World History II

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. and Christe A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time



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Chapter 30: The Great Depression and World War II
1929 to 1945

52: Mon, Mar 16, 2020

Please post in the forum for the day a short essay in response to this question:

War is the ultimate exercise of violent coercive power — vis, in our schematization according to the Latin vocabulary — over any of the other manifestations of power we’ve discussed, particularly the ordained societal structures we know collectively as imperium. War, without the support of any compelling philosophical rationale, can change the makeup of states and governments, and radically alter the lives of huge populations. When war occurs on an unprecedented global scale, as it did in 1935-1945, it may well permanently shatter or at least materially undermine the confidence people have in the authority structures they have known; it does not in and of itself offer anything by way of replacement other than raw power.

The League of Nations was an attempt to normalize a kind of international concept of imperium after World War I, and the United Nations was a similar attempt after World War II. Neither of those has proven wholly successful, and at times of particular stress, when they are most needed, member states tend to bridle at their constraints. The international safeguards of peace clearly cannot hold on their own.

For all its pomp and ceremony, therefore, imperium is arguably one of the most fragile of human constructs: any person or group of people who lay claim to it may be overturned by sufficient main force either from within or from without the state. Monarchs are deposed; states are divided or combined, conquered or eliminated; cities are bombed and countries ravaged. The peaceful transfer of ordained power is the exception, rather than the rule, in the long history of the world. The very notion of “legitimate government” is problematized in the process.

We nevertheless keep returning to it, and keep trying to forge new institutions, programs, strategies, and plans that will somehow normalize it and rescue ordinate power from the practical degradation of violence and conflict. Why, do you think? What is it about imperium and the regularized structures of government that we need? This is admittedly a large philosophical question, perhaps a mite meta-historical, but it seems that we’re closing in on the right time to ask such things, as the course brings us down to the modern day.