War, State and Society

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View War and Medicine optional on our Module Directory. How has it been shaped by the fighting between indigenous populations and its European and African settlers? Broadly speaking transitional justice refers to the belief that any State where mass atrocities have taken place should engage with a set of judicial and non-judicial processes in order to achieve a successful transition from conflict to peace or repression to democracy.


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Repressive military regimes are examples of the more general phenomenon of totalitarianism, which is inherent in the surveillance state.

Bibliographic Information

In terms of the internal organisation of national societies, we are moving in a 'post-military' direction, although he does not use this term. The system of nation-states - rather than capitalism or industrialism - is, then, the key to understanding the problems of military power. Despite the extent to which some states are militarily and politically subordinate to others, and despite elements of international organization, world society is more than ever composed of competing nation-states with the means to wage industrialized war.

This analysis leads Giddens to largely pessimistic conclusions. No plausible "dialectical counterpart" to the progressive accumulation of military power seems to exist. Hope is sought, however, in resistance to militaristic values - old-style militarism is seen as in decline, new-style militarism as no more than a propensity to seek or accept military solutions. In its restoration of the issues of war and militarism to the centre of social theory in general, and state theory in particular, it is far and away the most important text yet published. Its basic theoretical approach has been questioned, however, by Jessop, who argues that.

There seem to be two separate issues here. It is possible to argue, as this chapter does in relation to war and militarism, with the way the four are specified and to suggest better explanations for their interactions. But Jessop clearly wants to go further than this. Giddens has, however, given compelling reasons for structuring our explanations of social integration - and social change - around the nation-state rather than around capitalism. It is not an oversight that prevented him from arguing as Jessop suggests.

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War, State and Society | Jacklyn Cock | Palgrave Macmillan

As our preliminary discussion has indicated, his argument brings together main points which are increasingly common ground among state theorists. The Nation-State and Violence is a persuasive statement of the new theoretical consensus based on the widely perceived inadequacies of Marxist state theory. A great deal, after all, hinges on the argument about pacification and surveillance. Giddens is adopting very broad historical standards when he dismisses class, industrial, political, racial, criminal or personal violence in contemporary societies as not amounting to significant violence for his purposes.

When he accepts the Marxist concept of class struggle, but denies there is significant class violence, he identifies violence narrowly with organized, armed fighting and killing. But it is still unclear that Giddens is on strong historical ground. It would have been difficult for him to put forward his argument at an earlier stage in the development of nation-states and capitalism.

In the first half of the twentieth century organized class violence - for example, between the paramilitary formations of communist and fascist parties - was all too commonplace. Class struggle appeared as likely to culminate in political violence as it did in pacification and integration. It is not so clear, then, that these are features of nation-states as such, rather than of the more industrially advanced nation-states since the Second World War.

May not pacification also be regarded as a contingent military outcome?

War & Society Journal

What these issues demonstrate is that while The Nation-State and Violence presents itself as a synthesis, it is often raising fundamental historical and analytical issues rather than resolving them. If this is true of its observations on social violence, it is even more true of the analysis of war and militarism.


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These themes are in reality far more problematic than Giddens allows. For him, they are a means of explaining important features of the modern nation-state, but they are still not treated coherently from a theoretical point of view. Because of the new importance accorded to military power as one of the core institutional clusterings of modern societies, it is necessary to develop a social theory of war and militarism. Despite many assertions of the striking effects of war on society, Giddens never enters into the theory of war: to seek, for example, the sociological meaning of Clausewitz, whose concept of war could be set alongside the ideas of Marx and Weber as an intellectual landmark for the modern era.

He therefore lacks a general explanation for the facts which in so many ways he finds of startling importance for understanding modern societies. The difference is that where Giddens offers us a series of historical accounts of military technology, organization, etc. Giddens writes of the concentration of outward-pointing military violence in the state, but he does not discuss the logic of its use in actual war. This is where, as Kaldor recognizes, Clausewitz is essential. The core of his work is his concept of warfare as a contest of force, to which there is no necessary limit.

But the essence of war is the contest of force which tends to become absolutely destructive. Clausewitz may not have envisaged that absolute war would ever be fully realized in practice: but as Howard points out, nuclear war threatens to abolish friction and make war instantaneously absolute. The absolutism of war is a fact of general sociological interest.

It is this which accounts for the tendency of war to cut through established patterns of social relations. The logic of violence dwarfs other social concerns, so that both formal and informal social institutions undergo change in response to the demands of warfare.