Paradoxes of War - Coursera

An introduction into the historical, psychological, and sociological analysis of organized conflict.

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Starts on June 1st , 2014 

About the Course

The Paradox of War teaches us to understand that war is not only a normal part of human existence, but is arguably one of the most important factors in making us who we are. Through this course, I hope that you will come to appreciate that war is both a natural expression of common human emotions and interactions and a constitutive part of how we cohere as groups. 

That is, war is paradoxically an expression of our basest animal nature and the exemplar of our most vaunted and valued civilized virtues. You will learn some basic military history and sociology in this course as a lens for the more important purpose of seeing the broader social themes and issues related to war. 

I want you to both learn about war, but more importantly, use it as way of understanding your everyday social world So, for example, the discussion of war and gender will serve to start you thinking about how expectations of masculinity are created and our discussion of nationalism will make clear how easy “us-them” dichotomies can be established and (ab)used. 

I will suggest some readings for you to complement the class and assign some activities through which you will be able to apply the theoretical insights from the course to your observations of everyday life. 

At the end of the course, you will start to see war everywhere and come to appreciate how much it defines our life.

Course Syllabus

The Warrior's War
  • Is War Natural?
  • Warriors in Battle
  • Why Not Run Away?
  • What Do Soldiers Believe In?
  • Brutality
  • Discipline
From Wars of Armies to Wars of Societies
  • Wars of Armies
  • Progress of Battle 
  • Gunpowder 
  • Industrialization of War
  • Technowar 
War and Society
  • Social Aspects of War
  • States
  • Nationalism
  • Soldiers and Citizens
  • War and Equality
  • Conquest. Genocide, and Armageddon
The Future of War
  • The Rise of the Rest
  • New Challenges
  • Conclusions: Empire and the Western Way of War

Recommended Background

No prior background is required.

Suggested Readings

  • Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 1, 2.1, 2.2-6, 2.7-24, 2.34-46, 2.47-54, 2.59-65, 2.71-78, 3.20-24, 3.35-50, 3.52-68, 3.81-84, 4.3-4.41, 4.46-484, 4.90-101, 4.117-11, 5.6-11, 5.14-24, 5.25-26, 5.42-48, 5.76-83, 5.85-116, Books 6 and 7
  • Homer, Iliad, Books 1,3, 7, 9, 24
  • Virgil Aeneid, Books 2, 4
  • Thomas E. Ricks, Making the Corps
  • E.B. Sledge, With the Old Breed,  Chaps 1-4, 10-15.
  • John Keegan, The Face of Battle, Chs. 2-4.
  • US Grant, Memoirs , Chs. 21-22, 24-25, 30-31, 33-37, 39, 42-44, 49-51, 55-57, 59, 62, 65, 67-68.
  • Michael Gordin, Red Cloud at Dawn, Chs. 1, 2,6, 7, Epilogue
  • Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire. Part III
  • Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture, Chs. 1, 6, 8, 10, Afterword.
  • Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, “Concernign Violence, Colonial War and Mental disorders, Conclusion.
  • Keith Lowe, Savage Continent, Part I (All), Chs. 8-10, 18-20, 22-24.
  • Ian Buruma, Year Zero

Course Format

This course will consist of lecture videos, activities and various reading assignments.  Students will also be encouraged to participate in the discussion forums.

Red Salutes to the CPI(Maoist) - Adapt, Change and Conquer.

“ It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
- Theodore Roosevelt (26th US President (1901-09), 1858-1919)
Interesting Links

Interesting Links

A very interesting interview with Mr Yogendra Yadav, valuable lessons in it for all activists. The wise learn from the experiences of others. Pay special attention to The third problem with our revolutionaries and radical social movements

Meanwhile, the PMRD Fellows who had all gone underground after the abduction of Alex Paul Menon , are now slowly emerging from their respective districts, now that their tenure coming to an end. You can read about their subjective experiences for what it might be worth at

Red Ant Dream - Maati ke lal - Gondi Internationale

Maati Ke Lala -

Gondi Internationale

Link :
Upcoming Screenings :

17 June 2013 (Monday)
National Film Archive of India
FAC Screening, NFAI Law College Road, Pune 411004

19-22 July 2013
details to be announced

July 2013
details to be announced