Limited war and limited states

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


All peaceful states may be alike, but warring states each fight in their own way. Wars reflect the political and social idiosyncrasies of the states that fight them. The structures and habits of political life obviously help shape the manner in which a society practices war. Consider the contrast between the hoplite armies of the Greek city-states and those of imperial Persia. The first was characterized by individual prowess woven into a powerful strategic weapon by the discipline of shared citizenship and constant training. The other, while physically impressive, was often rotten at the core and unable to withstand adversity. A millennium later, Machiavelli despondently compared the mercenary armies of the Italian city-states with those larger and more homegrown varieties that appeared to enjoy an unbeatable advantage on the battlefield. In the 1790s, the French Revolution gave birth to the first true national army of citizens, which militarily and politically transformed the rest of Europe. The world wars of the twentieth century may be seen as products and producers of the contemporary regulatory welfare state. In short, armies reflect their societies and help in turn to shape them through their demands and socializing influences. We are, at least partly, how we fight. This essay argues that the particular form of interstate warfare seen in Latin America is closely related to the social, fiscal, and political bases of these states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIrregular Armed Forces and Their Role in Politics and State Formation
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780511510038
ISBN (Print)0521812771, 9780521812771
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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