Night Owls: Why Do We Fight?

Friday, May 20, 2022 - 9:00pm - 11:59pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Christopher Blattman

Christopher Blattman will discuss Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Path to Peace, in conversation with Agnes Callard.

Part of the Night Owls late-night philosophy series presented by the Department of Philosphy at the University of Chicago.At this event, we will discuss the following questions (and more): Why aren't there more wars than there are? Does pride make people willing to fight? In the future, will there be less war? Are humans fundamentally aggressive? Is war ever rational?

This event will be held in person at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.

About the book: Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the fear of another American civil war, most of the time wars don't happen, and of the millions of hostile rivalries worldwide, only a fraction erupt into violence. At this moment of crisis in world affairs, this necessary book from a seasoned peacebuilder and acclaimed expert in the field lays out the root causes and remedies for war and explain the reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers can turn the tides once conflict threatens to or becomes war. Its message could not be more urgent right now. Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. From warring states to street gangs, ethnic groups and religious sects to political factions, there are common dynamics to heed and lessons to learn. Along the way, through Blattman's time studying Medellín, Chicago, Sudan, England, and more, we learn from vainglorious monarchs, dictators, mobs, pilots, football hooligans, ancient peoples, and fanatics. What of remedies that shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to dealmaking? Societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence when they want to—even gangs do it. Realistic and optimistic, this is a book that lends new meaning to the adage "Give peace a chance."

About the author: Chris Blattman is the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at The University of Chicago’s Pearson Institute and Harris Public Policy. He is an economist and political scientist who studies poverty, violence and crime in developing countries. He has designed and evaluated strategies for tackling poverty, including cash transfers to the poorest. Much of his work is with the victims and perpetrators of crime and violence, testing the link between poverty and violence. His recent work looks at other sources of and solutions to violence. These solutions range from behavioral therapy to social norm change and local-level state building. He has worked mainly in Colombia, Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Chicago’s South Side. Dr. Blattman was previously faculty at Columbia and Yale Universities, and holds a PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Administration and International Development (MPA/ID) from the Harvard Kennedy School. He chairs the Peace & Recovery sector at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Crime, Violence and Conflict initiative at MIT’s Poverty Action Lab (JPAL). 

About the interlocutor: Agnes Callard is an Associate Professor in Philosophy. She received her BA from the University of Chicago in 1997 and her PhD from Berkeley in 2008. Her primary areas of specialization are Ancient Philosophy and Ethics.

Event Location: 
Mandel Hall
1131 E. 57th St.
Chicago, IL 60637