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July 1, 1974

Psychological Bases of War

Author Affiliations

Coconut Grove, Fla

JAMA. 1974;229(1):85-86. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230390061040

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Behavioral scientists have grasped at many explanations for man's warring nature. Man's ability to rationalize any behavior is at best a weak justification. Many causes of war have been suggested: contiguity, habituation, social learning, predation, psychological defenses (eg, rationalization, blaming, denial, projection), the host of fears associated with the human condition, territoriality and power, intolerable frustration, biologically rooted aggressive instincts, and sadism.

As a polished book, these conference proceedings between American and Israeli psychoanalysts represent another rationalization that illuminates yet hardly justifies the continuing existence of war. Obviously, interesting material includes thoughts of many participants who had recently lived with war.

The chief weakness of applying psychoanalytic thought to social problems such as war lies in moving from individual pathology and its solutions to the group situation. War is not a "proper" object for psychoanalytic study. Conference participants demonstrate one reason for this that making war is an activity of