Great migrations, natural disasters, explorations, foreign ideas, exceptional persons, or rapid advances in weapons technology all have the power to transform society. But the greatest catalyst of change is war and total war. War unifies and rallies populations, triggers nationalism and civic incorporation, occasionally initiates civil conflict, and sparks intense religious, economic, political, and military debates which often lead to revolution. The distinctive mark of statehood is metamorphosis from a decentralized, prepolitical social order into a centralized, political society. Since 1945, more than one hundred sovereign states in the global arena have emerged, exemplifying the diffusion of democratic spirit, nationalism, equality, universal conscription, impersonal taxation, citizenship, and centralized government—ideas that involve every human being.
In the first of a two-volume work onThe Military Factor in Social Change, Henry Barbera traces societal transformations; bonds of personal duty and collective obligation give way to territorial identification nurtured by individual rights and the sense of freedom. Using the ancient Athenians, Sicilians and southern Italians (1061-1250), and Brandenburgers and Prussians (1648-1850) as case studies, Barbera illustrates how, in an embattled social order, individuals and institutions adjust their behavior and belief to antithetical notions: authority and power, custom and law, loyalty and morale, and duty and rights. He discusses ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts in the world, many of which stem from issues of group worth and recognition. Barbera also examines European hegemony, and subsequently, how formerly colonized peoples achieved independence and self-determination.
From Provincial to Political Society provides a fascinating tour de force through historical societies, illustrating how contemporaneous their experience of total war and universal military conscription appears, as codes, customs, and conventions become unworkable or no longer accepted as creed. Scholars of history, jurisprudence, political science, and sociology will find this book indispensable. It offers a landmark reconsideration of fundamental theory in military and social history. And the writing is so clear that students will read this work with pleasure and profit.