Blood Rites

Origins and History of the Passions of War

Barbara Ehrenreich

Published: 7 April 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781847083531


What lies behind the human attraction to violence? Why do we glorify war, seeing it as an almost sacred undertaking? Barbara Ehrenreich is known for the originality and clarity of her thinking, and in Blood Rites she proposes a radical new theory about our attitudes to bloodshed. From the trenches of Verdun to today's front lines, Ehrenreich traces the history of warfare back to our prehistoric ancestors' terrifying experiences of being hunted by other carnivores. Written with wit, tenacity and intellectual flair, this is vintage Ehrenreich, and an account that will transform our understanding of human conflict.

About the author

Image of Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of over twenty books, including Nickel & Dimed: Undercover in Low-Wage USA, Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World and Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War. She is a frequent contributor to Time, Harper's, The Progressive, The Nation, the New York Times Magazine and the Guardian, and has also written for The Times and the New Statesman. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. More about the author


‘A radical new theory of why humans (not exclusively men) are so keen to wage war ... Part anthropology, part sociology, part history, this is an original, eye-opening and highly persuasive account’



‘Barbara Ehrenreich is unique. I know of no other living writer in English with her ability to write with such clarity, wit, wisdom and narrative power across such a vast range of vital topics ... Anyone baffled or demoralized by the endurance of war ( and that, surely, includes most of us) has a duty to read Blood Rites ... A wonderful book’

‘Blood Rites takes us on an original journey from the elaborate human sacrifices of the ancient world to the carnage and holocaust of 20th century "total war"’

‘Ehrenreich does a great job of keeping the reader gripped and engaged, and by the end she successfully casts a bright light on an otherwise shadowy topic’

‘Exceptionally wide-ranging, Blood Rites is brilliant, persuasive, and thoroughly accessible’

‘Her exploration of the motivations for war and the effects of it is excellent, and never simplistic’

‘Keen and arresting ... One of today's most original writers has tackled one of humankind's most intractable subjects’

‘Offers plenty of food for though for any with an interest in evolutionary psychology, anthropology, philosophy or political science’

‘Original and illuminating. It is a large step from the all-male hunting band to the US Marine Corps. Barbara Ehrenreich plots the path, nevertheless, both passionately and persuasively’ John Keegan

‘Splendid ... A fascinating perspective on our staunch devotion to mass, mutual slaughter. Blood Rites is that rare animal, a non-fiction page-turner’

‘The fact of war and the recurrent habit of war has not changed in the 15 years since first publication of this book; but the methods of waging war have altered and are considered in a new edition of one of the most significant books of recent times’ Iain Finlayson

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