War does not need a grand narrative

But they may still be helpful

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, grand narratives of war have been springing up everywhere. From Conflict by David Petraeus 2023, (appearing at the upcoming Howthelightgetsin Festival), to On Wars by Michael Mann 2023, and How States Think by John Mearsheimer and Sebastian Rosato 2023, these sweeping accounts aim to provide profound insight into conflict and human nature. Gladstone Professor of Government at the University of Oxford, Stathis Kalyvas, in this short article, explains why these accounts fail, but why people still want them anyway, and why their comfort and familiarity makes them desirable.  


There is no question that grand narratives of war are fashionable. Historical accounts, taking a broad sweep over tens or even hundreds of years, are published regularly, and they are often penned by a range of thinkers across the academic

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