warfare


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warfare

warfare, violent conflict between armed enemies. In modern times warfare has usually been conducted by the armed forces (e.g., army, navy, and air force) of a nation or other politically organized group. The way in which war is carried out is governed by the principles of strategy and tactics, by the type of weapons employed (see articles on individual weapons), and by the type of communication and transportation facilities available. Thus, throughout history the methods of warfare have changed. See air forces; amphibious warfare; chemical warfare; biological warfare; fortification; mechanized warfare; trench warfare; guerrilla warfare; siege.
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warfare

  1. violent, usually armed, conflict between STATES or peoples.
  2. comparable but not necessarily violent conflicts between classes, etc., but which stop short of war in sense l . The first of these uses is by far the most important and is dealt with here.
Warfare and preparation for warfare is often regarded as a near universal feature of human societies. This is sometimes explained by presence of innate human aggression as well as by the operation of a TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE in human societies. Against this, however, it is also clear that the incidence of warfare is highly variable, and that in some societies there exists little recourse to warfare and no tradition of MILITARISM. Plainly warfare is a culturally influenced phenomenon rather than simply biologically determined. Nor would there appear to be, in simple or in more developed societies, any straightforward pattern of ecological or territorial pressures which can provide an explanation of variations in the incidence of warfare. In modern societies in particular, warfare requires understanding in politicoeconomic terms.

As the historian TILLY remarks, ‘the state made war, and war made the state’. In particular, as numerous commentators have insisted, the modern European NATION STATE can be seen as having been ‘built for the battlefield’ (ANDERSON, 1974b) – See ABSOLUTISM. Not only this, the entire modern NATION-STATE SYSTEM remains centred on sovereign nation states in which the threat of war is an everpresent possibility. and in which, at least until recently, the very survival of the world was threatened by the antagonism of 'superpowers’ (see also STRATEGIC THEORY, ARMS RACE, COLD WAR). Under these circumstances, and given that the economic and the political side-effects of war have also been extensive (e.g. as a stimulus to reform or REVOLUTION or to political reaction), it is surprising that the study of warfare has not been more central in sociology. Now this is being remedied with a much greater attention being given to the subject by sociologists (e.g. the work of MANN and GIDDENS). A key general issue is how political and military changes and economic and social changes interact. Whereas classical Marxism and many other areas of social science have in the past tended to explain the former in terms of the latter (e.g. see IMPERIALISM), now the tendency is to give much greater credence to the reverse relationship. See also MILITARY-CIVILIAN RATIO, MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, STRATEGIC THEORY, CIVIL WAR.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
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