First World War: Still No End in Sight
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That the conflicts unleashed by Great War did not end in 1918 is well known. World War II and the Cold War clearly constitute key moments in the drama that began in August 1914. This book argues that the battle of ideas which crystallised during the course of the Great War continue to the present. It claims that the disputes about lifestyles and identity – the Culture Wars of today –are only the latest expressions of a century long conflict.
There are many influences that contributed to the outbreak of World War One. One significant influence was the cultural tension and unease that disposed significant numbers of artists, intellectuals and young people to regard the War as an opportunity give meaning to their existence. Later these tensions merged with social unrest and expressed themselves through the new ideologies of the Left and the Right. While these ideologies have become exhausted the conflicts of culture persist to this date. That is why there is Still No End In Sight for the battle of ideas set in motion in August 1914.
Modern wars did not only lead to the loss of millions of lives. Wars also played a significant role in changing attitudes towards the political ideals of modern time. The Great War called into question the future of liberal democracy. It led to the emergence of radical ideologies, which were in turn discredited through the experience of the Second World War and the Cold War. The current Culture Wars have significantly eroded the status of the values associated with modernity.
Through exploring the battle of ideas set in motion in August 1914 – First World War- Still No End In Sight – provides a framework for understanding the changing focus of political conflict from ideology to culture.
military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. In Clausewitz’s sociology of war, domestic pressures are meshed with foreign ones. According to his perspective, war is as much about domestic politics as a response to interstate relations. Mayer points out that Clausewitz ‘invariably opts for the comprehensive concept of politics which subsumes diplomacy thus leaving open the possibility that recourse to war can be not only influenced but, in some instance, even determined by internal political
concerned managing it than in providing greater scope for participation. Democracy was seen instrumentally as a source of validation rather than as an institution of public participation. Indeed, in the minds of numerous observers, the gaining of legitimacy was seen as inconsistent with the workings of a mass democracy. 46 F I R S T W O R L D WA R – S T I L L N O E N D I N S I G H T Weber’s demons The problem of order faced by the European elites before 1914 paled into insignificance
Europe.12 Though such revolts would recur after the devastating 6 F I R S T W O R L D WA R – S T I L L N O E N D I N S I G H T experience of the Great War – for example, that of the 1960s counter-culture – they would cease to assume such an explicit militaristic form. In the end Zweig succeeded in breaking away from the militaristic culture that dominated his own nation as well as the rest of Europe. His pacifist convictions and self-conscious anti-nationalist identification with Europe
‘the less the cultural system is capable of producing adequate motivations for politics, the educational system, and the occupational system, the more must scarce meaning be replaced by consumable values’.42 The devaluation of norms through the dominant imperative of rationalization has decoupled authority from a system of moral meaning, leading to what Habermas characterized as a legitimation crisis. Writing more of less at the same time as Bell penned his thesis on the cultural contradictions
calculation and efficiency, capitalism undermines ‘its own defenses’ because it ‘creates a critical frame of mind which, after having destroyed the moral authority of so many other institutions, in the end turns against its own’. Schumpeter claimed that ‘the bourgeois finds to his amazement that the rationalist attitude does not stop at the credentials of kings and popes but goes on to attack private property and the whole scheme of bourgeois values’.49 Schumpeter feared that rationalization