Theorizing War and Civil Society: A Two-Way Model

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Horng-Luen WANG, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
This paper proposes to theorize the relations between war and civil society through a two-way model. First, to theorize the impacts of war on civil society, I draw on theories of William Sewell Jr., Michel Foucault and Jeffrey Alexander, among others, to conceptualize war as a structure-transforming event that has long-lasting effects on civil society. What has been transformed includes not only objective structures, but also subjective schemes (or cognitive frames). As a result, war should no longer be seen as the continuation of politics by others means, as famously put by Clausewitz; on the contrary, politics is the continuation of war by other means. Subsequently, the binary codes in civil society has been shaped and reshaped to maintain its boundary. Secondly, to theorize the impacts of civil society on war, I shall expand Alexander’s civil sphere theory (CST) in innovative ways. In Alexander’s original formulation, civil sphere is conceptualized as simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, civil and anti-civil, which, in turn, account for how democratic nations could have civil spheres functioning domestically but simultaneously engage in anti-civil violence outside the nations. However, I argue that CST could be expanded to think about transcending anti-civil violence (such as wars) between nations. The “transnational civil sphere” is the key to understand how this can happen. Since civil society is territorially and spatially fixed, civil sphere is often conceptualized as existing within a given bounded community, mostly molded by the nation-state. This paper argues that a “transnational civil sphere” above the national level may exist to resolve conflicts (including wars) between nation-states. To expound this two-way model, I shall use East Asia as an illustrative case to demonstrate how this two-way process takes place in actual contexts during the postwar era.