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The Paradoxes of War teaches us to understand that war is not only a normal part of human existence, but is arguably one of the most important factors in making us who we are. Through this course, I hope that you will come to appreciate that war is both a natural expression of common human emotions and interactions and a constitutive part of how we cohere as groups. That is, war is paradoxically an expression of our basest animal nature and the exemplar of our most vaunted and valued civilized virtues. You will learn some basic military history and sociology in this course as a lens for the more important purpose of seeing the broader social themes and issues related to war. I want you to both learn about war, but more importantly, use it as way of understanding your everyday social world. So, for example, the discussion of war and gender will serve to start you thinking about how expectations of masculinity are created and our discussion of nationalism will make clear how easy “us-them” dichotomies can be established and (ab)used. I will suggest some readings for you to complement the class and assign some activities through which you will be able to apply the theoretical insights from the course to your observations of everyday life. At the end of the course, you will start to see war everywhere and come to appreciate how much it defines our life.
All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion.
The basic paradoxes of war: how it builds and destroys, produces love and hate are discussed. Outline of course and general expectations.
The Nature of War
War is a product of both “natural” instincts and a social creation involving the imposition of organization and authority structures.
The Causes of War
Causes of war may be described as material, cultural, and psychological. At the heart of war is the product of us-them dynamics.
The Experience of War
In order to understand the social creation of war we need to
appreciate that this is an activity VERY few would engage in
with control or inducement.
Warriors are taught a set of values of which duty and honor
are fundamental. These are taught through the imposition of
The War of Armies
Wars are about organized violence and this part of the
course traces the managerial and technological
developments necessary to culminate in total wars.
The Progress of Battle
Historical overview of battle formations from phalanx to gunpowder revolution to industrialized war.
The War of Societies
Wars can also be about societal survival and we look at three examples: conquest, genocide, and strategic bombing.
Social Aspects of War: Nation State and Nationalism
Wars help build states and nationalism
Social Aspects of War: Democracy, Citizenship, and Social Equality
Wars also develop citizenship and democratic demands
The Rise of the Rest
While the West was dominant for 500 years, beginning in
1945 new forms of war have challenged the technological
and organizational supremacy of old empires.
Wars are not fought as they were yet militaries are still organized anachronistically.
Summary of the class.