The Monopoly of Violence

Published in History Today
The Monopoly of Violence: Why Europeans Hate Going to War
James J. Sheehan
Faber & Faber  304 pp   £25
ISBN 0 571 22085 1

While interesting, there are several problems with this. First, Sheehan, who is not a military historian, assumes a somewhat limited definition of war, force and military capability, one that underplays the role of responding to internal disorder. For Sheehan militarization means capability for regular warfare between states, which is not, for example, an approach that makes much sense of Latin American conflicts.

Secondly, the movement against bellicosity was a widespread process. It is not restricted to Europe, but can also be seen in very different ways in Japan, India, Canada, Australasia and even the United States which Sheehan holds up as an alternative model. Social shifts such as the rise of individualism, hedonism and the decline of deference, as well as the ‘feminization’ of society, are all at issue. They are underplayed by Sheehan.

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