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Sample text

I once met a historian who argued, perhaps facetiously, that there were as many causes of war as there were wars. For him, war simply did not exist as a general social phenomenon. Gang fights, wars among ants, and World War II can be treated as wars if we believe that they are all caused by the same factors. Since we usually do not, or at least think it not C once p t ua l i z i ng Wa r 23 very useful to begin an inquiry with that assumption, they are not usually included as part of the class of events that we choose to call war.

How a phenomenon should be conceptualized can become a matter of contention between science and other discourses. Why a particular concept or definition may come to dominate an age or inquiry poses a jurisdictional problem for scientific inquiry. Principles of contemporary scientific concept formation (see Hempel, 1952) try to evaluate the utility of definition and conceptualization solely on their basis for explaining empirical phenomena. Concepts and definitions, however, have purposes and consequences other than their ability to explain.

To explain war requires identifying the various paths that lead to war. What makes this even more complicated is that these paths may vary over long periods of history. In this book, I believe I have identified one path, for one type of war, in one historical era, the modern global system (1495 to the present) . In trying to identify the causal sequences that precede wars, I distinguish between underlying and proximate causes. Underlying causes are fundamental causes that set off a train of events (the proximate causes) that end in war .

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