On Killing is...a quite readable discussion of a topic that gets commonly talked around, but is rarely directly talked about. A large part of America's military budget goes into training and psychologically conditioning people to kill other people; this book shows where some of those tax dollars are going, and why veterans' benefits (particularly psychiatric) are so important." (read the entire Powells.com review)
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