War and social cooperation

Can War Foster Cooperation?
by Michal Bauer, Christopher Blattman, Julie Chytilova, Joseph Henrich, Edward Miguel, Tamar Mitts – #22312 (DEV PE POL)


In the past decade, nearly 20 studies have found a strong, persistent
pattern in surveys and behavioral experiments from over 40 countries:
individual exposure to war violence tends to increase social
cooperation at the local level, including community participation and
prosocial behavior. Thus while war has many negative legacies for
individuals and societies, it appears to leave a positive legacy in
terms of local cooperation and civic engagement. We discuss,
synthesize and reanalyze the emerging body of evidence, and weigh
alternative explanations. There is some indication that war violence
especially enhances in-group or “parochial” norms and preferences, a
finding that, if true, suggests that the rising social cohesion we
document need not promote broader peace.

This entry was posted in History, Philosophy, Political theory, Politics - international. Bookmark the permalink.
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
paul frijters
paul frijters
7 years ago

it is an obvious point that ‘we’ emerge from the fight with ‘them’, but good on these authors for arguing it in the open. It is a pity that their concluding statements are so weak and simplistic. Didn’t the first world war give us the league of nations, and the second world war the UN? Nothing parochial about the cohesions and systems born from those wars.

Of course, war is not the only form of communal activity that creates cohesion and these authors know this, so I hope they won’t be misconstrued to argue in favour of war.

7 years ago

Seems to me this abstract states the bleeding obvious. Wars bring communities together primarily as a coping mechanism. Other effects (e.g. parochial norms and a collective view of the enemy) will be very secondary issues. But at least identifying the enemy to fight back with is easy.

The interesting contrast to me is what happens after a climate-related natural disaster (e.g. a major flood). The community comes together (just like in a war), but the parochial norms may not be as strong and identifying the enemy is more difficult (or it may be the victims themselves due to their own emissions, poor panning etc.).

7 years ago

There is a saying that war happens when diplomacy fails. Why war? a primary school student could teach leaders in US, UK, EU, NATO, about co-operation, not meddling in other countries’ affairs. Meddling prolongs a civil wars. Who benefits? e.g. in the Middle East by destroying countries, clearing out the population, gaining more territory, etc.