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War in Social Thought:
Hobbes to the Present
Hans Joas & Wolfgang Knöbl

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013

Hardcover | 2012 | $42.00 | £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691150840
336 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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This book, the first of its kind, provides a sweeping critical history of social theories about war and peace from Hobbes to the present. Distinguished social theorists Hans Joas and Wolfgang Knöbl present both a broad intellectual history and an original argument as they trace the development of thinking about war over more than 350 years--from the premodern era to the period of German idealism and the Scottish and French enlightenments, and then from the birth of sociology in the nineteenth century through the twentieth century. While focusing on social thought, the book draws on many disciplines, including philosophy, anthropology, and political science.

Joas and Knöbl demonstrate the profound difficulties most social thinkers--including liberals, socialists, and those intellectuals who could be regarded as the first sociologists--had in coming to terms with the phenomenon of war, the most obvious form of large-scale social violence. With only a few exceptions, these thinkers, who believed deeply in social progress, were unable to account for war because they regarded it as marginal or archaic, and on the verge of disappearing. This overly optimistic picture of the modern world persisted in social theory even in the twentieth century, as most sociologists and social theorists either ignored war and violence in their theoretical work or tried to explain it away. The failure of the social sciences and especially sociology to understand war, Joas and Knöbl argue, must be seen as one of the greatest weaknesses of disciplines that claim to give a convincing diagnosis of our times.


"This excellent book is the best in its field, and it deserves and will surely gain wide readership."--Choice

"War in Social Thought issues a provocative warning to those who engage in theoretical and political debates without taking account of the history of ideas. Indeed, Hans Joas and Wolfgang Knöbl demonstrate that seemingly new structural ideas about war and peace in fact have antecedents in the past and are discredited by the bloody history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."--Ingo Trauschweizer, Michigan War Studies Review

"That this book provides a good recounting of the effects of warfare within the world stage of competing nation-states bound by their own domestic dilemmas of economics and politics is what makes it useful."--Jerome Braun, Society (Springer)

"This book is an excellent synthesis of the literature on war, and the authors' own perspective on the debates is often incisive."--Michael Mann, American Journal of Sociology


"Joas and Knöbl place modern sociological theory in the distinctive perspective of war and peace, actual conflicts and struggles to end armed strife. This encourages readers to see familiar themes in new light as well as to pay attention to often-neglected dimensions of classical sociological theory. Not least, they help to situate theories that are often considered ahistorically in the abstract as part of the effort to understand war and peace in particular historical contexts."--Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science

"Viewed in its social context, war embraces every dimension of human life, yet the subject of war is almost wholly missing from social thought. This book is a very valuable corrective to this situation and well worth reading."--Edward Luttwak, Center for Strategic and International Studies

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Table of Contents:

Preface vii

  1. Introduction 1

  2. War and Peace before Sociology: Social Theorizing on Violence from Thomas Hobbes to the Napoleonic Wars 16

  3. The Long Peace of the Nineteenth Century and the Birth of Sociology 65

  4. The Classical Figures of Sociology and the Great Seminal Catastrophe of the Twentieth Century 116

  5. Sociology and Social Theory from the End of the First World War to the 1970s 156

  6. After Modernization Theory: Historical Sociology and the Bellicose Constitution of Western Modernity 194

  7. After the East-West Conflict: Democratization, State Collapse, and Empire Building 217

  8. Conclusion 252

Notes 257

Bibliography 277

Name Index 315

Subject Index 323

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