The History of the Culture of War
11. Male domination 5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state

The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve?

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-guns trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war


Continued from previous page

Violence against women is pervasive in all societies, and much, although not all, can be attributed to the culture of war. The UN Secretary General's Report on Violence against Women (2006) distinguishes the following kinds of violence against women:

1. Violence against women within the family
(a) Intimate partner violence
(b) Harmful traditional practices
2. Violence against women in the community
(a) Femicide: the gender-based murder of a woman
(b) Sexual violence by non-partners
(c) Sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, educational institutions and in sport
(d) Trafficking in women
3. Violence against women perpetrated or condoned by the State
(a) Custodial violence against women
(b) Forced sterilization
4. Violence against women in armed conflict

Although violence against women in armed conflict is the last point on the list, an argument can be made that rape and other violence against women has been fundamental to the culture of war over the course of history. This is still true today, although, as the UN report states, it is difficult to document :

"Although rape in war has been widespread for centuries, it has only recently been recognized as a significant human rights issue. Providing reliable data on the extent of sexual violence in war and humanitarian crises is particularly challenging precisely because of the chaotic circumstances and constantly shifting populations as well as safety considerations. Moreover, many women are reluctant to disclose rape, even in order to access support or obtain justice, either for fear of additional reprisals or because of the stigma associated with sexual violence."

When the facts are told about rape in war, they are overwhelming. Here is an excerpt from Rape: Weapon of Terror by Sharon Frederick and the AWARE Committee on Rape (2001):

"World War II documents, the best recorded evidence of wartime rape, reveal assaults numbering at least several hundred thousand, perhaps as many as two million. Thousands in the villages of Russia and Poland, as the Germans invaded early in the war; thousands more when the Soviets got the upper hand and took revenge on the bodies of German women. In the final two weeks of the war, an estimated 100,000 German women were raped in Berlin, by victorious Russian and other Allied troops. In Asia, figures are more exact: at least 20,000 in the Chinese wartime capital of Nanking when the Japanese invaded China; at least 80,000 - perhaps over 100,000 - Korean, Indonesian, Filipino and Chinese women repeatedly raped during their months as sex slaves of the Japanese soldiers."

"In the decades that followed World War II, the international community paid little attention to, and therefore did little to document, rape during armed conflict though we know a significant number of assaults occurred in areas such as the Congo, Peru, El Salvador, Cambodia and Vietnam . . When Bengal (officially East Pakistan) declared itself the independent state of Bangladesh, West Pakistani troops quickly moved in to quell the rebellion, and to terrorize the population of 75 million by carrying out widespread rape and murder . . "

"During the last decade, rape as a weapon of terror has been documented by news media and international aid organizations in countries including Afghanistan, Kuwait, Algeria, Indonesia, Somalia, Haiti, Kashmir, and Sierra Leone. In the most notorious incidents, more than 20,000 women and girls were raped between 1992 and 1994 as part of the so-called 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped in Rwanda during the genocidal 1994 war that killed between 500,000 and one million people.

In her ground-breaking book about rape, Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller (1975) argued that rape is an inevitable result of the violence and male domination of the culture of war:

"It has been argued that when killing is viewed as not only permissible but heroic behavior sanctioned by one's government or cause, the distinction between taking a human life and other forms of impermissible violence gets lost, and rape becomes an unfortunate but inevitable by-product of the necessary game called war . . "

"War provides men with the perfect psychologic backdrop to give vent to their contempt for women. The very maleness of the military - the brute power of weaponry exclusive to their hands, the spiritual bonding of men at arms, the manly discipline of orders given and orders obeyed, the simple logic of the hierarchical command - confirms what they long suspect, the women are peripheral, irrelevant to the world that counts, passive spectators to the action in the center ring."

Ironically, the criminal justice system with its "eye for an eye" principle, with its disregard for the victim and exclusive concern with punishing the perpetrator, often aggravates the effects of rape by putting the victim through intensive scrutiny and sometimes even accusing her of having caused the rape.

Over the course of history, violence in the family has closely paralleled the subservient status of women, and the culture of war. The most obvious effect is that of wife-beating. There is also a direct relation between the culture of war and family violence against children as shown by cross-cultural analysis. In their paper, Explaining Corporal Punishment: A Cross-Cultural Study, Carol and Mel Ember (2005) found a significant relationship of war frequency to violence against the child:

"In previous research on warfare (Ember and Ember 1992a), we found it important to exclude pacified societies because their warfare frequency was artificially reduced by a colonial power. So we reexamined the relationship between corporal punishment of children and war frequency in nonpacified societies. We found the war frequency is significantly related to corporate punishment in nonpacified societies."

In recent centuries, the culture of war through colonialism and authoritarian rule has adversely affected the family in other ways that have been indirect, but no less destructive. For example, the study mentioned above by Carol and Mel Ember on determinants of corporal punishment of children found that: "corporal punishment of children is likely in societies that are marked by power inequality caused by the presence of social stratification or high levels of political integration, or an alien power (as indicated by a longtime use of alien currency)."

The capitalist exploitation of women and children since the beginning of the industrial revolution, which has been closely linked to the culture of war, has also had a destructive impact on the family. And in more recent years, millions of families have been further decimated by the drug trade and the great rise in prison populations, especially in the United States. As the family has been weakened or destroyed, it is the children, the elderly and the handicapped who suffer the most, since historically their main support came from their role and their sustenance within the context of the extended family. Although the most dramatic and oppressive effects have been on the families of the poor, the families of the middle classes have not escaped. The modern globalized economy demands frequent household moves, long hours and multiple employments and increased frequency of both parents working. Once again, it is the children, the elderly and the handicapped who suffer most.

End of section

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discussion board

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?