Russian Sociological Review: State of War: Human Condition and Social Orders
From the beginning, sociology has tried to explain the emergence of social order, and to describe the conditions of solidarity. It has often been criticized for neglecting social conflicts, revolutions, and warfare. However, some sociologists have always been concerned with conflicts and revolutions. Warfare, indeed, has been a rare focus of sociological inquiry. It has only been during recent decades that sociologists have tentatively approached the topic, while the sociology of warfare is still a minor discipline for others. This may explain why social scholars still do not pay attention to the fact that the opposition of war and peace can be questioned. In sociology, social order before modernity is mainly understood as being imposed upon society by the police state which fulfills its legitimate monopoly on violence through specific institutions. Despite globalization, it is often assumed that the self-organization of society takes place within the secure borders of national states. We have to abandon this assumption since there are many instances of hybrid situations in the contemporary world. Examples of various undeclared wars, terror, the strengthening of secret intelligence services, overthrows of governments (coups d’etat), and revolutions challenge the traditional oppositions of the external and internal, or war and peace.
Warfare and social order have always been in an ambiguous relationship to each other. Any warfare causes disorganization and disorder, but it also causes reorganization and the beginning of a new order. Warfare is directly related to the redistribution of resources, border shifts, and the hybridization of social forms. War metaphors permeate into civil narratives. The chance of being killed may be higher in a peaceful city than at the front line. Wars can begin without a formal declaration. Peace is often made beyond legal systems, so there is always a possibility to breach peace without the fear of being accused of violations of agreements, or of being unreasonable. Warfare transgresses the border between the real and virtual worlds, since we live in the age of information-, financial-, hybrid-wars. There seems to be a new global situation which is reminiscent of the era of civil and religious wars, rather than the social order that has been a part of the foundational experience and the intellectual model for sociology at its birth. As a disturbing observation, it is also a challenge for the social sciences, which should not advocate for peaceful processes but should objectively analyze the current situation and the perspectives of social transformations.
With this special issue, we would like to go beyond conventional “sociologies of war”, which recently became a popular field of studies. We aim to radically reconsider the theoretical problem of the constitutive nature of warfare in terms of the (im)possibility of social order, i.e., when war is understood as ultima ratio but also as conditio humana.
At the beginning of the article, the author explains its idea—to explicate the conceptual approach to war as the most important structural element and mechanism for maintaining social order. The author claims the existence of a stable tradition of theorizing based on the argument about the social functionality of the structural violence, which allows interpreting war as a special type of sociality. The representatives of this conventional line of argumentation mentioned in the article are such key figures in the history of ideas, as Thomas Hobbes, Carl von Clausewitz, Carl Schmitt and Michel Foucault. The author formulates ten theses, which problematize the heuristic aspects of war in relation to the theory of social order and are accompanied by short comments explaining the ambivalent status of war topics in the philosophical tradition and sociological classics, because neither of them developed a complete theory of war relevant from the social theory perspective. The key theses state that war experience is constitutive for human societies, and reconstruct the line of argumentation that emphasizes the constitutive function of war for social institutions and political order and the role of war as a major factor of social transformations in the modernity for this role is often underestimated in sociological theory. In conclusion, the author states the need for analytical explication of the organized violence functionality in relation to the structures of social action typical for the modern era. He also claims that within the proposed social-theoretical perspective the war can become a heuristic key to understanding the nature of the social, because this approach allows not only to consider war as a cultural-universal phenomenon, but to analyze more realistically the structural role of violence in the processes of production, reproduction and transformation of social orders.