Chris Blattman book talk a great success

October 18, 2022

On October 4, 2022, a large audience showed up at the Segal Centre to hear University of Chicago Professor Chris Blattman discuss his new book Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace.

Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the fundamental causes and remedies for war. Blattman offers five key reasons why conflict occasionally wins over compromise, and shows how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. 

Dr. Blattman reminded us that human societies have a natural tendency towards peace. “Most of the time we don’t fight, and we don’t fight because it’s ruinously costly” in both economic and human terms. But “every time we fight, it’s because a leader or a society ignored or was willing to pay those costs of war.” In his talk he outlined the five main reasons that decision gets made.

Moderator Professor Chris Bidner pointed out that the metaphor of flying through a gorge sets Blattman’s book apart from other books on war. As the gorge narrows due to increasing pressures on a given country or society, room for maneuvering decreases. Blattman explained that while there is a large incentive for peace, as nobody wants to endure the misery and cost of war, when the walls close in it seems like there is no choice. “Peacemaking,” he says, is about “flying in more open skies.”

This public event was supported by the SFU Department of Economics, School for International Studies, FASS, and the Beedie School of Business’s Centre for Corporate Governance and Sustainability at SFU, and the Vancouver School of Economics at UBC.