The Indispensable Metaphor of War

Published 03 Oct 2017

A “War on Terror” was proclaimed by former United States President George W. Bush. Countless cities all over the world have also declared a war on drugs, on gangsters and other social disturbances. Steinertrsquo;s article deals with the use of war metaphor in the society and how the concept of war had been desensitized and used in countless ways in society without regard for the historic concept of war. This is explained by the “populist structure” of politics.

The author elaborated on the three manifestations of the monopoly of force of the state: warfare, punishment and policing. The author carefully explained the delineation and difference between these three forms of state monopoly of force. War, however, has the widest and almost universal appeal to the populace because war tends to be connected to the social values of the people and is used to defend whatever physical and intangible things that people perceive that they possess. Because of this mass appeal of war, it has been used widely to combat even the perceived social ills in the society. With the help of media, the experience of war has become almost universal in the society even among non-combatants.

One of the assertions of the author, however, is that “military training is a training in individual helplessnesshellip; which demands unquestioning and complete individual dedication. This kind of training may be seen as part of the checks and balances in the society so that the soldiers will not have the initiative to take over the reins from the civilian government. True, the military have become involved in political positions and uprisings all over the world. Yet, in worst cases, individual soldiers simply followed their commanding officers without any question.

Interestingly, the author contrasted peace-keeping and warmongering. Peace-keeping is an important function of the state, too. It is more difficult to promote though. It seems to be easier to fight against some kind of invaders, instead of promoting a present state of affairs. The author succeeds in explaining why such metaphor of war also applies to the issue of immigration among other things.

What seems to be lacking though is a more thorough explanation of the impact of using war as metaphor in various areas of life in the society. Steinert even explored the sector of education as one of the places where the metaphor of war has lost its hold. The trends of warfare that the author mentioned are also worth looking at and would yield further insights into how future generations might look at war and its consequences in the society.

The military and the state seem to benefit from this spread of war as a metaphor in areas of society where it should not really be applied. One other impact of this spread of war as metaphor is the desensitization of citizens to war. When that happens, people may lose the sensitivity of how serious a business war is! While they may experience second-hand warfare through the media, war is always a difficult situation and it takes its toll on the government and on the citizens of the society involved.


  • Steinert, Heinz (1998a) `Ideology with Human Victims. The Institution of `Crime amp; Punishment’ between Social Control and Social Exclusion: Historical and Theoretical Issues’, in Vincenzo Ruggiero, Nigel South and Ian Taylor (eds) The New European Criminology, pp. 405-424. London: Routledge .
  • Steinert, Heinz (2002) `Administrative Resistance and Other Limits to `Americanization’: Some Reasons Why American-Style Security Policies Will Fail to Sweep Europe’, in Cornelius Prittwitzet al. (eds) Festschrift fuuml;r Klaus Luuml;derssen, pp. 359-371. Baden-Baden: Nomos .
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