||A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history
The internal culture of war: A taboo topic
|5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state|
The History of the Culture of War
The preceding descriptions, with the exceptions of Crete and Harappan civilizations, provide a clear picture of warfare at the dawn of history. The usefulness of war was completely transformed by the state from its usefulness in prehistory:
1. A source of wealth in terms of plunder and slavery
The scope of the culture of war associated with warfare was expanded, but included all six of the aspects that had evolved during history, plus five others. The first eight of its aspects below correspond to those listed in the original UNESCO document on the culture of peace (United Nations 1998), while the last three are added here:
1. armies and armaments
All of the various aspects of the culture of war at the dawn of history were inter-related, forming a single integrated system in which each aspect reinforces the others. This corresponds to the description of cultural phenomena by Leslie A. White (1959) that was quoted in the first section of the present book. The causal relationship between warfare and the culture of war is in both directions: warfare produces a culture of war and a culture of war produces war.
11. means to deter slave revolts and political dissidents including internal use of military power, prisons and executions.
It is not easy to document the history of the internal use of military power to deter and suppress internal revolts, or the prisons and executions associated with it. It is hardly mentioned in the UNESCO history. However, we may assume that the internal use of military power has been one of the important functions of the culture of war since the beginning of civilization, as described by Leslie A. White (1959) in The Evolution of Culture:
"Warfare tends to maintain and even to intensify the class structure of nations. Peoples of the vanquished nation are subjugated. The masses of the victorious nation have become subordinated to absolute rule as a condition of waging war, while the ruling class becomes enriched and more strongly entrenched in power.
In modern times we have interior ministries, police forces, national guard forces, and a range of prisons and other punitive institutions to maintain internal control, but it is not clear from the descriptions of early empires how revolts by political dissidents and slaves were normally kept in check. We may assume that military force, imprisonment and execution were employed. We know, of course, that Socrates was imprisoned and executed by the Greeks and Jesus by the Romans, and there are stories like the following about the control of slaves, this story coming from ancient Rome (Bennetts 2002) :
"In 61 AD, Nero's urban prefect was murdered by one of his slaves. Under an earlier Augustan law, every slave under the same roof at the time of such a murder was to be put to death as a deterrent. The entire household of 400 slaves, including men women and children were condemned to death, despite the protests of some members of the Roman Senate against the punishment of women, children and the innocent.
One historian who dealt with this question was Friedrich Engels, concerned, along with his close collaborator Karl Marx, with the question of class struggle. In his book Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels (1884) makes the point that the state, from its very beginning, included a "special public force" to maintain its class structure.
"The second distinguishing characteristic [of the state] is the institution of a public force which is no longer immediately identical with the people's own organization of themselves as an armed power. This special public force is needed because a self-acting armed organization of the people has become impossible since their cleavage into classes. The slaves also belong to the population: as against the 365,000 slaves, the 90,000 Athenian citizens constitute only a privileged class. The people's army of the Athenian democracy confronted the slaves as an aristocratic public force, and kept them in check; but to keep the citizens in check as well, a police-force was needed, as described above. This public force exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men, but also of material appendages, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds."
The lack of attention to the internal function of war is all the more remarkable since the internal use of force is essential to the very definition of the state. In general, it receives so little attention in the descriptions of ancient civilizations (both by those civilizations at the time and by contemporary historians), that we may consider it as a taboo topic. The taboo against discussing this continues to the present day, as will be considered in the following section.
Early empires, as described above, glorified their external military exploits against foreign enemies in their propaganda, art and religion, while they downplayed the internal use of the military to maintain order within the state. The glorification of the power of violence of the military rulers against external enemies should have impressed the citizenry sufficiently to discourage revolt. If, on the other hand, the rulers had emphasized the internal use of the military, it might have been counter-productive, producing a climate of fear and suspicion, much as Thucydides described when Hellenic society "became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow." As described above by White, religious institutions played an important role in supporting the internal culture of war by masking its force with elaborate rituals and teachings. The ruler was not said to rule by force but by religious "divine right." Over time, the capacity of the state for internal intervention became assumed but not questioned. Those who dared to raise questions would risk being considered as subversive.
World Peace through the Town Hall