Interdisciplinary Contributions to Contemporary Cultural Debates
Edited By Gail K. Hart and Anke S. Biendarra
Gassing Europe’s Capitals: Planning, Envisioning, and Rethinking Modern Warfare in European Discourses of the 1920s and 1930s
The events that led with rapidly accelerating speed during the summer of 1914 to the First World War fit the “cock-up-foul-up” approach to state theory much better, as sociologist Michael Mann argues in The Sources of Social Power, than realist theories that search for the causes of war in terms of the geopolitical interests of states (Mann 1993, 740–802). It was not the pursuit of long-term interests that led these states with almost necessary logic into the conflict, as realist state theories propose. Instead of clearly outlined plans, these states were marked by internal power struggles and disputes over the way forward. Rather than grasping the intentions and goals of their international counterparts, the political and military elites of these states excelled in mutual misperceptions. As Christopher Clark concludes in The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914 (2012), “[a]ll the key actors in our story filtered the world through narratives that were built from pieces of experience glued together with fears, projections and interests masquerading as maxims”(558). At the turn of the century, Europe had become a multi-power-actor civilization that spread aggressive imperialism within the continent and overseas. The polymorphous factionalism inside these European regimes, especially in Germany and Austria-Hungary, allowed for disastrous miscalculations, projections, and unintended consequences during the quickly escalating interactions of July 1914.
Mann’s “cock-up-foul-up” thesis and his reconstruction of the various paths that led to the death of millions of soldiers and civilians...
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