A few years ago I read the best book I have ever encountered about the economic system of this country and its connection with war. After reading it, I was left with feelings of sorrow, anger, and more than a little frustration. But today, I decided that the very least I could do about these feelings was to recommend the book in the hopes that understanding the issues will empower people to act. The name of the book is The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War(NYU Press, 2015).
First, a word about the authors, because it’s helpful to understand where they are coming from. Both Marc Pilisuk and Jennifer Rountree are connected with Saybrook University in Oakland, California, an online educational institution that examines the interconnectedness of everything and whose mission it is to inspire transformational change. Marc Pilisuk is also a steering committee member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and a former president of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. He is Professor Emeritus of Human and Community Development at the University of California-Davis. Co-author Dr. Jennifer Rountree has a PhD from Saybrook and is research manager at the National Indian Child Welfare Association in Portland, Oregon, where she works in community-based participatory research with American Indian/Alaska Native tribes and urban Indian communities.
In The Hidden Structure of Violence, the two analysts look at the way that war uniquely justifies violence, giving a state “the recognized right to order people to conquer, to destroy, and kill.” They examine “the system of interconnected military and corporate elites whose power dominates decisions that affect the use and distribution of resources,” and they describe how the global corporate economy creates conditions that disturb the whole ecological system and threaten all of life on earth.
But don’t just take my word for how important this book is. Many have commented enthusiastically about The Hidden Structure of Violence. Here are just a few of the comments:
Tom Hayden, antiwar and social justice activist, called the book “one of the most comprehensive – and programmatic – discussions of the sources and nature of global violence in years.”
Milton Schwebel, a colleague of Pilisuk and editor and former president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, describes the book this way: “…speaks the truth about the causes of war and cuts through the veil of theories that mystify and obscure rather than explain the causes . . . a forthright and hard-hitting critique of the power elite’s control of government, foreign policy, and the media.”
And high praise indeed comes from The Monthly Review, a long-established magazine that analyzes economic issues from a social justice perspective:
The Hidden Structure of Violence marshals vast amounts of evidence to examine the costs of direct violence, including military preparedness and the social reverberations of war, alongside the costs of structural violence, expressed as poverty and chronic illness. …The result is a stunning indictment of our violent world and a powerful critique of the ways through which violence is reproduced on a daily basis, whether at the highest levels of the state or in the deepest recesses of the mind.
I’ll end this column with the way that Marc Pilisuk and Jennifer Rountree conclude their book: “Ultimately any shift from a world of violence will require from each of us a heartfelt and compassionate dedication to justice.”
Polly Mann is a co-founder of Women Against Military Madness and regular contributor to this newsletter.
Note: This article ran in the print edition of the WAMM Newsletter, Volume 36, Number 5, Fall I edition. Go to hereto see more WAMM newsletters.