The War System

In a number of publications, Gorm Harste has made a case for war as a function(al) system. In “Critique of War Reason. A Perspective on Self-referential Systems, 11th-21st Centuries” (2016), Harste wrote,

In Luhmann’s systems theory and in sociology at large there is a missing link consisting in the lack of a sociology of war.

In 2013 article, Harste writes about war and peace systems:

After a hundred years of war, the system of war won an internal self-reference and was established as a functional system that was ungovernable for any other system outside itself. Its means were too strong, its dynamics too necessary and the powers that did not follow its imperatives were annihilated such as Burgundy in the 16th century, Denmark-Norway nearby in 1659 and Poland at the end of the 18th century.. . . . The still more complex and professional military organisation system could be controlled and governed; but not the war system.

Gorm Harste. “The Peace System – As a Self-referential Communication System.” Nordicum-Mediterraneum 8, no. 3 (2013): B2.

According to Harste, professional military organizations may be controlled through finance. If a government or state, which is collection of organizations, stops financing its military organizations, the government could make it impossible to fight a war; however, the war system can then look elsewhere for financing. As Harste writes,

The struggle between control and ungovernable dynamics has always been tested as one of finance. Seemingly politics could control war finance when the political legitimacy of still higher taxes disappeared, and loans and credits were stopped; however, this turned out not to be the case. Wars demand extremely increasing supplies of finance, and they have always exceeded any limitations whatsoever. The invention of not only new taxes but especially new credit systems far beyond imagination turned out to be part of the competition, symmetric or asymmetric, of wars. Every major war was decided less by the so-called decisive battles and more by the exhaustion of resources and their financial sinews.

Harste also discusses the peace system:

What happened to the peace system? If the war system had its own hard-hitting dynamics, what about the dynamics of the peace system? . . . What precisely does “system” mean? What advantages, if any, could such a conception offer to a description of peace potentialities?

. . .

All functional systems communicate about themselves as if they can neglect the moderations imposed by their environments; this is of course an illusion but, indeed, a very real illusion filled with consequences when wars go on and are planned as if their opponents have no plans of destroying those plans and accordingly planned without thought for constraints to the gravitation centres of moral, sorrow, public opinion, finance and credit.

To be continued . . .

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