The Origins of War

The Origins of War: A Catholic Perspective

Matthew A. Shadle
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Origins of War
    Book Description:

    Debate rages within the Catholic Church about the ethics of war and peace, but the simple question of why wars begin is too often neglected. Catholics' assumptions about the causes of conflict are almost always drawn uncritically from international relations theory-a field dominated by liberalism, realism, and Marxism-which is not always consistent with Catholic theology. In The Origins of War, Matthew A. Shadle examines several sources to better understand why war happens. His retrieval of biblical literature and the teachings of figures from church tradition sets the course for the book. Shadle then explores the growing awareness of historical consciousness within the Catholic tradition-the way beliefs and actions are shaped by time, place, and culture. He examines the work of contemporary Catholic thinkers like Pope John Paul II, Jacques Maritain, John Courtney Murray, Dorothy Day, Brian Hehir, and George Weigel. In the constructive part of the book, Shadle analyzes the movement within international relations theory known as constructivism-which proposes that war is largely governed by a set of socially constructed and cultural influences. Constructivism, Shadle claims, presents a way of interpreting international politics that is highly amenable to a Catholic worldview and can provide a new direction for the Christian vocation of peacemaking.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-751-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC INTELLECTUALS have failed to give an adequate account of the origins of war. Despite important contributions to debates over the morality of war and to the establishment of peace, Catholics have not developed a convincing account of why nations come into conflict with each other in the first place. Of course, Catholics who write on war have assumptions about the reasons for conflict; these assumptions guide their judgments on the morality of war and on what should be done to prevent it, yet they are almost always drawn uncritically from the field of international relations theory or from...

  5. CHAPTER ONE From the Bible to the Middle Ages
    (pp. 7-28)

    IN RECENT DECADES scholars looking back on the Christian tradition have focused on the ethical aspects of war, tracing three strands of thought: pacifism, the just war tradition, and the crusade.¹ In a century that suffered the horrors of the two world wars, when nuclear weaponry has threatened humankind’s very existence, and when international organizations have at least held out the prospect of a world without war, it is understandable that Christians would mine their tradition for insights into the morality of war. Yet in the history of Christian thought, there is also a tradition of reflection on the origins...

  6. Chapter Two The Emergence of Modernity
    (pp. 29-52)

    IN THE MODERN period, political thought underwent radical changes that transformed the way the origins of war were understood.¹ The first of these changes was an increasing emphasis on the limitless desire of the human will. The second was the severing of any connection between the state and humanity’s ultimate, transcendent end. The third change was the emerging view of politics as a supposedly objective science independent of metaphysical or religious claims. These three changes came about, at least in part, through the intentional repudiation of the preceding Christian political tradition, and therefore not surprisingly contributed to ways of understanding...

  7. Chapter Three Contemporary International Relations Theory
    (pp. 53-74)

    THE MAJOR APPROACHES to international relations theory that emerged in the twentieth century developed directly out of the thought of the political philosophers described in the previous chapter. Michael W. Doyle divides this thought into three strands that have shaped international relations theory in the twentieth century: realism, liberalism, and socialism (or Marxism). Doyle associates Machiavelli and Hobbes (along with Jean-Jacques Rousseau) with realism; Locke, commercial pacifists like Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham, and Kant with liberalism; and Marx with socialism.¹ In the twentieth century, each of these strands developed more systematic approaches to understanding international relations, including the origins...

  8. Chapter Four Constructivism
    (pp. 75-94)

    IN THE 1980s and 1990s, a handful of international relations scholars calling themselves constructivists began to challenge the then-dominant theories of international relations, particularly neorealism and neoliberalism. They argued that earlier theories had presented too limited views of state behavior, ignoring the important role of culture. In reality, the constructivists claim, the identities, interests, and norms that shape state behavior are formed by states’ relations with one another as well as by domestic social forces, and states are motivated by a wide variety of interests. I will argue that the constructivists’ main claims suggest that war results from clashing socially...

  9. Chapter Five A Catholic Perspective on the Origins of War
    (pp. 95-114)

    CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS AND political scientists concerned with understanding war can use constructivism as a fruitful source for thinking about war’s origins. Constructivists are critical of several elements of modern political thought, many of which emerged precisely as a departure from the earlier Christian tradition, as described in chapter 2. Therefore, perhaps surprisingly, a constructivist view on the origins of war shares much in common with that of the earlier Christian tradition. This should be of more than antiquarian interest because, as I will show in this and later chapters, Catholic theologians and official Catholic teaching have consistently challenged central ideas...

  10. Chapter Six Twentieth-Century Catholic Thinkers
    (pp. 115-136)

    J. BRYAN HEHIR has written, “If one takes the nuclear age from its inception, it is still true to say that papal writing on war and peace has been the driving force of the [Catholic] tradition.”¹ Nevertheless, the popes’ writings depended on the thought of theologians and other Catholic thinkers, and because theologians are typically able to give more detailed accounts of their reasoning than popes and councils, it is important to consider the work of some of the more prominent Catholics who have examined the issues of war and international order. In the mid-twentieth century, there was a convergence...

  11. Chapter Seven The Twentieth-Century Popes and the Second Vatican Council
    (pp. 137-162)

    BEGINNING WITH POPE Leo XIII, the neoscholasticism exemplified by the works of Francisco de Vitoria and Francisco Suarez has been central to papal thinking on war and peace. On the other hand, papal thinking in this period also gradually shifted toward the modern view of politics as a practical realm divorced from transcendent ends, culminating in the thought of Pope John XXIII. This conception of politics sat uneasily with the natural law tradition that provided the basic framework for papal thought, but it nevertheless led John XXIII to adopt three principles typical of liberal international relations theory: the assumption that...

  12. Chapter Eight Pope John Paul II
    (pp. 163-180)

    PAUL’S SUCCESSOR POPE John Paul II (1920–2005, pope 1978–2005) more fully integrated twentieth-century Catholic theological reflections on historicity and the relationship between nature and grace into his reflections on international politics, including in his account of the origins of war; on the other hand, to a significant extent he maintained the view of the international system as a whole that was developed by John XXIII and Paul VI. John Paul II transformed papal thinking about domestic society and the behavior of states, yet his account of the international system remained mostly untouched by the theological concepts he developed...

  13. Chapter Nine Contemporary Catholics
    (pp. 181-200)

    DESPITE THE POPES’ significant statements on war and peace, some of the most important reflection on these themes has continued to come from Catholic intellectuals. Alongside the Catholic radicalism exemplified by Dorothy Day and carried on by later generations of American Catholic activists, J. Bryan Hehir and George Weigel represent the dominant strands in American Catholic intellectual discourse about war. Both Hehir and Weigel openly acknowledge the influence of John Courtney Murray on their own thought, although they have taken his ideas in somewhat different directions. Hehir, a liberal Catholic, has applied Murray’s thoughts on the morality of war to...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 201-210)

    MODERN CATHOLIC THINKING on war, with its emphasis on war’s morality, has ignored many of the insights of the long tradition of Christian reflection on the origins of war. Beginning with the Bible and the church fathers and continuing into the Counter-Reformation, Christian thinking about war has coupled the more well-known reflection on the morality of war with a description of the origins of war, in which war is described as being rooted in particular cultural and religious practices that shape the behavior of those responsible for making decisions about war. As modern political thought rejected the basic presuppositions of...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-230)
  16. Index
    (pp. 231-246)