Politics, War, and Law

This research thread is related to the recently published article on “Futures of a distributed memory: A global brain wave measurement (1800–2000)“.

Consider these two Google Books ngrams, which represent the top words associated with the political system and the legal system in English and German:



If these ngrams mean anything, war tends to raise the importance/urgency of politics (the political system) over law (the legal system). Law resolves conflict through legal means, while politics uses the medium of power–the power to make collectively binding decisions. Politics creates the difference between obedience and disobedience, while law creates the difference between legal and illegal. War reflects instability of the political system or environmental irritation of the political system. Because the system is unstable, it receives more attention.

In the above German-language ngram, the Cold War years show a continual ascendency over politics, more so than in the English ngram. This may reflect the partition of Germany after WWII. In the German graph, politics falls steeply after the end of the Cold War and German reunification.

Some people have argued that the war (or perhaps the military) is a function system in its own right. But it seems more reasonable to classify war as a programme of politics, just as laws, regulations, and contracts are programmes of the legal system. Martial law, insofar as it entails the stripping of constitutional rights, would represent the ascendency of politics over law. War, if we call it a programme of politics, is a way of making collectively binding decisions. It is like legislative debate, etc.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.