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War, Sociology Of

War, Sociology Of



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Published by Jacobin Parcelle
Encyclopedia Series OF Conflict, War, and Peace : Sociology Of Wars
Encyclopedia Series OF Conflict, War, and Peace : Sociology Of Wars

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Jacobin Parcelle on Feb 17, 2009
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possible explanation, which is yet to be tested empiri-cally, is that a key element in membership of para-military groups may be the development of a moralityof loyalty which in turn is related to the developmentof a relevant situated social identity.This is obviously a very difficult to area in which toget hard evidence. The existing evidence thereforecomes from atypical group members, is largely an-ecdotal, and has mostly been gathered by journalistsrather than social scientists. It could be argued,however, that scholars could make more use of theseas primary sources. Probably the only thing we canclaim to have any firm evidence on is that children andyoung people who join nationalist
separatist guerrillamovements are not psychopaths and come from noparticular social strata of society. Other hypothesesincluding ideas of ‘terrorist personality types’ orpsychodynamic explanations will always be very hardto substantiate.
6. Children and Peace
Oneoftheproblems,ithasbeensuggested,inbringingpeace to societies that have experienced politicalviolence is that the next generation will have eitherbegun to believe that there is no future, or that theywill be able to think of the future only in negativeterms.Given that we know little about the way in whichchildren develop concepts of peace and war it could bearguedthatitisprematuretotrytoeducatechildrentobepeacemakers(see
).Despite this lack of basic knowledge this process hasalready begun in some societies and some peopleapparently believe it is effective. However, there isvirtually no empirical evidence to substantiate theirclaim. A major problem would appear to be that toomuch of what passes for peace education focuses oninterpersonal conflict as opposed to intergroup con-flict. In future, curriculum designers need to produce amore effective peace education program and also toovercome the problem that peace education
per se
isnot always politically acceptable.It could also be argued that school-based peaceeducation is always bound to be ineffective because ittargets the wrong people in the wrong setting. Forexample, there is speculation, if not evidence, thatchildren’s ideas about peace and war may be moreinfluenced by what they learn from their parents thanfrom their schools. There is definitely evidence, whichis nowoften forgotten,thatlearningabout such thingsaspeace and war involvesemotions primarily and thatproviding facts may not alter these emotions. This isobviously an area which is in need of much moreresearch which develops what is known and makes itamenable for use in applied settings.The alternative to peace education which is mostoften advocated is bringing children together fromopposing groups in order to foster positive intergroupattitudes—the contact hypothesis. This has been awell-researched area for many years and now boastsan extensive literature. What this literature indicates isthat for contact to be even minimally effective it has totake place under highly prescribed conditions. How-ever, what advocates of the contact hypothesis appearto be reluctant to accept is that while there is evidencethat bringing groups together promotes interpersonalcontact satisfactorily, it does not necessarily promoteintergroup contact.There is also good evidence that intergroup conflictcan be reduced by manipulating the process of socialcategorizationinordertoaltergroupboundaries.Thisis a strategy that both social scientists and policymakers should consider more often. The evidence alsosuggestsitisnotpossibletobringsocialcategorizationto an end entirely. Rather it is better to concentrate onaltering the content of stereotypes or manipulatingwho gets put in which social category by alteringintergroup boundaries.
See also
: Coping across the Lifespan; Disasters,Coping with; Stress and Coping Theories; Violenceand Effects on Children
.Blackwell,Oxford,UKDawes A, Donald D 1994
Childhood and Ad 
ersity: Psycho-logical Perspecti 
es from South African Research
. DavidPhilip, Cape TownFreud A, Burlingham D T 1943
War and Children
. Medical WarBooks, New YorkGarbarino J, Kostelny K, Dubrow N 1991
No Place to be aChild 
. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoLeavitt L, Fox N 1993
The Psychological Effects of War and Violence on Children
. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJMachel G 1996
Impact of Armed Conflict on Children
. UnitedNations Children’s Fund and United Nations Department of Public Information, New YorkRaviv A, Oppenheimer L, Bar-Tal D 1999
How ChildrenUnderstand War and Peace
. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco
E. Cairns
War, Sociology of 
The sociology of war is a central topic in both politicaland historical sociology, since war is one of the mostimportantpoliciesstatescanpursue,andtheoutcomesof wars have often shaped both the formation and thedissolution of states. The literature on war is thusconcerned with both its causes and its consequences.Studies of the causes of war can be divided intothree broad categories. The first type takes the systemas a whole as the unit of analysis and focuses on how16363
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characteristics of the interstate system affect thefrequency of war. Debates focus on characteristics of the interstate system that are thought to increase ordecreasewar,suchasglobal economiccycles, balancesof power, and the increasing role of transnationalorganizations such as the United Nations. States arethe unit of analysis in the second type, which exploresthe relationships among political, economic, andcultural features of particular states and their pro-pensitytoinitiatewars.Socialscientistsdisagreeaboutthe effects of political systems (democracy vs. auto-cracy) and economic systems (capitalist, socialist, orother) within states on war. The third type analyseswar as an outcome of choices made by individual andsmall-group decision making. There is also no con-sensus on which model of individual decision makingis most appropriate for the study of war. Is thedecisiontogotowarbasedonarationalcalculationof economic costs and benefits, or is it an irrationaloutcome of distortion in decision making in smallgroups and bureaucracies?Theories of the consequences of war tend to focuseither on its role in state formation, or on its causalimpact on internal revolts and revolutions. Historicalsociologists have shown that the frequency, duration,andtimingofmedievalandearlymodernwarfarewerethe most important determinants of the size andstructure of states (Tilly 1975, 1990, Ertman 1997).However, just as war can make states, it can breakthem too. For example, Skocpol (1979) argues thatcostly warfare often leads to fiscal crises and statebreakdown, facilitating revolutions.
1. Causes of War: The Interstate System
Most studies of war that take the interstate system asthe unit of analysis begin with assumptions from the‘realist’ paradigm. States are seen as unitary actors,and their actions are explained in terms of structuralcharacteristics of the system. The most importantfeature of the interstate system is that it is anarchic.Unlike politics within states, relations between statestake place in a Hobbesian ‘state of nature.’ Since ananarchic system is one in which all states constantlyface actual or potential threats, their main goal issecurity. Security can only be achieved in such asystem by maintaining power. In realist theories, thedistribution of power in the interstate system is themain determinant of the frequency of war.Althoughallrealisttheoriesagreeontheimportanceof power distribution in determining war, theydisagree about which types of power distributionsmake war more likely. Balance-of-power theories(Morgenthau 1967) suggest that an equal distributionof power in the system facilitates peace and thatunequal power distributions lead to war. They arguethat parity deters all states from aggression and thatan unequal power distribution will generally result inthe strong using force against the weak. When onestate begins to gain a preponderance of power in thesystem, a coalition of weaker states will form tomaintain their security by blocking the further ex-pansion of the powerful state. The coalitions thatformed against Louis XIV, Napoleon and Hitler seemto fit this pattern.Hegemonic stability theory (Gilpin 1981) suggestsexactly the opposite, that unequal power in the systemproduces peace and that parity results in war. Whenone state has hegemony in the world system, it hasboth the incentive and the means to maintain order inthe system. It is not necessary for the most powerfulstate to fight wars, since their objectives can beachieved in less costly ways, and it is not rational forother states to challenge a hegemon with overwhelm-ing power. For example, the periods of British and UShegemony were relatively peaceful and World Wars Iand II occurred during intervening periods in whichpowerwasmoreequallydistributed.Arelatedattemptto explain great-power war is power transition theory(Organski1968).Powertransitiontheorysuggeststhatdifferential rates of economic growth create situationsin which rising states rapidly catch up with thehegemonic state in the system, and that this change inrelative power leads to war.Debates about power transitions and hegemonicstability are of much more than theoretical interest inthe contemporary world. Although the demise of theUSSR has left the USA as an unchallenged militaryhegemon, its economic superiority is being challengedby the European Union and emerging Asian states(Japan in the short run, perhaps China in the longrun). If power transition and hegemonic stabilitytheoriesarecorrect,thisshiftofeconomicpowercouldlead to great power wars in the near future.Another ongoing debate about systemic causes of war concerns the effects of long cycles of economicexpansion and contraction. Some scholars argue thateconomic contraction will increase war, since the in-creased scarcity of resources will lead to more conflict.Others have suggested the opposite: major wars willbe more frequent during periods of economic expan-sion because only then will states have the resourcesnecessarytofight.Goldstein’s(1988)researchsuggeststhat economic expansion tends to increase the severityof great-power wars but that economic cycles have noeffect on the frequency of war.One significant change in the last half of thetwentieth century which will require substantialrevisions in realist systemic theories of war is thedevelopment and increasing power of transnationalorganizations(such as the United Nations), since theirassumption that the interstate system is anarchicalmay no longer be valid. If the military power of theUnited Nations continues to grow, it could becomemore and more effective at preventing wars andsuppressing them quickly when they do start. Of course,it remainstobeseenwhetherpowerful existing16364
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states will choose to cede more power to suchinstitutions.Theoretical debates about the systemic causes of war have not been resolved, in part because the resultsof empirical research have been inconclusive. Eachtheory can point to specific cases that seem to fit itspredictions, but each must also admit to many casesthat it cannot explain. Part of the problem is thatsystemic theories have not incorporated causal factorsat lower levels of analysis, such as internal economicand political characteristics of states. Since the effectsof system-level factors on war are not direct but arealways mediated by the internal political economy of states and the decisions made by individual leaders,complete theories of the causes of war must includethese factors as well.
2. Causes of War: Capitalism and Democracy
One of the longest and most heated debates about thecauses of war concerns the effects of capitalism.Beginning with Adam Smith ([1776]1976), liberaleconomists have argued that capitalism promotespeace.Marxists(Lenin[1917]1939),ontheotherhand,suggest that capitalism leads to frequent imperialistwars.The Smithian liberal argument suggests that sincecapitalism has both increased the benefits of peace (byincreasingproductivityandtrade)andthecostsofwar(by producing new and better instruments of de-struction), it is no longer rational for states to wagewar. The long period of relative peace that followedthe triumph of capitalism in the nineteenth centuryand the two world wars that came after the rise of protectionist barriers to free trade are often cited insupport of liberal economic theories (but the samefactscanbeexplainedbyhegemonicstabilitytheoryasa consequence of the rise and decline of Britishhegemony).In contrast, Marxists (Lenin [1917]1939) argue thateconomic problems inherent in advanced capitalisteconomies create incentives for war. First, the highproductivity of industrial capitalism coupled with alimitedhomemarketduetothepovertyoftheworkingclass result in a chronic problem of ‘underconsump-tion.’ Capitalists will thus seek imperial expansion tocontrol new markets for their goods. Second, capital-ists will fight imperialist wars to gain access to moreraw materials and to find more profitable outlets fortheir capital. These pressures will lead first to warsbetween powerful capitalist states and weaker per-ipheral states, and next to wars between great powersover which of them will get to exploit the periphery.With theincreasingglobalization ofeconomics, andthe transitions of more states to capitalist economies,the debates about the effects of capitalism, trade, andimperialism on war become increasingly significant. If Adam Smith is right, our future is likely to be morepeaceful than our past; but if Marxist theorists areright, we may see economically based warfare on anunprecedented scale.The form of government in a country may alsodetermine how often it initiates wars. Kant([1795]1949) argued that democratic states (with con-stitutions and separation of powers) will initiate warsless often than autocratic states. This conclusionfollows from asimple analysis ofwhopays thecosts owar and who gets the benefits. Since citizens arerequired to pay for war with high taxes and their lives,theywillrarelysupportwarinitiation.Rulersofstates,on the other hand, have much to gain from war andcan pass on most of the costs to their subjects.Therefore,whendecisionsaboutwararemadeonlybyrulers (in autocracies), war will be frequent, and whencitizens have more control of the decision (in democ-racies), peace will generally be the result.Empirical research indicates that democratic statesare less likely than nondemocratic states to initiatewars, but the relationship is not strong (Kiser et al.1995). Perhaps one reason for the weakness of therelationship is that the assumption that citizens willoppose war initiation is not always correct. Manyhistorical examples indicate that in at least someconditions citizens will support war even though it isnot in their economic interests to do so, due tonationalism, religion, ethnicity, or other cultural fac-tors.Perhaps the most interesting current debate aboutdemocracy and war surrounds the proposition thatdemocratic states never fight each other. There isclearly a strong empirical generalization to be explain-ed, since all agree that democratic states rarely fighteach other—depending on exactly how ‘democracy’and ‘war’ are defined, some argue they never do(Weart 1998). However, scholars disagree about thecausal mechanism responsible for this association.Some stress the role of political culture, arguing thatthe norms of toleration and mutual accommodationthatpreventconflictswithindemocraciesfromescalat-ing to violence have the same effect in limiting violentconflicts between democracies. These states considereach other part of the same ‘ingroup’ sharing the samevalues, and are thus very unlikely to fight. In contrast,others suggest that ‘democratic peace’ could be theresult of rational self-interest. Democratic politiciansmay simply fear the negative impact that losing a warmight have on their prospects for re-election. Furtherresearch, probably at the level of detailed case studiesthat can reveal precise causal mechanisms, will benecessary to resolve this debate.
3. Causes of War: Decision Making
Few theories of war focus on the individual level of analysis; their assumptions about individual decisionmaking are usually implicit or undeveloped. Notableexceptions include rational choice theories (Bueno deMesquita 1981, Bueno deMesquita and Lalman 1992)16365
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