What do we really know about war? Is it the breakdown of society or an essential component of social change? The journalist Chris Hedges famously said that “war is a force that gives us meaning.” But what kind of meaning? And how should we set about finding out?
In this class we will look at a wide variety of sources to explore the social dimensions of violent conflict. Using both current and historical examples from around the globe, we will investigate the social causes and consequences of group violence. We will ask whether everything that we call war today is really the same, and what the toolkit of social theory brings to the study of different kinds of conflict. And, perhaps most importantly, we will ask how what we know about war informs how we think about peace.