Reviewer Michelle Kaye Malsbury:
Michelle was born in Champaign, IL. Currently, she resides in Asheville, NC
and is in her second year of doctoral studies at Nova Southeastern
University in Ft. Lauderdale with specialization/concentration in
conflict resolution and peace studies. She has over six hundred
articles published on the web and one book published thus far with
many more in the wings. Hobbies include; reading, writing, music, and
playing with her Australian Cattle Dog, Abu.
Author: Dr. Nayef R.F. Al-RodhanPublisher: Transaction Publishers
Author: Dr. Nayef R.F. Al-RodhanPublisher: Transaction Publishers
Dr. Al-Rodhan begins emotional amoral egoism logically and sequentially with the topic of human nature and introduction of various theorists positions on same. The subject matter is complex and spans a variety of disciplines. Each chapter’s material builds on the previous one in support of Rodhan’s overall theme: which is to advance the scholastic understanding of human nature and to tie that understanding of human behavior to international relations associated with global security. (2010, pgs.13-14).
I found his hypothesis and arguments to be a refreshing and interesting approach to international relations that can be readily applied toward increased understanding, accountability, and transparency regarding human behavior on a number of levels ranging from our educational systems, to government and media.
Instead of using the Locke theory of the human mind (tabula rasa or blank slate), Dr. Al-Rodhan builds upon that framework and introduces what he calls “predisposed tabula rasa.”
In this context Al-Rodhan states “…genetic make-up is…code for survival”. He hypothecates that- “Survival instincts are emotionally based and neurochemically mediated.” To which Al-Rodhan adds, “We are therefore driven by both basic survival instincts and rational thought.” (2010, p.15) These statements form the backbone for his argument that human behavior is focused on emotional self-interest, i.e. survival first [fear] and foremost, that this self-interest sets the stage for what individuals might do, or be capable of, with regard to morality and/or pre-emptive aggression. (p,17)
Disciplines crossed in this in-depth, comprehensive, look at human nature range from psychological approaches to human nature to religious and spiritual approaches, to human nature, to philosophical approaches, and finally through evolutionary approaches. The theory proposed by Dr. Al-Rodhan considers human motivations, emotions, genetic make-up, personality traits and their heterogeneous variations along with neurochemical and environmental factors, behavioral modification, and reflection. He conceptualizes those theories and interfaces them with morality and international relations, identity construction, xenophobia, and ethnocentricity toward increasing our understanding of conflict and boundaries in our moral communities.
There is also chapter designated to global governance, challenges, and responses just prior to reconciling the research findings and offering implications/recommendations that is especially helpful in understanding how we can apply this theory to practice.
Questions to be pondered in reading this work hinge on age old debates beginning with: constraint of our emotions v. perfection through reason, the nature/nurture debate, what influences come from environment v. those attributed to our biological heritage, through whether or not human beings are endowed with innate morality or radical freedom? To which Dr. Al-Rodhan replies, “We are neither radically free to choose our nature nor entirely determined by our biological heritage”. (2010, p.65) Furthermore, Al-Rodhan believes that our “…survival instincts are emotionally based…” and “the result of variation and competition.” (p.68) However, it is important to note, “Sometimes, emotions may be influenced by conscious thought.” (p.69) Human beings have the capability to be “…either moral or immoral depending on what their general self-interest dictates”. (pgs.70-71)
Al-Rodhan suggests that “…environment can alter how instincts are acted on”. (2010, p.73) And that “…fear, pain, and grief…” are some factors that influence human motivation. Depth of the emotion may add to the intensity of the act. (p.77) Other drivers of human actions/behavior are: “ego, pride, and reputation” as well as, “…greed…individual inclinations…” and “…reason…reflection and morality…”. (pgs.78-82) Taken together or singularly, all of those influences are likely to contribute to, and determine, what each person deems moral or immoral according to Al-Rodhan.
Emotions and genetic make-up need also be factored into our actions or reactions to any given situation or circumstance. Al-Rodhan has traced brain activity to emotions and notes that emotions are neurochemically based and stress related. Certain societal factors and environmental situations, as well as, personality disorders can trend toward more aggressive behaviors and negative emotions. Therefore, changes induced via medications targeting specific areas of the brain where these chemicals are triggered or via introduction of behavioral modification therapy should be capable of creating differing outcomes in certain circumstances. (2010, chapter 3.7)Toward this end, Al-Rodhan happens to attach more importance to emotions as controllers for behavior than reason. (p.138)
Can understanding what drives certain human behavior be a critical factor in creation of peace and international stability? Dr. Al-Rodhan suggests yes. It should be the express desire of world leaders to “…create the conditions under which the expansion of our moral communities may become more likely”. (2010, p.156) How can this be done? Al-Rodhan believes this can be achieved by: promotion of inclusive “…national identities” and “…diversity…”spearheaded through “…policies and governance structures aimed at reducing structural inequality and promoting inter-civilisational understanding and dialogue”. (p,165)
In closing Al-Rodhan adds “The educational system is a particularly important means of combating xenophobia and ethnocentrism by increasing awareness of others and teaching children to unlearn stereotypes”. (2010, p.173) “The media and information and communication technologies are also critical vehicles.” Putting this into practice means we must pay close attention to: “…traditionally marginalized groups, including the poor, women, and people with disabilities, in the political process”. (p.198)
In emotional amoral
egoism Al-Rodhan writes a very comprehensive summary outlining the
components that comprise human behavior and how various factors can
influence actions and emotions. This book should be a must read for
world leaders who wish to work toward more peaceful and stable
international relationships, educators who are concerned with undoing
biases and stereotypes that contribute to creation of conflict and
division, and the media who are challenged with writing truthfully
and with integrity about what can and needs to be done to make this
world a better place for all people.