In Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich confronts the mystery of the human attraction to violence: What draws our species to war and even makes us see it as a kind of sacred undertaking? Blood Rites takes us on an original journey from the elaborate human sacrifices of the ancient world to the carnage and holocaust of twentieth-century "total war." Sifting through the fragile records of prehistory, Ehrenreich discovers the wellspring of war in an unexpected place—not in a "killer instinct" unique to the males of our species, nor in our Paleolithic hunting tradition, but in the blood rites early humans performed to reenact their terrifying experience of predation by stronger carnivores. It is in these ancient blood rites that Ehrenreich finds the first form of organized, socially sanctioned violence—and the spiritual antecedent of war.
Moving into historical time, Ehrenreich traces the evolution of war from the sacred undertaking of a privileged warrior caste to the central rite of the mass religion we know today as nationalism and shows the persistence of ancient fears in the most modern rituals and passions of war. Blood Rites is an work that will transform our understanding of the archaic practice that has become the greatest single threat to human life.