War and Violence in Classical Sociology

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* Article: How Pacifist Were the Founding Fathers?: War and Violence in Classical Sociology. By Sinisa Malesevic. European Journal of Social Theory, 13 (2), pp. 193-212

URL = https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241647433_How_Pacifist_Were_the_Founding_Fathers_War_and_Violence_in_Classical_Sociology

"the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by the primacy of militarist ideas in social thought. Not only was it that war and violence constituted the esprit de corps of German academia (Mann,1988, 2004), but similar ideas were widespread and highly popular within leading academic circles throughout Europe and North America."

Contextual Quote

"The central premise of this article is that classical social thought was not, by and large, ignorant of war and violence. Instead it is the hegemony of ‘anti-militarist’ social theory in the second half of the twentieth century that has ‘cleansed’ sociology of the study of warfare by simultaneously ignoring its prolific, diverse and imaginative ‘bellicose’ tradition and by reinterpreting the classics in strictly ‘pacifist’ terms.1Rather than consisting solely of the ‘holy trinity’ – Marx, Durkheim and Weber – which, in the wake of WWII, were established as the principal if not the only representatives of the sociological cannon, classical social thought was much wider and significantly less ‘pacifist’. In many respects, the period of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the time of sociology’s institutional birth, was dominated by a ‘militarist’ social thought. Much of this intellectual tradition is worth revisiting, as once the trappings of normative bellicosity are removed, there is a wealth of sociologically potent concepts and ideas that can help us make sense of the profoundly sociological phenomena which are war and violence

- Sinisa Malesevic [1]


"Most commentators agree that the study of war and collective violence remains the Achilles heel of sociology. However, this apparent neglect is often wrongly attributed to the classics of social thought.

This article contests such a view by arguing:

(1) that many classics were preoccupied with the study of war and violence and have devised complex concepts and models to detect and analyse its social manifestations; and

(2) most of the classical social thought was in fact sympathetic to the ‘militarist’ understanding of social life.

In many respects, classical social thought shared the analytical, epistemological and even moral universe that understood war and violence as the key mechanisms of social change. The structural neglect of this rich and versatile theoretical tradition is linked to the hegemony of the normative ‘pacifist’ re-interpretation of the classics in the aftermath of two total wars of the twentieth century. The author argues that the contemporary sociology of war and violence can gain much by revisiting the key concepts and ideas of the classics."

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