*Forged Through Fire*

Written by John Ferejohn and Frances McCall Rosenbluth, with the subtitle War, Peace, and the Democratic Bargain, this is a very important book.  Here is the main thesis:

If the modern democratic republic is a product of wars that required both manpower and money for success, it is time to take stock of what happens to democracy once the forces that brought it into being are no longer present.  Understanding war’s role in the creation of the modern democratic republic can help us recognize democracy’s exposed flanks.  If the role of the masses in protecting the nation-state diminishes, will the cross-class coalition between political inclusiveness and property hold?

…a second question is what is to become of the swaths of the world that were off the warpath in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when the European state was formed?  Continued and intense warfare forged democracies with full enfranchisement and protected property rights in the Goldilocks zone: in countries that had already developed administrative capacity as monarchies, and where wars were horrendous but manageable with full mobilization…

The bad news is that in today’s world, war has stopped functioning as a democratizing force.

You can order the book here, here is the Rosa Brooks WSJ review.

Comments

If relentlessly successful warfare over centuries leads to democracy I guess that means the Ottoman Turks and the Persians before them had the most democratic states evah!

Is it your intention to disparage the liberal democracies of the Huns and Mongols? Not to mention yer Wandals and Wisigoths?

I think the counterargument to TC's argument is the Anastasi and Pueblo Indians, with a hat tip to the Quakers and Amish.

Also keep in mind, for what it's worth, the democratic Athenians were imperialists (consistent with TC's thesis) while their arch-enemies the Spartans were 'stay at home' militant isolationists (the Trump-ists of classical times), and, in an ironic twist of history, the 'wooden walls' of Athens actually kept the Spartan hoplites at bay during the Peloponnesian War, while the Athenian hoplites bested--much to everybody's surprise--the more heavily favored Spartans at the Battle of Pylos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pylos) and the smaller Battle of Sphacteria (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Sphacteria). Yet in the end the Athenians 'globalization' beat them: the city, due to trade with many foreign countries, caught an imported plaque during the war and the 25% or so death rate forced Athens to surrender to Sparta, who tore down the walls and generally precipitate the decline of the Greek classical golden age. Parallels with today? Yes indeed, and always remember the Greeks invented it first!

Who are Trump's helots?

Look around -- if you don't see the helot...

'If the modern democratic republic is a product of wars that required both manpower and money for success, it is time to take stock of what happens to democracy once the forces that brought it into being are no longer present. Understanding war’s role in the creation of the modern democratic republic can help us recognize democracy’s exposed flanks.'

Oddly, both Japan and Germany, two modern democratic republics, required neither. Well, except for being rebuilt after both nations were subjected to a style of warfare that led to the destruction of most of their cities and industrial capacity, after squandering vast amounts of money and manpower in wars of conquest. Italy also comes closer to that model than the American one.

'Continued and intense warfare forged democracies with full enfranchisement and protected property rights in the Goldilocks zone: in countries that had already developed administrative capacity as monarchies, and where wars were horrendous but manageable with full mobilization.'

This is, to be charitable, not exactly accurate. The wars that actually led to Germany becoming a modern democratic republic were certainly horrendous, but the last one was most emphatically not 'manageable with full mobilization' - which is why the Nazis used millions of slave laborers.

And one hopes that the book covers what happened to Eastern Europe, which may or may not be in that Goldilocks zone (which likely depends on what thinks about the Austro-Hungarian Empire in terms of 'full enfranchisement and protected property rights').

The Prussian wars that unified the 100s of little principalities of Germany in the late 19th century, does that count as a horrendous war? Bismarck --an early inventor of social security--would not agree. "The wars that actually led to Germany becoming a modern democratic republic were certainly horrendous" - says prior_test2.

How about ....? Modern mass population warfare largely begins with the Napoleonic Wars when the sheer numbers of soldiers on battlefields greatly increased. (Jerry Pournelle wrote a very interesting paper on modern mass population warfare many decades ago.) The enlightened absolutism emerging then, the rationale of which was mostly argued for in Germany, granted many liberties and social welfare programs with the result of building support enough to mobilize armies as required. (And in the case of Germany a permanent standing army.) In some sense it was a reaction against and an alternative strategy of the increasing power and broadening of the voter enfranchisements and parliamentary systems used to raise taxes to fund armies in democratic countries. Enlightened absolutism granted liberties and used social welfare programs to reduce the demand (1840s) for widening and greater empowering of voter enfranchisements. In some sense the two World Wars of the twentieth century were fought between systems of enlightened despotism and systems of representative democracy. The democracies won. (Minor note: The Wikipedia entry on history of welfare states gives credit in Germany to Bismarck, but my sense is he was just furthering the strategy already laid out by Frederick during the Enlightenment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state#History_of_welfare_states )

Thanks for that note, but "modern" is a relative term. It can be argued there's nothing really new about our modern age, it's as old as civilization. Historian Paul Johnson even wrote a book "Birth of the Modern" that shows everything we do today, with a bit of a stretch, was being already done in the early 1800s. See, The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830, by Paul Johnson; see also, Socrates: A Man for Our Times by Paul Johnson

That is so depressing! I don't think I've ever read such a downer of a review.

Cheer up. 'By the end of the 19th century, both France and Germany had “enormous standing armies” and “both had adopted representative government ...”' is all very well, but it overlooks the UK and US which had negligible standing armies. It also ignores Russia, which had large armies and no representative government (though, of course, the Tsar's government was all sweetness and light compared to Lenin's and Stalin's).

One perhaps relevant question is why are continental European universities like Gottingen and Heidelberg no longer famous, while Harvard and Yale, Oxford and Cambridge are more famous than ever?

Because the Yanks and the Brits won WWI, WWII, and the Cold War, so their elites' colleges weren't democratized. In contrast, almost nobody on the Continent won both big ones, so their elites were discredited and their universities degraded.

The rise of the Nazis meant that the U.S. could poach many of the greatest scientists and thinkers -- especially those who were Jewish -- from Europe. Albert Einstein and John von Neumann had offices next to each other at Princeton at one point, for instance. The rise of English as the new international language sealed the deal.

Nevertheless, the celebrated universities like Harvard and Yale still employ the educational paradigm of the Eurolosers, as does American secondary education.

I'm a fan of Rosa Brooks, but she ignores what I consider the biggest flaw in the book's thesis. While it's certainly true that historically war has been the catalyst for aligning the interests of the rich and poor, it's been replaced by the modern economy: without the cooperation of the poor, without the participation of the poor, without the consumption of the poor, the modern economy cannot function efficiently. Indeed, the scourge of the modern economy, economic (and financial) instability, is the price paid for excessive inequality. Economic instability, in turn, produces political instability, as the interests of the poor and the rich diverge. Of course, there are two paths to stability, to aligning the interests of the rich and poor: shared prosperity and war. The demagogue, in his bellicosity, would take us on the path to war.

Inequality is not necessarily inequity.

Semantically correct, but irrelevant to the thesis presented above.

And don't forget the effect of Christianity and its emphasis on reason.

Saying that war was a democratizing force isn't the same as saying that all democracies were made the same way. The thesis seems to be holding true in Ukraine, though that could arguably be coincidence. I would say it was the democratization already under way that spurred Russia to attack.

nice going!

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