Concluding reflections: What wars do

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What do wars do? They obviously kill and destroy, but ever since Weber and Hintze, if not before, we have known that they do much more. These authors noted the centrality of war and military organization for the political, social, and economic development of the broadly defined “West.” More recently, Charles Tilly has argued that without war, the contemporary state would be unimaginable. The authors in this volume have sought to establish a more precise position: that there exists a positive link between war and democracy. Such an argument seems paradoxical on many levels. Given our general positive view of democracy, how can it arise from the squalidness, violence, and injustice of war? Given the chaos and destruction that accompanies conflict, how can it produce something as dependent on rules as democracy? And yet the historical evidence does indicate a link. Proponents of the war-democracy axis often rely on broad correlation rather than direct causation. Simply put, in certain periods and in certain places there were a lot of wars, and afterward there were more democracies than before. Small-n studies allow a better handle on how the specific policies that accompanied a country being at war later led to more progressive measures in one sphere or another. Even rigorous statistical testing does not falsify the claim, but merely suggests that the relationship may be more complex than some attest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIn War's Wake
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Conflict and the Fate of Liberal Democracy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780511761836
ISBN (Print)9780521194815
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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