War in Social Thought

War in Social Thought: Hobbes to the Present

Hans Joas
Wolfgang Knöbl
translated by Alex Skinner
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    War in Social Thought
    Book Description:

    This book, the first of its kind, provides a sweeping critical history of social theories about war and peace from Hobbes to the present. Distinguished social theorists Hans Joas and Wolfgang Knöbl present both a broad intellectual history and an original argument as they trace the development of thinking about war over more than 350 years--from the premodern era to the period of German idealism and the Scottish and French enlightenments, and then from the birth of sociology in the nineteenth century through the twentieth century. While focusing on social thought, the book draws on many disciplines, including philosophy, anthropology, and political science.

    Joas and Knöbl demonstrate the profound difficulties most social thinkers--including liberals, socialists, and those intellectuals who could be regarded as the first sociologists--had in coming to terms with the phenomenon of war, the most obvious form of large-scale social violence. With only a few exceptions, these thinkers, who believed deeply in social progress, were unable to account for war because they regarded it as marginal or archaic, and on the verge of disappearing. This overly optimistic picture of the modern world persisted in social theory even in the twentieth century, as most sociologists and social theorists either ignored war and violence in their theoretical work or tried to explain it away. The failure of the social sciences and especially sociology to understand war, Joas and Knöbl argue, must be seen as one of the greatest weaknesses of disciplines that claim to give a convincing diagnosis of our times.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4474-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Hans Joas and Wolfgang Knöbl
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    If we survey post-1945 sociology, which has claimed for itself chief if not sole responsibility for the field of social theory, it is striking how little it has been influenced by violence and war. This pattern applies both to the recent violent past, in other words the era of world wars and state-organized mass murder that ended in 1945, and to the dangers of the contemporary era, by which we mean both the tensions between the two superpowers during the Cold War and the unstable international situation of the early twenty-first century. Neighboring subjects or analytical approaches, such as the...

    (pp. 16-64)

    Reflections on war and peace, and even the beginnings ofsocial theoriesabout them, did not of course appear only in the modern era (for an excellent survey, see Johnson 1987). They stretch much further back into the past. So there is some justification for the claim that such works as Thucydides’ (460–396 BC)History of the Peloponnesian Waror Plato’s (427–347 BC)Republicalready featured a large number of ideas of great importance to early modern european philosophy (Münkler 1987, 24f.). but in searching for the forerunners of social theoretical ideas on war and peace, there are...

  6. 3 The Long Peace of the Nineteenth Century and the Birth of Sociology
    (pp. 65-115)

    The nineteenth century is often referred to, for good reasons, as a liberal century. No one would dispute, however, that this liberalism could take on very different forms and that socialism, liberalism’s great adversary, was beginning to gain ground. but even this countercurrent shared more than a few of liberalism’s premises. How did the manifold upheavals of the nineteenth century impact on social theoretical debates on war and peace? Which new topics were examined? Which were abandoned? Were socialist ideas on peace the only significant alternatives to the liberal utopia? And how did Kantian thought and that associated with the...

  7. 4 The Classical Figures of Sociology and the Great Seminal Catastrophe of the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 116-155)

    Despite the intensity of international scientific exchange, at the beginning of the twentieth century the social sciences were strongly influenced by different national traditions. As a discipline, sociology took a particularly wide variety of institutional forms and featured very different theoretical and research programs. The worsening international tensions, ultimately erupting in the First World War, increasingly led to mutual nationalistic stereotyping of the intellectual scene, making it increasingly difficult to refer openly to impulses from other, potentially hostile states. If this was true in a general sense, it applied even more to the discourse on the causes of war and...

  8. 5 Sociology and Social Theory from the End of the First World War to the 1970s
    (pp. 156-193)

    The “Great War,” this rupture with the civilization of the nineteenth century, surely might have prompted profound sociological analyses of war and peace. but such expectations were to be disappointed. It is true that the war brought in its wake a dramatic upheaval in the cultural landscape; prewar culture lost its credibility, particularly in the defeated countries or in those worst affected by the war. The enlightenment faith in progress was eroded, while liberalism as a political movementwith mass appealdisappeared in almost all european countries. From now on, numerous analyses were published expressing a pessimistic view of civilization....

    (pp. 194-216)

    It is fairly easy to unearth analyses of armed violence of relevance to social theory produced between the 1970s and today—easier, at least, than for the period between 1945 and 1970. And a new theoretical movement was in fact beginning to make its presence felt, particularly within sections of American and british sociology, its leading exponents no longer prepared to accept the prevailing neglect of war. This newfound interest in “war” grew out of a complex theoretical mix. Though political elements and current affairs no doubt played a role here, in the main this interest was clearly due to...

    (pp. 217-251)

    Our remarks on developments in Anglo-American historical sociology and its emphasis on war might seem to imply that the social sciences no longer suppress the topic. Sociology in particular might seem at last to have overcome the intellectual barriers blocking its way. but such an interpretation of historical-sociological debates since the 1970s would be precipitate and misleading. We must bear in mind that it was only in the United States and Britain that sociologists tackled the topic of war. Historical sociology was not destined to enjoy similar success in other countries—a surprising state of affairs considering the great interest...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 252-256)

    None of the debates on peace-engendering structures and processes that have taken place since the 1980s in social theory have produced convincing results. The thesis of the “democratic peace” has proved essentially unviable, at least with respect to the so-called Kantians’ initial claim of global validity for their statements. The discussion of “failed states” and “new wars” has focused largely on processes of state decline or marketization but has done little to place these processes within a broader theoretical framework. Finally, the arguments put forward by theorists of an American imperium, which entail antithetical positions, have failed to show that...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 257-276)
    (pp. 277-314)
    (pp. 315-322)
    (pp. 323-326)