Fights, Games, and Debates

Anatol Rapoport
A scientifically grounded method by which we can understand human conflict in all its forms


This book proposes a scientifically grounded method by which we can understand—and perhaps control—human conflict in all its forms.

From the threat of nuclear catastrophe to the daily tensions of social life, conflict is in the very texture of our existence. Dr. Rapoport discerns three levels: he analyzes fights, in which the adversaries try to destroy or overcome one another; games, in which antagonists strive to outwit each other in a framework of accepted rules; and debates, in which the opponents seek to change each other's views.

Once we understand conflicts, we may prevent a fight by turning it into a game (even such a dangerous game as a Cold War), or turn the game into a debate, the most civilized and only productive form of conflict.

Current events, science, literature furnish the examples of fights and games which Dr. Rapoport here converts into mathematical models for study and comparison. The debate is presented in a model which opposes the views of democracy and communism. If such debates fail, the author points out, it is most often because the opponents cannot, or will not, listen to each other. But he suggests a method by which an opponent may be psychologically compelled to listen.

Alert to the limitations as well as the merits of science, Professor Rapoport broadens our understanding of new disciplines such as "Social Physics" and "Game Theory." His is the first study of conflict as a mode of human behavior on all levels.

Look Inside


Introduction: Three Modes of Conflict     I

Part I: The Blindness of the Mass

Chapter I: A Theoretical Arms Race     15
Chapter II: A Real Arms Race     31
Chapter III: Psychological Epidemics     47
Chapter IV: Co-operation and Exploitation     60
Chapter V: Critique of Social Physics     85 

Part II: The Logic of Strategy

Chapter VI: Game Theory and Its Forerunner, Gambling Theory     107
Chapter VII: Enter the Foe     130
Chapter VIII: The Meaning of Strategy     140
Chapter IX: The Strategy Mixture     151
Chapter X: What If the Opponent Is Both Friend and Foe?     166
Chapter XI: Games with Collusion     180
Chapter XII: Coalitions     195
Chapter XIII: Experiments in Strategic Conflict     213
Chapter XIV: Critiques of Game Theory     226

Part III: The Ethics of Debate

An Apology     245
Chapter XV: To Learn Is To Select; To See Is To Select     248
Chapter XVI: The Blindness of Involvement     259
Chapter XVII: Ways of Persuasion     273
Chapter XVIII: The Assurance of Understanding     289
Chapter XIX: The Region of Validity     292
Chapter XX: The Assumption of Similarity     306

The Debate

The Case for Collectivism     313
The Case for Individualism     335

Concluding Remarks     359
Notes     361
References     381
Index     390

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 416pp.
  • illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1974
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08741-9

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  • $38.95 U.S.