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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Paradoxes of War by Princeton University

654 ratings

About the Course

The Paradoxes 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. All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion....

Top reviews


Mar 14, 2018

Very interesting topic and well-presented, too. Covers virtually every historic period in which there's been warfare (which, I guess, is every historic period in which there's been people).


Jan 11, 2020

Great course! This course has provided some great information and proposed some important philosophical questions. I wish there were exams and a certificate to go along with it too.

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26 - 50 of 154 Reviews for Paradoxes of War

By Manuela E

Oct 8, 2015

This was a very interesting course - clearly presented and well paced. The assignments were at a good level - with my only recommendation being a bit more detail in the marking rubrik.

Thank you - it was a thought provoking analysis on a topic that could be very emotional.

By Carolyn S

Jun 2, 2016

This course is entirely riveting and imminently informative, timely, and important. Dr. Centeno is a wonderfully engaging instructor and he does an excellent job of discussing these often difficult, thorny issues with sensitivity, academic acuteness, and balance.

By Tracey P

Sep 22, 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and thought it was an excellent introduction to thinking about war from a sociological perspective which picks apart our 'common sense' and 'everyday' understandings. I've also found it a great launchpad for further study.

By Gustavo B

Dec 22, 2015

The professor is excellent, great didactic. Good material, readings and pictures to illustrate the course.

I would only suggest to try to not repeat the content on the classes, but I understand he was repeating some topics in order to state some points.

By Nathalie v L

Nov 3, 2022

Great course. Studied a lot of history and anthropology and traveled a lot. I really was amazed how this course managed to connect some dots that I had perhaps senses but was unable to vocalize. Really interesting and the professor is very engaging!

By Tom H

Sep 4, 2015

I found this course extremely interesting and very informative. I have long been interested in the evolution of society and in particular the advances made by society. The development of the nation state and its institutions was fascinating.

By Hải T Q

Jul 21, 2020

As a learner, thank you so much for giving me an overall and thorough view about War. As a Vietnamese, I very much respect your neutral point of view on the Vietnam War. Wish you all the best and hope that you will visit my country some day!

By Ricardo P

Jul 11, 2016

Excelente. Ofrece una gran cantidad de elementos teóricos para entender el fenómeno de la guerra. Como historiador militar me resulta muy constructivo conocer la visión sociológica que ayuda a comprender y complementar mis investigaciones.

By Swen L

Mar 9, 2017

Interesting approach and good overview of the long history and development of the Western way of war.

A bit of a gap between the long historical development lines up until WW2 and the the last lectures about more recent events.

By Dennis V

Jul 17, 2016

Great. Gives very interesting points of view and he enlightens interesting aspects.

I like his style of presentationand and he is very good to understand. If he would do another project with Cousera - I would join.


By Angela J

Oct 30, 2016

Fantastic course on war by a professor who is passionate, articulate, and very focused in his effort to provide primer material on such a wide and complex topic. Thanks very much for creating this course! I've learnt a ton.

By John C

Jan 12, 2022

This was one of the most enjoyable courses that I have participated in on Coursera. The material was interesting. The instructor was passionate about the material. My classes engaged in lively discussions. Thank you.


Jan 24, 2016

As a 24 yr military officer from a service academy I would like to complement the instructor......He is doing a great job, especially given no military service and direct experience in battle. I complement him.

By Jack K R

Jan 18, 2016

Well worth your time in hearing first hand from combat veterans. " War What is it Good For?" an excellent book that is thought provoking, it covers a lot of the material that is discussed throughout the course.

By Patrick P

Jul 3, 2017

One of the best introductory courses. For a thoroughly understanding of the subject matter, you do need to read the additional texts (I would even recommend not only the given chapters, but the whole books).

By Sanna H Y

May 21, 2020

Absolutely great course, I highly recommend it to everyone! It will definitely deepen your knowledge. The professor's knowledge on the topic is profound and his way of teaching is very clear. Thank you!

By Oleg V K

May 12, 2016

It very interesting MOOC and quite unique of it's kind. It's good MOOC for everyone who want to get deep vision of history, it highlight and studies wars in a unique and very interesting way.

By Joan V P

Oct 2, 2021

One of the best academic experiences I had.

As a soldier I would recomend it to my fellow soldiers and to my civillian friends so they could understand a little better the paradoxes of war.

By Daithi M W

Mar 15, 2018

Very interesting topic and well-presented, too. Covers virtually every historic period in which there's been warfare (which, I guess, is every historic period in which there's been people).

By Roei

Aug 20, 2015

Fantastic course on a global subject which lay in the core of the human experience. A must have course for any history lovers and geopolitical enthusiatists.

By Thomasybruce

Aug 14, 2015

Highly informtative, relevant and has been useful in cross study with other modern state of war studies, such as Terrorism and Counter Terrorism studies.

By gigi n

Dec 7, 2019

Well done and well organized. Instructor is an excellent teacher--it feels like you are watching an episode of National Geographic on sociology of war!!

By Arkadeep M

Dec 13, 2015

This course has been an eye opening one, clearly giving poignant insights into the life of a soldier, the nature of war and the role of societies in it!

By Jose A D D

Feb 9, 2021

Very good course provides, regarding his topics, a concise, precise, clear, and very well documented and supported arguments and background.

By Víctor F

Nov 26, 2017

Great lectures and great reading recommendations, i have ordered a couple of books from the bibliography and was not dissappointed.