Max, Angela, Chris, DL

Rob Schaap rws at
Sun Apr 11 03:12:25 PDT 1999

G'day Boddhi,

> Serbs, Croats and Albanians seem to be able to act in a perfectly
>civilized manner when they live in Cleveland

As individuals, they are doubtlessly no less civilised in Belgrade or Pristina, Boddhi. They might define their community on slightly different criteria than they do when they're in Cleveland, but that's because Cleveland is part of a different polity than Belgrade or Pristina. Even then, an ethnic definition does not necessarily lead to Srebrenicas.

Even if you're right, and the problem is ethnicity, it takes a polity to undertake something as deadly, complicated, expensive, and organised as a war.

What you're missing is the fact that both the Belgrade and Cleveland Serbs are now in a war!

However you define the requirements of citizenship (ethnically or otherwise), you end up with exclusions that opportunistic leaderships can fashion into wars. And we're sadly talking about two uncivilised polities, each full of civilised people!

I think ethnic considerations play a role on both sides here, but I needn't be right in this for my take on the role of the state in fashioning wars to stand.

The interests of elites dominate where elites dominate. Wars are processes by which the non-elite kill and die on behalf of their elites' perceived self-interests. And the state is a way of tying those non-elites to their elites at the expense of possible ties to other non-elites (actually effectively the same non-elites to lefties).

No war can be adequately explained without reference to the socio-political specifics bout which you speculate, but no war is possible without:

- an organising structure capable of orchestrating wars (for which we need a polity),

- contending interests (for which we need classes),

- and killers and corpses (for which we need both the preceding two - the former to make rational the subordination of a potential corpse's objective self-interest to other interests; and the latter so that there will be an actual distinction between those interests).

Wars would never be rational for anybody if one mob couldn't get another mob to risk the ultimate price that wars inevitably exact.

In short, you only get wars where you have two salient cleavages: one between polities and one within polities. State and class.

Simplistic, perhaps, but it looks alright to me right now.

Cheers, Rob.

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