War, Emotions and the European Civilizing Process. The War-Related Affects from Feudal to Industrial Warfare in an Eliasian Perspective

HELMUTHelmut Kuzmics, from the University of Graz/Austria …. a paper originally presented at the Interdisciplinary Collaboratory ” Norbert Elias:  Emotional Style and Historical Change,” held on 14-15 June 2011 at the University of Adelaide

The Problem[1] There exists a basic consensus that guides public opinion within Western, particularly European states, referring to war and other acts of inter- or intrastate violence. It is pacifist and tends to treat all these events as simply “irrational” or “uncivilized”. Resulting from this attitude – which is also often not devoid of a dismissive or derogatory element – two quite differing types of judgement emerge: The first type regards war as atavistic and time-bound. War can or should be overcome with the progress of mankind. The second type – maybe a bit paradoxically – treats war and violent conflict as endemic to human nature and, therefore, unchangeable in its “essence”. This duality of judgment also extends to the field of the human sciences themselves. Two voices shall be picked out here. In Norbert Elias’s (2000) theory of ‘Civilizing Processes’, reality and experience of war are situated historically. In one of the most surprising and original recent interpretations of war, Van Creveld (1998: 319) has stressed its basically unchanging character, including the motives and causes for war. For him, the male fascination for war is deeply rooted in needs that can be summarized vaguely as the appeal of danger, the wish to prove manliness, by all means not guided by rational interest or profit-seeking. War is rather a transcendental game with ultimate seriousness and should be distinguished from throwing atomic bombs, massacring innocent by-standers or committing mass-suicide. Declared war-aims are irrelevant to a deeper understanding of war – sacred soil, god, fatherland, nation, race or social ideals are not important per se, but because people – or better: men –fight and die for them. This readiness to sacrifice one’s own life is the main criterion that distinguishes war from other forms of collective violence; without this, even the best-equipped armies of the world would degenerate to mere bugbears. Van Creveld, thus, emphasizes the unchanging, eternal nature of war, and since he sees it, essentially, not as a means for achieving certain goals but rather as a means in itself, he can accept the various forms in which war occurs, also their arbitrariness, as long as men fight for something; and they will do so for a very long time to come. ELAIS SOCIETY ELAIS 44 Norbert Elias’s theory of the civilizing process is very different here. Although he was certainly not an optimist who sees the utopia of a world without violence materialize in the near future, he was convinced that reciprocal killing could be also, in principle, abolished. For him, it was the conflicts between human beings that used to create violence, not the other way around, as long as these conflicts could not be solved by other means. But what is more important here is that Elias stresses the varying nature both of the structure of these conflicts and the changing character of the human psyche that corresponds to them. In his main opus on “The Civilizing Process”, Elias has dealt with many aspects of the changes in the affective experience of life in peace and war that have taken place since the European Middle Ages: growing inhibition in the pursuit of once spontaneous pleasures and needs, accompanied by their refinement and progressive tabooing of violence, at least within the state-societes that develop a strong and effective monopoly of force. But for Elias, who had volunteered for the German army in the First World War and had become massively traumatized then as well, violence between states in the form of war has also changed considerably in terms of the affective experience of the soldiers. Worlds separate the tribal Germanic warrior of late Antiquity from the experience of men who suffered the machine-like warfare in the trenches of the Somme or Verdun. Although both Van Creveld and Elias develop their argument historically, their views differ substantially. They agree in maintaining the changing character of the phenomenon: Both know that tribal and feudal warfare have been displaced by war fought between the standing armies of dynastic states and without developing ‘national’ loyalties typical for a later period (for Van Creveld, the classic war was, according to the rules of Clausewitz, the Trinitarian War in which nation, army and state could be separated and war was restricted to the armies). Both see that the competition between nation-states has taken another, new course after the Second World War and the development of the nuclear threat (Elias 1985; for him, the elimination contest between states had led to a new round where only two powers were left[2], creating a kind of global duopoly of violence). While Elias has not lived to learn the full consequences of the disappearance of the Iron Curtain in 1989 (he died 1990) and, therefore, had also not witnessed the rise of the manyheaded hydra of “terrorism”, Van Creveld has acquired a deserved reputation for addressing and analyzing the special phenomenon of “low intensity warfare”, of which “terrorism” is but one of many variants. Although there is much on what Elias and Van Creveld might agree, they differ on one decisive point: What Elias saws as a change not at the surface but in the substance of the experience and meaning of war, Van Creveld treated as essentially and eternally the same. Who is right? Since the creation of “Nations in Arms” as a by-product of the French Revolution (1789) and the victories of Napoleon in the two decades afterwards, European state-societies underwent a massive transformation in the direction of tribal war that brought an end to nearly 1500 years of limited warfare, executed by tiny armies in largely unarmed peoples. The transition towards the mechanized warfare of functionally democratized masses brought an end to feudal chivalry on the battlefield and contributed to a growing split between the affective experience of causing and suffering pain and death. In terms of the manly “pleasure of attacking”, the experience of fear and overcoming it by courage or boldness, the perceived brutality of war and the coarseness or refinement of the circumstances surrounding organized fighting, dynastic war provided two very different sets of opportunities: one for the aristocratic warrior caste, the other for the common soldier. Much of what Van Creveld sees as the unchanging, fundamental character warfare has for men is actually based on the complex, time-bound canon of chivalry, courage and honour, of death as the ultimate proof for them, necessitating a life-long preparation in order to be able to accept death in consent and dignity. The “Great War” brought for the Habsburg army, as for other armies, an end to aristocratic ideals of chivalry and to the proud tradition of its cavalry. Modern, industrialized war replaced feudal attacking spirit through more modest emotions – apart from the many who did not have to “fight” in the narrower sense of the term, as an element of a huge apparatus based on a division of labour, that was responsible for supplies, technical support, logistics, and information. In this paper, I focus on the remembrance of Austrian officers and soldiers (selected from autobiographical documents collected in the Archive „Dokumentation lebensgeschichtlicher Aufzeichnungen“, Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte, Vienna, and two other published memoirs) in the First World War with respect to their perception of affects and sentiments on the battlefield. I try to sketch the highly ambivalent development of the emotional experience of war, depending on the process of armed struggle, its length and bitterness, on the perceived distance or closeness to one’s own humanness and on the balance of anonymity/impersonality and intimacy between friend and foe.  The focus is on two main types of emotional experience in battle: the so-called, spontaneous “pleasure of attacking” (Angriffslust), often seen by the opponent of the aggressor as “cruelty” or “brutality”, and fear and horror as soldiers and officers try to cope with the manifold terrors of industrialized warfare. Does the autobiographical material used here support the idea of the eternally same or rather the notion of a change in substance when it comes to the description of the affects in war? The argument developed here will take three steps: In (2), I want to turn to warlike violence in the Middle Ages and to Elias’s treatment of the European civilizing process in general; in chapter (3), I discuss diverse interpretations of what it means to say that war itself can become more civilized; here, the ideas of Clausewitz, developed for the understanding of the so-called “Trinitarian war” seem still to be worth discussing.  Chapter (4) will give a short sketch of the changing face of war, its steps and stages of its development from the 18th to the end of the 19th century, with emphasis on the emotional experience of soldiers and officers. Finally, in chapter (5), I want to deal with selected sources from the First World war – both describing the experience of Habsburg officers and that of the common soldier with respect to the so-called “pleasure of attacking” and to the overwhelming fear and panic in battle, followed by a short summarizing interpretation (6). 2. From Warrior to Courtier: Violence in the European Civilizing Proce Reconstructing life in the warlike-anarchic Middle Ages, Elias follows the French historian Luchaire who had collected numerous examples of nearly limitless cruelty. Gouging out peoples’ eyes, mutilation, rape, the slaying of innocent by-standers, the slashing and burning of farm-houses and barns were frequent in 11th  and 12th century France. As Duby (1986: 19-25) also notes for this time, this was the life of unchained bands of warriors who killed each other either during war or the scarcely less dangerous tournaments which took the form of melées or who harassed their peasants in the most painful way. Death was not an event to be singled out but rather a quite ubiquitous phenomenon. The violence of these warrior-gangs of knights weakened only when state-like formations emerged and the killing could go on under the aegis of “war”. Spontaneous violence was not only a characteristic of the feudal country-side, but also of cities and towns and their milieu of craftsmen and merchants: In a split second, the knife is drawn in a quarrel, and soon the opponent has been severely injured or is bleeding to death. But for Elias’s civilization-theoretical interpretation, one aspect is of central importance: Spontaneous “pleasure in aggression” is commented and re-lived enthusiastically by minstrels in their lays; and this unchecked joy of aggression disappears step by step in the course of processes of growing division of labour, state-formation, lengthening of chains of action and the rising level of security via the formation of a royal monopoly of physical violence. “Violence” can take various forms – ritualistic as in the human sacrifice of the Aztecs; of a cool-instrumental-rational kind; as a result of the use of animals or machines; spontaneous or the result of long-deliberated action-chains; violence caused by public institutions, as in state-ordered torture or revengeful, deterrent execution (cf. Fletcher 1997: 47-54, for a commented list of more than a dozen pairs of opposition ). None of these are meant by Elias when he describes the “affective household” of a medieval knight: what he meant by this is the close linkage between war, as killing at a social distance, and the daily slaying and intimidating in the neighbourhood of the village. In the “affective household” of the strong, this occurs as pleasurable domination. In the affective household of the weak, this is felt as frightful powerlessness – as Duby says, the peasants regard these bands of young noblemen as “tools of the devil” (cf. Duby 1996: 100). Elias documents the long path towards the relative security of “today” with the help of books of manners and etiquette which he found and interpreted in terms of changes in corresponding habits. The “pleasure of attacking” of the medieval warrior cannot be separated from the joy of spontaneous satisfaction of other “bodily” stimuli and needs. Before the civilizational watershed which can be detected in the writings of humanist teachers and educators like Erasmus of Rotterdam at the eve of ‘Early Modernity’ (they were addressed to upper-class youths), it was not a problem to serve oneself with greasy fingers from the common bowl, to spit under the table (it was forbidden only to spit on it!), to act out urgent, actual needs in public, to help oneself at the table without forks (there were only knives and spoons), to blow one’s nose without a handkerchief (demanded was only to turn away from the other persons sitting at the table or the use of the tablecloth). Medieval books of manners demand more explicitly not to use the knife at table more than necessary – and not to direct the point of a knife towards the persons sitting near one. There is a growing tabooing and inhibition of the use of knives during the meal (whatever one can eat without the help of a knife, one should do without a knife). This indicates, according to Elias, a shift from constraints through others towards self-restraint (or “self-constraint”), which slowly turns into a kind of “second nature” of automatized habits. Fierce behaviour is punished from now on through feelings of shame and embarrassment. Whole animals or heads of game are no longer presented and eaten at the table; the carving of a joint is removed “behind the scenes”. Nothing should remind one any longer of the foregoing killing or the danger. A ring of close-meshed but mild constraints through others surrounds the individual, in the course of which the various constraints by others are complemented by self-constraints. Loud, unseemly behaviour is tabooed in every contemporary restaurant. People speak in a low voice. They are reserved, discreet, and try to eliminate all kinds of possible mishaps and to avoid feelings of disgust vis-á-vis, their feelings which might today occur much faster than in their coarse and clumsy medieval forebears. Civilization means the refinement of mores, growing inhibition, pacification, rationalization and psychologization. The structure of medieval society, according to Elias, rewarded the fierce fighting spirit of the knight; the courtier of the 16th or 17th century could only lose by not controlling his aggressive spirit. He would have been punished in a manner much like the well-trained, machine-like soldier whose fury was counter-productive. This was a lesson the Duke of Montmorency had to learn who lost battle and life because of his fierce pugnacious bellicosity during the rising of the French ‘Fronde’ against the machine–like troups of the king. But of course, the occidental civilizing process “from warrior to courtier” cannot be understood by treating the Middle Ages as the age of the “primeval savagery” of mankind. Much more plausible is the interpretation that regards it as a period of the anomic, anarchical transition of a tribal society towards a feudal society – taking place on a territory that had once been, in Roman times, more integrated and pacified. If civilization theory were really tied to a notion of “unilinear, gradualist, continuist progress” (Buck-Morss 1978: 189), as many critics insinuate, then it would indeed have to be rejected as wholly implausible. Accordingly, I plead for conceiving Elias’s model of the civilizing of violence as historically singular. Analogies to other regions or periods should be established only very cautiously, as Elias himself did by comparing France with England and Germany or the West with China or Japan. The range over which his theory of growing interdependencies and monopolization of violence is valid will remain large enough. 3. Civilizing War Against the conventional view of the social event ‘battle’ that military historians have developed John Keegan (1991) has placed particular emphasis on the concrete experience of the single ill-treated soldier himself. There is no neat and well-ordered picture for him. Physically and psychically, things are in constant flux; there may be hours of secure boredom and passivity, and suddenly, he is thrown into a tumultuous sequence of extremely dangerous moments. He can experience exultation, panic, rage, grief, consternation, courage, and feelings of loyalty to his comrades in arms. In principle, he will live through every affect that we might find in one of the current lists (cf. Tomkins 1963): joy, fear, anger, shame, disgust or ‘dissmell’, grief, surprise and distress, although quite likely in differing composition and proportions according to the difference between peaceful everyday-life and organized fighting. We may distinguish three aspects of these emotions: somatic (acceleration of the heart-beat, sweating, trembling etc.); behavioural (flight or attack, including the expressive aspect, functional in group communication) and the feeling-component (i.e., panic) in the narrower sense of the term “emotion” (cf. Elias 1987). All these emotions are subject to what Elias called ‘affect control’, enforced by external constraints or self-constraints, although in varying degrees, from extreme panic to moderate, ‘civilized’ anxieties, which are accessible to cognitive planning. These internal controls (self-constraints) became, according to Elias, a kind of second nature and embodied in a “psychic habitus”. In order to decide what the discourse on “civilizing” or “de-civilizing” tendencies in the development of war really embraces, we have to turn to its conceptual logic first. There is a huge difference between the civilizing processes that take shape within state-organized societies and the ones that modify the relationship in conflicting situations between states. In war, things are allowed that are strictly forbidden in peace (Elias [1996] speaks of a “duality of the normative code in nation-states”; within states, killing is forbidden, between states, it is prescribed). This allows for the existence of “enclaves in time and space” where affective violence can still occur – war, revolution, the state-organized violence of police and other agencies of law-enforcement. Two types of “social habitus” co-exist simultaneously. But this kind of violent behaviour may itself become more “civilized”, as well, and we can attempt to transfer the model of “civilizing processes” from the behaviour of people within states to the behaviour of people within these enclaves. What, therefore, does “civilizing war” mean, in terms of the more spontaneous play of affects that gives way to a more inhibited, refined and pacified type of behaviour? We can isolate its central dimensions by turning again to the medieval point of departure, where the “joy of attacking” – in German: “Angriffslust” – is highly visible: The French knight and minstrel Jean de Bueil, living in the 15th century, is quoted by Elias (2000) extensively. Jean de Bueil sees war as a merry affair. He loves his comrades in arms. If things go well and they fight courageously, he is moved to tears. A sweet joy rises in his heart, and seeing a friend exposing himself to every kind of danger, he only wants to follow his example, to die or live with him and never to let him down for the love of a woman. To fight means sheer delight; someone who has never experienced that is not a human being who can tell how beautiful it is. In this example, the element of rage or anger shrinks in comparison with that of joy; and fear is overcome by the pride of being respected and loved by one’s comrades. A joy, enhanced to the point of near ecstasy – this is one of the core elements of “Angriffslust”, of the spontaneous play of affects. It is nearly impossible to separate from each other the emotions that accompany the event of a medieval battle – we concentrate here on three of them, namely the “joy of attacking” in it narrower sense, related to the virtue of “courage” or “boldness”, the emotion of “fear” that was certainly felt during battles that may have often turned into sheer butchery and saw fear increased to “horror”, its perpetrators’ behaviour morally qualified as “brutality”. And a third dimension  can be perceived by referring to the “refinement” aspect of “civilization”: War was certainly always a sphere in which nature could be cruel and manners would be rough; the threshold of shame and embarrasment that got in the way between urgent bodily needs and their satisfaction was certainly always less inhibited than at court or parlour. Turning first to the idea of an attacking spirit, the notion both of emotions in war and of an affect-regulating military habitus was already familiar to Clausewitz. Among the factors that lead to success in battle, he put special emphasis on what he called “moralische Hauptpotenzen”. These ‘central moral factors’ include the special skills of the commander (“Talente des Feldherrn”), the martial virtues of the troops (“kriegerische Tugenden des Heeres”) and the spirit of the people (“Volksgeist”) which makes itself felt on the battlefield. For Clausewitz (1952: 255), no normative theory of war could be formulated without giving these ‘immaterial’ forces their due: ”since no victory, for instance, can be plausibly explained in its effects without taking the moral impressions into consideration. And, thus, most of the subjects we deal with in this book consist of half physical, half moral causes and effects, and one would like to say: the physical forces appear rather only like the wooden haft of a sword while the moral ones are the precious metal, the real, ground-down weapon.” (Clausewitz 1952: 255; transl. by the author) For Clausewitz, these factors were inseparably linked and could be distinguished only analytically. Most remarkable was his concept of the “martial virtues of the troops” (“kriegerische Tugend eines Heeres”). These properties should not be equated simply with courage and enthusiasm for war, both of which are seen as necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for these martial virtues to emerge. Practice and training have to follow, obedience, rule and method. War is a business that can turn into a craft exercised with ease and reliability. Central to it is the control of emotions – not getting terrified by imaginary fears, fighting against ones that are justified; showing pride in victory, but not despairing and disobeying in defeat; keeping trust and confidence in one’s leaders even in misery – such is an army that is infused with a warlike spirit. If we conceptualize “habitus” in a way that contains both emotional and cognitive elements, as well as behavioural automatisms that become “second nature”, visible already in the make-up of the person (soldier, officer, commander), then this is the concept Clausewitz had in mind. “Kriegerische Tugend” is a product of critical experiences in battle (“battle-hardened” is the term we need) and of successful commanders, it rises during wars but can persist through several generations, even in periods of peace. Its main elements are boldness and perseverance. The development of the “joy of attacking” throughout the civilizing process, conceived as a process of the weakening of emotions like anger or rage, from altruistic sentiments of friendship to the pleasure of physical combat, can go into two ideal-typical directions: (1) the perfecting and routinization of constraints by others, i.e. discipline, defined as the automatization of self-constraints, and (2) the strengthening of self-constraint in terms of individual self-controls. Following this latter criterion, the war of commanders and officers is always more civilized than the war of common soldiers. However; we may also think of developments that lead to greater self-reliance and autonomy also on the part of the ordinary soldier himself. The main subject of the well-known study of the “American Soldier” (Stouffer et al. 1949) was, thus, to explore what would “make the [soldiers] want to keep going and do as well as [they] could” after they had already had combat experience. Some hints can be found in the percentage of respondents who said that they were motivated by “solidarity with the group” or by “thoughts of home and loved ones”. We cannot know, however, which emotions were hidden behind the business-like formula of “finishing the task” (39%, the largest part of the respondents, agreed with this sentence). Some confessed “vindictiveness”, a desire for revenge, and largely their officers   believed that many men were motivated by “leadership and discipline” (19%; against only 1% of the other ranks, agreed with that). We do not find any item in this study which could be interpreted simply in terms of what Elias called “Angriffslust” or “attacking spirit”: The closest results we can get are the 59% of respondents who claimed to believe that “the best combat soldier [they] have known” showed, above all, courage and aggressiveness (Stouffer et al. 1949: 133-4). These latter qualities were much less important in officers (30%); whereas “leadership” (56% for officers) received exactly the degree of attention one would expect. We do not learn here what it is that defines ‘good leadership’ in a more detailed way. The second dimension is that of fear, caused by the horror of war and its brutality. We owe to John Keegan (1991) a detailed, precise description of the decisive, headless flight of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard in the battle of Waterloo, 1815. This was the famous battle-hardened Imperial Guard, not a bunch of recently drafted conscripts. Why did their morale collapse? Many explanations can be rejected. Generals and officers led their men bravely. The soldiers were experienced. The guard’s battle-order was immaculate, in spite of massive gun-fire before the attack. Paradoxically, the flight did not begin where and when the danger was greatest and the enemy-fire most painful – here, the guards did not give in. The flight-movement occurred in the rear where, apparently, the danger was less; but, according to Keegan, the attacking column had been very narrow, organized in depth, and so the effect of enforced passivity (the soldiers had no space to put up a fierce resistance) added to the lack of knowledge of what was going on at the front. Unguided, they were hit by an irresistible wave of panic, and an absolute elite-formation melted into a sheer crowd. In such cases, neither fear of sanctions nor the loss of ‘honour’ or respect in the eyes of the others can help, although, normally, group-pressure and the fear of shame are the most important pillars for securing ‘discipline’ and ‘courage’. How dramatically fear can be experienced has been demonstrated in the “The American Soldier” (Stouffer et al. 1949: 201). In one of the most telling of all survey-research items ever (Fear Symptoms Reported by Troops in Combat Divisions), the Division A-soldiers from the Pacific war-theatre confessed that they had experienced at least sometimes somatic symptoms ranging from “violent pounding of the heart” (84%) to “vomiting” (27%), “losing control of bowels” (21%) and “urinating in one’s pants” (10%). 65% of the soldiers (Stouffer et al.: 232) admitted to having experienced at least once a state of fear that had made them virtually unable to react “adequately” in battle. A good example of this is given by the Italian writer and soldier in the First World War, Emilio Lussu, who described his emotions in the fight after “going over the top” without shelter and under heavy fire: Instead of using his pistol, he threw a stick, an “alpenstock” on the stupefied Austrians, who caught it in the air (Lussu, 1992, p. 128). If we believe that male pride seldom allows for confessions such as these reported by Lussu and the American soldiers in the study, we gain both an idea of how often this emotion will be under-reported (also in fiction!) and of what “courage” or “boldness” really means (as a conscious, reflexive action or an automatically trained behaviour in face of terrible fright). We can also take it for granted that their meaning will vary in time. And the same is true for the civilizing of war-related horror. Within states and in times of peace, a more civilized kind of defeat would mean loss of money instead of life, loss of reputation instead of limbs. In wars between states and in state-organized violence against groups of their own citizens, a more detached, affect-controlled way of killing has often produced horrors on a hitherto unknown scale. This well-known terrible paradox of civilization is anything but new: The Chinese already used their crossbow over a distance of 200 metres and shot their arrows at the enemy without encountering them face-to-face; their motivation was irrelevant to and unguided by the experience of empathy toward the human beings that were “the enemy”. A particularly long action-chain and physical distance are characteristic for many modern weapons that define a new level of “civilized barbarism” The third dimension is that of refinement vs. crudeness or barbarism in terms of the external circumstances of fighting and their influence on manners and everyday hygiene. Fighting always took place in heat and cold, wetness and dryness, accompanied by hunger and thirst, after tiring marches, with or without latrines and its result has always been death and severe injuries. The heated rooms and richly served table of the commander will accordingly be always more comforting than the naked misery of many of his soldiers who freeze or starve to death: In all these cases, good table-manners are not the most important thing on earth, and the threshold of shame and embarrassment will be rather low. 4. The Changing Face of War: Steps and Stages of its Development from the 18th to the 19th century: Dynastic, “Trinitarian” War The following summarizing account draws, first, on examples of the Habsburg army, as presented in a paper (Kuzmics 2008) that used diaries, fiction, regimental histories and autobiographical material as its main sources. The second basis of information is formed by two research projects that were conducted at the University of Graz in the years 2006/07 and 2009/10 for teaching purposes. The title of the first was “The Face of War” (Haring/Kuzmics [eds.] 2008), the second  was named “War and Emotions” (Haring/Kuzmics [eds.]2010) and both dealt, from the perspective of a sociology of emotions, with the First World War as an example of the industrialized war fought between great-powers. The former also dealt with the experience of the mercenary soldiers of the French Foreign Legion in the 20th century, with “low-intensity-warfare” and Child Soldiers in several parts of the world, and finally with the motivation, aspirations and skills of contemporary Austrian soldiers who are engaged in peace-keeping missions or at home. In terms of the manly “pleasure of attacking”, the experience of fear and its overcoming by courage or boldness, the perceived brutality of war and the coarseness or refinement of the circumstances surrounding organized fighting, dynastic war provided two very different sets of opportunities: one for the aristocratic warrior caste, the other for the common soldier. Much of what Van Creveld sees as the unchanging, fundamental character that warfare has for men, is actually based on the complex canon of chivalry, courage and honour, of death as the ultimate proof for them, necessitating a life-long preparation in order to be able to acccept death in consent and dignity. Loyalty was extended to the ruler, the regiment, and comrades. They were the main reference group whose standards could be formulated as a code of honour. The favourite branch of service was the cavalry, and until 1866 and the battle of Königgrätz, something resembling the medieval furore and courage survived, giving room as much to a ‘pleasure of attacking’ as to the blind doom of fate characteristic of warrior-societies in myth and reality more generally. In the genesis of an aristocratic canon of honour and chivalry, the great difference between the nobility and “the people” (farmers and citizens) is central. The Serbian general, von Stratimirovič (he was in the service of the Habsburgs, but also a rebel against Hungary in 1848/49), described an indicative experience from his childhood: “It is a warm day in May – I’m romping around the courtyard. I have made a horse harness out of the laundry lines that I annexed, and now I am driving four farmer boys – my horses – around the place. A fifth one, a half-grown strong farmer boy, is my riding horse. With slow, deliberate steps, my father comes over; he reprimands me and orders me to quit the game, to go to my tutor in the room, and not to miss my daily lesson.” (Stratimirovič 1911: 1, author’s translation) The gesture of chivalry presupposes superiority first and foremost. With this backdrop, the self-control necessary to resist exploiting one’s position develops. This is the foundation of every act of gallantry. Part of this involves the fatalism of the warrior which feeds a stoic insensitivity to danger (which can become second nature to a warrior and part of his habitus). It was the aristocratic elements of the Habsburg army that were reminiscent of the feudalism of the knights in the Middle Ages. This is illustrated in a story based on an incident in the Battle of Solferino (1859) “When the Hussar orderly Bécseys saw his cavalry captain fall, he shouted ‘If my captain is dead, then I don’t want to live anymore either!’ and, scattering enemy blades, he blasted into the enemy battalion, whose commanding field officer held at the front, defending himself for a short time against the saber blows of the brave Hussar, but then was struck by him from the saddle.” (Enis von Atter und Iveagh 1898: 40, author’s translation) For aristocrats, who formed the bulk of the officer-class of dynastic states, the spontaneous play of the affects in battle was complemented by a need for self-steering in situations that demanded foresight, exemplary control of affects detrimental to success in field or the discipline in the barracks and the virtues of paternal care for their men. For the common soldiers, things were very different. Mechanical drill and massive coercion guaranteed their “discipline”. Otherwise, desertion would have become epidemic, as it was in large parts of the 18th century, when armies still relied more on foreign mercenaries than on their “own” country’s drafted personnel. The open Machiavellism of absolutist states was mirrored in the cynicism of many of their soldiers. Today, the websites of the mercenaries of the French Foreign Legion give a good picture of the complete alienation that is part and parcel of an army without any commitment to a “higher” entity such as a nation or a “fatherland”. Regarding their attacking fury, the main problem was to overcome the fear of heavy artillery fire, and courage was to be increasingly defined by endurance or obedience. Things began to change with the Napoleonic wars, when French armies started to rely on drafted conscripts only and their loyalty to the cause of revolution. It was also the start for a new model of infantry man – with more space for manoeuvering and more free will to decide how to fight. Concerning the material circumstances of battle, Keegan’s analysis of the battle of Waterloo gives a good example of the prevailing hardship. Habsburg soldiers probably had even more to suffer, particularly from endless, tiring foot-marches, scarcity of nutrition and the heavy casualties that resulted from reckless infantry assaults with drawn bayonets against massive enemy fire. But all in all, war was, for the ordinary soldier, neither a glorious nor a chivalrous enterprise. 5. The First World War and the Departure from “Trinitarian War” The “Great War” brought for the Habsburg army, as for other armies, an end to aristocratic ideals of chivalry and the proud tradition of its cavalry. Modern industrialized war replaced feudal attacking spirit with more modest emotions – apart from the many who did not have to “fight” in the narrower sense of the term and who formed an element in a huge apparatus based on division of labour that was responsible for supply, technical support, logistics and information. But also those who stood in the frontline ready for attack or defence very seldom, if ever, experienced “pleasure of attacking”. Spontaneous emotions were rather the result of vindictiveness and revenge (when no prisoners were taken). More often, the main property of a good soldier was his ability to endure – under exhausting external conditions and heavy artillery or machine-gun fire, when fear turned into sheer horror. The front experience was rather heterogeneous, though, and over long periods of time, the central emotion could be boredom. Austrian officers who wrote diaries and regimental histories also vividly described the shift in their central moods throughout the war years and the corresponding changes in luck and prospects. For most of them, war started with enthusiasm and high patriotism, brought – together with defeat or lack of progress – doubts about the leadership-qualities of their commanders and their organizational skills, and ended in apathy and resignation at the moment of defeat and dissolution of the empire. Heterogeneous as the war-experience in general was, so also was the multiplicity of the conditions on the ground, of weather, of hygiene and the care for the wounded. It has often been described (see Keegan’s [1999] account of World War I, or by Ferguson 2006) how terrible life in the trenches could become, with the stench of unburied corpses, the lack of latrines and so on. This was certainly not a civilized war in the sense of “refinement”. One defining element of war, according to Van Creveld, is the male readiness to sacrifice one’s own life which prevents it from turning into mere butchery. But it is difficult to detect the element of play and adventure that he claims as eternal properties of war. Elias and Van Creveld agree, however, that this war was no longer a dynastic war with clear separation of army, people and state. A quite ruthless new middle-class morality corresponded to the grim necessity of a war between nations. Aristocratic self-restraint and empathy for the honorable enemy were more often than before replaced by a new cruelty, lacking any compassion. 5a. Industrialized Warfare and the Emotional Experience of Officers: The “Pleasure of Attacking” and the Brutality of War In this paper, I shall try to illustrate the emotions and sentiments of Austrian officers in the late 19th and early 20th century with the help of two examples: the unpublished memoirs of the Major-General Paul Schinnerer (1869-1957) which begin with memories from his early childhood and end with the aftermath of the armistice in 1918; and the autobiography of Constantin Schneider (1889-1945; 666 pages long and published in 2003). He was a young 1st lieutenant at the time the war started. Both accounts appear to have been based on diaries (otherwise, the sometimes day-to-day reconstruction of events would be wholly implausible) and did not aim at publication for a broader audience (Schneider might have played with the idea, but abandoned it or did not pursue it with the necessary impetus). Schinnerer’s memoirs provide information about his early education, his military training, and his experiences at the Russian front, first as an officer of the general staff and then, as a field-officer, until his career led him to the post of commanding Major-General at the Isonzo-front against Italy. These memoirs amount to roughly 560 pages of typescript (from the original handwriting) and had been collected and archived for scientific purposes at the Institut für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte in Vienna. Schinnerer was born in Vienna in 1869 as a son of a textile merchant and thus belonged to the mercantile middle-class and not to the aristocracy – neither to the “Amtsadel” of recently ennobled members of the military and government bureaucracy nor the ‘real’ nobility of old. Schneider was the son of a professional officer and took up an army career himself. His branch was to become the artillery. Schinnerer’s memoirs give ample evidence of his distance from the old warrior-caste and warrior-code typical of the Habsburg and Russian armies of the 18th and much of the 19th centuries, bearing witness instead to a peaceful-commercial, unmilitary attitude of the Viennese bourgeoisie with pacifist and German-nationalist undertones. The development of his character, the psychic process that also included strong emotions of shame and inferiority, provides us with the kind of information necessary for deciding on the existence of a ‘psychic’ and ‘social’ habitus which contrasted with the feudal spirit of the old officer-class. He never turned to duels to restore his endangered reputation. The military branch he was involved in was logistics, transport, supplementation and staff-like military planning. He owed his advancement into the higher officer-ranks to his “technical skills”, not to his brilliant appearance at court or in salons. His qualifications were proved in examinations; and this also shaped his world-view on military matters. Long before the war, he complained again and again about the spirit of feudal tradition and the hostility towards modernization that he felt dominated the whole Habsburg army. Schinnerer addresses the classical properties of the concept of “habitus” which includes ideas, but also habits that guide actions unconsciously. It is formed at a young age, but persists – as a disposition – through the whole of a person’s life-time. Part of this habitus involves an attitude of “lacking foresight” and of the “chimeras of those on the top” (“Phantastereien der Höheren”, Schinnerer I, p.185), which no one dares to oppose. Again and again, Schinnerer describes superiors who shun real work and who denounce all critics as “pessimists”. His harsh judgment hits all professional “optimists” who underrate the enemy. We can be certain that Schinnerer’s attitude differed enormously from the more feudal spirit of many Austrian commanders, in particular of the cavalry, who soon found themselves disillusioned after their catastrophic defeats in Galicia in 1914. The difference is also one of social background: bourgeoisie vs. aristocracy. When the war arrived, it found Schinnerer as a member of the general staff in Galicia. The coming disaster of the 3rd army which had to retreat soon after the collapse of the illusory attempt at attacking a hugely superior enemy (1.2 million Austrians fighting against 1.8 million better equipped Russians) was not unexpected by Schinnerer. The responsible generals were criticized because of their carelessness, tactical deficits, inertia and self-deception. Being convinced that the main thrust of the Russian army would hit the Austrians near Lemberg, he was frightened by the prospect of the offensively advancing Austrian troops, unprotected on their flanks, being pushed into attacking a superior enemy. Soon, a terrible chaos came to rule. No one could find anyone else. The locations of the higher command could no longer be identified. Some commanders shot themselves. Many “showed their full incompetence” (Schinnerer II, p.12) or surrendered ingloriously. The latter included Field Marshall Lieutenant Krauss-Ellislago, “the greatest swindler and fraud” (ibid., II, p.13). The most detailed description of the emotions that accompanied this catastrophe can be found in the autobiography of Constantin Schneider (2003), who was a young 1st lieutenant at that time. He wrote: “Here they came, forming a sad line on the road. Dusty horses with their heads hanging down, some riders, dusty, unrecognizable, I identified them only at close range: They were my friends from the regiment, most of them with blemished faces, black from dust and dirt, with wide open, protruding eyes and a mad look. (…) Heaps of men sat on the limbers of the guns, like refugees, sitting sunk down and staring with the miserable look of hopelessness.” (Schneider 2003: 87; author’s translation) In this quotation, we find the emotions described vividly in the language of observation; the sentiment of hopelessness is given unmistakable expression and so is the lack of trust in the wisdom of the men’s commanders. Schneider confirms the impression of leaderlessness and over-ambitious orders that cannot be followed any longer. Many officers simply disappeared and let their men down. The various, mixed emotions combined to create the picture of an Austrian habitus in which soldiers were often led by officers and commanders who either formed an inhuman caste of butchers, totally ignoring the value and dignity of the lives that have been committed to them, or who were small tyrants, rulers over life and death at a safe distance from the bloody events themselves (see Schneider 2003: 351). It is in Schneider’s account that we can also find the important comparative perspective, missing in many other sources, which allows us to determine the relative weight of the Austrian military habitus, here compared with that of the Germans: “How different was the new spirit that the German command taught us: Simplicity was their device and how to spare human material. We had been told of glorious episodes of struggle when a company undertook an assault and only 10 men stayed alive. How our commanders admired the leader of such a company as a hero and decorated him with medals. It was different with the Germans: they rewarded, above all, the commander who achieved the greatest success with the least losses. We lacked this kind of understanding totally. The whole conduct of war aimed at blind bravery which arose more from desperation than from enthusiasm. To have raised this risky bravery was the guilt of our commanders, their activity was often that of butchers, their meaning was cruelty and their reward was perdition.” (Schneider 2003: 351; author’s translation) But before I discuss these dark moments of Austrian military history and their critical assessment by essentially humanist officers, I shall turn my attention to the manifold ways in which these officers characterized their experience of the war they found themselves in. While Schinnerer was a pessimist, Schneider had a more optimistic kind of character, but both converged in their judgment of the first catastrophic events. Both were dedicated to their duty and had little appreciation of the faults and mistakes of their fellow officers and commanders. They describe the hardships of their plight in lively terms:  The transition from a world of peace and life in the barracks to the omnipresence of danger and death is told by Schneider (Schneider 2003: 45; the Galician battlefield as a “Welt der Gefahr” (world of danger). There was the fratricidal gunfire of the infantry and artillery against their own cavalry (ibid., 52-58), the mood of anxiety in the face of a better equipped enemy (ibid., 79) and the importance of moods in general (ibid., 256). Both describe the dynamics of flight and chaos (ibid., 94, 98, 102, 121). For Schneider, war often resembles work of a more mechanical kind (ibid., 112; 289, for example, that of a battery commander), but it also involves the art of management behind the frontline (ibid., 121). Work can take on the special character of an arithmetical problem (ibid, 380), not wholly different from the work of a book-keeper. But here, a terrible bill is settled, and individual action or heroism does not count for much. War becomes an affair of logistics, transport, availability of ammunition (which the Habsburg army lacked most of the time), and the single soldier and his courage can be calculated statistically. War can even become a kind of sport (ibid., 268). All in all, a decisive difference exists between a war of movement (as was the case initially in the East) and one of attrition (as was the case most of the time with the Isonzo-front against Italy with her enormous material superiority). While the average infantry man suffered from the uncounted horrors of a life under permanent fire in the so-called “trenches” that were not really trenches at all but low walls of stone and sand with corpses to fill the void created by exploded grenades, the officers retreated to shelters behind the lines and worked themselves through piles of files in a manner reminiscent of Habsburg officials in peacetime. Time and again, Schneider describes his activity as “bureaucratic” in character (ibid., 368, 376, 388), although he also gives numerous examples of his own readiness to sacrifice his life in visits to the frontline. But this bureaucratic work can become intense under the permanent pressure of the defeat looming as a result of the Italian superiority in material and men. The psychic costs of sleeplessness and the responsibility for terrible own losses make him feel powerless and depressed. Death comes by accident, most often for his men, but also for his fellow-officers. Much of Schneider’s and Schinnerer’s duties thus consisted of highly civilized, bureaucratic work (cf. Schinnerer, 186, whose duty also involved securing the water supply at the Italian front), admittedly under the auspices of danger and looming defeat. Emotions have to be kept at bay. Empathy with one’s own soldiers, tortured executioners of their well-calculated orders (coordinating the fire from guns and mortars to maximum detrimental effect for Russians and Italians), has to be avoided – these feelings (and of course, uncontrolled fear) would make it impossible to give intelligent orders. Time and again, Schneider sacrificed whole units for the sake of whole armies. Affect control also extended to the identification with the equally tortured enemy. Feelings of sympathy were rare, with one notable exception, when Schneider saw with his own eyes the murderous consequences of the artillery-attack on the Russian trenches that he himself had prepared, calculated and directed. “Just now I am standing in front of a Russian trench, and curiosity causes me to take a closer look at it. So I recognize this trench to be exactly the same that I had taken under fire throughout the whole morning. (….). Inside the trench, my dead  are lying there, good soldiers who had held out for such a long time under the hail of shells, until death delivered salvation.” (Schneider 2003: 298-9; author’s translation) Although Schneider proved to be a man with a feeling heart time and again, these occasions of identification were rare. But how did he experience what Van Creveld saw as the manly appeal of danger and the urge to demonstrate courage, or what Elias called “Angriffslust”? Did he develop something similar to the spontaneity of affects characteristic of the medieval knight? Or were these emotions always embedded in lengthy action-chains which involved the necessity to suppress all sudden feelings? A careful reading of Schneider’s memoirs reveals that this spontaneity was not wholly alien to him. He describes his emotions during the first encounter with the Russians, thus: “When we had passed the most advanced line of our troops, a new world appeared – the world of danger. A life began that was lived just from one minute to the next. The evening was so remote and how many unforeseen occurrences could conspire to move it to unlimited distance. In such a life, thoughts of future and past stopped. Life became sheer presence with the minute being it’s only content. Every minute was different, the curve of life moved up and down in uninterrupted change, between death and life, changing in countless variations, between confidence of victory, joy of fighting and joy of life, melancholy, foreboding of death, quiet resignation. The value of time, too, disappeared from all previous, fixated imagination. Soon, the hours flew and the day passed so incredibly quickly that it seemed to consist only of sunrise and sunset, with nothing in between. (…..) the endless long days passed by. Their substance was greater than that of months, their content sometimes exceeded  that of whole previous years of life.” (Schneider 2003: 45; author’s translation. In moments like these, Schneider blindly rode through enemy fire, without sparing himself. Afterwards, after eight hours of ceaseless battle, he was unable to sleep. His nerves were agitated (ibid., 65). He was in a state of frenzy; he regretted all those men of previous generations who have not lived to experience this kind of ecstasy “What is this frenzy (Rausch) that takes possession of the soldier, even the modest one who does not stand in the most advanced frontline, but who is only helping the organization and the direction of the huge apparatus that fights? The awareness of being self-reliant, the awareness of highest danger, the awareness of being better in these moments than the many who were neither allowed nor inclined to participate. (….) This is what the whole heroism consists of: to experience and to bear all this and yet, to find even now, sometimes, a merry word or to throw a glance at nature rewarded by its beauty.” (Schneider 2003: 79; author’s translation This frenzy could be also accompanied, at the same time, by exacting intellectual work (ibid., 121). He had to keep in mind the positions and number of his guns, the names and places of the sub-commanders, also of the infantry: He had to know how much ammunition there was, and so on. Schneider describes his own fear here in rather abstract terms. However, he gives ample evidence of this fear when he talks of other officers, who were sometimes “half-mad” because of their fear (ibid., 96) or were characterized as mentally unstable, strangely apathetic (ibid., 411) or who were generally fearful (General Kratky, ibid., 435, feared both the enemy and his superiors). What we find is a strange mixture of the planned, the anticipated and the spontaneous elements in the emotional reaction to the war; a simultaneity of “civilized”, controlled affects and of the uncontrolled and the uncontrollable. These same ingredients can also be found in the emotions and emotionally shaped behaviour that are characteristic of the most anonymous, impersonal conduct of war that is possible: feeding, organizing and coordinating the breech-loaded guns that execute their deadly mission over a distance of several kilometers. Here, the difference between the two ends of the action-chain – killing and being killed – is also the difference between the perpetrator of violence, his scheming, perhaps even cunning cruelty, sometimes accompanied by late regret and identification with the victims, and the sheer, uncontrollable horror experienced by those at the receiving end. Concentrating on the emotions of the attackers, we typically find the following pattern: joy about the massive terror and threat that is represented by one’s own side’s artillery (mighty guns get even nicknames, like “Georg”, the Austrian 35 cm-gun with a range of 28 km, used against the Italian hinterland; cf. Schinnerer, II, 179); by the machine-like execution of necessary orders and, often, a feeling of sadistic joy if one is able to see the effects of shooting from a safe distance, followed by remorse if one sees from a closer distance with one’s own eyes the fateful consequences for the enemy’ s soldiers who are, then, again recognized as human beings for whom one feels empathy: all this could have happened to oneself. The following is one of several quotations I have drawn from Schneider “Something monstrous presses forward. Such must be the howling sound of the globe on its way through the universe, one thinks, and now a bang follows, the ground is shaking, and a gigantic fountain of earth rises at the meeting point indicated before. At last, the dust vanishes, leaving monstrous stains in the snow. People had sneaked off during the approaching of the missile. Now they appear again, like catching a breath of air before they disappear again as soon as the next monster moves through the air. If my field-guns received more ammunition, their activity became more vivid. One even took the liberty of making jokes to annoy the enemy. One used to shoot at a house, for instance, until it was consumed by fire, and waited some time until many Russians ran together in order to dam up the blaze. If enough of them were assembled, one banged around this densely populated scene of a fire with all one’s guns. One imagined that the enemy now had to suffer enormous losses, since soon he would stop his work of extinguishing and the fire would start anew. Every officer who was at his observation post and who guided the shooting had his especially cruel fun. One liked to outwit the enemy: one would, thus, shoot at the same spot for a certain time until the enemy felt secure enough to leave his dug-outs. But then one used to point the fire suddenly and maliciously at a totally different spot, in the midst of a heap of curious spectators.” (Schneider 2003: 268; author’s translation). This is, of course, not the description of an emotion but rather the avoidance of one. Schneider knows the moral standards by which he is able to describe this procedure as “cruel”. But the atmosphere of the feeling of dominance experienced on such occasions can also be felt. “Grausige Freude” (gruesome joy) is what he feels during such occasions (ibid., 293); but when he arrives at the enemy trenches and sees the result of his frenzied labour, he summarizes soberly: “ I really had killed – this is what I felt today for the first time!” (ibid., 293). 5b) Industrialized Warfare and the Emotions of ‘Common’ Soldier The spontaneous “joy of attacking” had long since disappeared from the war ordinary soldiers from the lower classes  had come to experience since the invention of machine-like drill and heavy artillery in the 17th and 18th centuries. The First World War added to that state of affairs the necessity of coping with the machine-guns, consequently developed from the breech-loading rifles of the 1860s and multiplying their fire-power to the point that one pair of machine-gunners would now equal the fire-power of a whole squadron of infantry. Furthermore, breech-loaded artillery with explosive shells could fire at a speed with penetrative power and duration that dwarfed all artillery from previous battles to virtually nothing. And finally, these four years of war created not one or two days of battle (the famous victories of Napoleon were  achieved between sunrise and sunset), but lasted to see dozens of battles develop that took not days but several weeks until some kind of outcome was reached. The sources used here show several characteristic steps and types of industrialized warfare as it was lived by Austrian soldiers in the plains and hills of the East against the Russian steam-roller and, in the South, the stony, rocky mountains and valleys of the Southern Tyrol and the Isonzo-river on the Western border of today’s Slovenia: (aa) There was a stage of habituation, when the Habsburg infantry had to learn that the blind attack by bayonet and the sharp eye of the Tyrolean infantry man, standing upright before the enemy’s frontline and shooting at the Russians, had to give way to what was regarded by them as absolutely cowardly behaviour – digging in had to be learned the hard way. (bb) Then there came the experience of positional warfare when courage simply meant to endure, and its opposite meant flight and cowardice. Differing from the experience of hand-to-hand-fighting which was regarded as atavistic and cruel (but which could also provide the opportunity to see the enemy as a human being with whom one could, as Remarque’s famous novel shows, also empathize), war could take the character of slaughtering a totally anonymous enemy with the emotions related to unchecked dominance, but which could also lead to (cc) feelings of professional efficiency, of “work” if one was sitting behind a MG or a permanently firing howitzer (cf. Collins 2008, who also stresses the difference between micro-social, interactional violence and violence at a distance). (dd) The last stage of industrial war was reached by those Habsburg soldiers when they either broke through to the fertile land of the enemy after months of starvation and unbelievable hardships, when their affective household turned from the passive endurance of pain and hunger to active looting in abundance or when their morale collapsed after lost battles to the point of senseless cruelty against humans and animals. A good example of the attacking spirit of the first days when no one cared much for protection is given by Burger (1917: 46-7) “The kind of spirit that was dominant among the fusiliers of the fifth battalion is shown in the following episode: In the morning, a “Landesschütze” called Wolf (…..) came to Lieutenant Sulzenbacher. The Russians had shot through one of the poor fellow’s eyes. “Herr Leutnant, now they have shot out one of my eyes!”, the fusilier reported to the officer and begged to dress this wound. Lieutenant Sulzenbacher felt the utmost compassion for the good fellow. “Oh, this doesn’t matter”, the fusilier declared, “I am going now to look through my other eye and I will try to see if I cannot catch the scoundrel that way” – he meant the Russian who had shot out his eye. He went back to his covering and continued to shoot the whole day in spite of his injury.” (Burger 1917: 46-7; author’s translation) As long as they attacked on an open field, they could experience a state of frenzy similar to that described above. But soon, they had to get used to the safety of a dug-out. This habituation is described by Migschitz (p.4), for example, as a process of ‘blunting’. Stages of relative security (when death only took its regular toll accidentally of soldiers walking to the toilet or bringing food from behind the frontline) were followed by periods of heavy shelling and machine-gun fire: “to the height of 15 metres, are thrown by the heavy shells that burst in. They roar and thunder the whole day. Everyone is dug in. But, if someone merely shows his head – fffft: he is done for. The dead lie around here in masses. One becomes completely indifferent. What is the real worth of a human life? Nothing. Not a farthing.” (Migschitz: 17; author’s translation) The emotions are different if the soldiers were not at the receiving end, but the active part of the action chain of mechanized death. Stieff (15) reports his “burning desire to prove his art of shooting at the living bodies of the enemy”. Another report also regards the use of a machine-gun as an “art”: “Single fire or pointed fire from an MG. T’was really an art. It depended on the skill of the thumb-pressure. Within a fraction of a second, the thumb had to glide off the bolt, otherwise you had the most beautiful stoppage. Yeah, the single or concentrated fire became my specialty. Here I became a master and I also received the machine-gunner’s medal.” (Schowanetz: 347 The lack of emotions indicating empathy or compassion with the enemy is apparent. To use an MG is often called “work”. But for the common infantry soldier, there were many variants of “work” in the trenches, as, for instance, Ernst Jünger never tires of telling. In particular, war on the Italian front with its rocks and the difficulty of creating dug-outs there, brought with it extremely tiring and exhausting physical work, aggravated by the stench of unburied corpses (the Italians did not allow them to be buried and used to shoot at anyone between the frontlines). And there was mass-starvation: In November 1918, the average weight of an Austrian soldier was 52 kilos. What was mainly lacking was any indication of a “joy of attacking”, even in face-to-face fighting “A brutish struggling and killing face to face! The bellows, howls, and rages – the faces deformed in wild rage, no human expression any longer on the face, a bunch of annihilating devils. One gets hold of the other using fists, butts, hand-grenades. The steel of the knife rushes into soft human flesh, bones are cracking. No one is any longer a human being with a human fate and human pain, only struggling in gruesome embraces. In between, shells and mines burst, crack and roar, tearing living humans to clods of flesh and blood. Rattling, howling, roaring – the air is filled with deafening noise over miles. A howling in the ultimate torment of death;  frightened screaming because of raging pain; prayers for help; beastly snorting and aching. In vain. We do not exist.” (Haugeneder, 3: 26, author’s translation The formula for all this is simply “endurance”. The soldier who suffers it is courageous by definition; he is left no choice. The contrast with the civilized killing at a distance could not be greater. But what Elias called the ‘affective household’ (Affekthaushalt) of the ordinary soldier has its limits. Both Schinnerer and Schneider give a vivid description of the forces that could be unleashed when endurance found its end in victory or defeat. The frustration of defeat led to the perverted wish to shoot one’s own, often healthy, but tired  horses during the enforced retreat (Schneider 2003: 102): “The people seemed to be in a kind of frenzy caused by all the blood that they had seen. A horse that let his head hang down was no longer led but was instantly killed And after the last victory over the Italians in October 1917: “The most infamous barbarism consisted of the last excesses of the general rage of destruction and looting that had now taken possession of the people. (…..) Even inanimate objects became victims of a senseless fury: paintings were cut through; you could see galleries of ancestors where all their heads and noses had been cut out. (….) Even more incomprehensible was how much food was then destroyed. I have already told about the barrels of wine flowing out. (….) One should not be silent about the masses of flour and rice spread around. Nor about the savage killing of chickens and other live-stock. You could see slaughtered animals lying beside the road of which no one took notice since all battalions had already satisfied their demand for several weeks. Pigs limped beside the columns. One of their feet was cut off while they were still alive.” (Schneider 2003: 498; author’s translation) 6. Concluding remarks: who is right – Elias or Van Creveld We can now assess the discussion. Let us remember the points of departure. While Van Creveld stressed the ‘eternally same’ in the experience of war, by defining war first by the readiness to sacrifice blood or life and second by the male thirst for adventure and the deep, existential feelings attached to it, independently of the appearance of war in the Middle Ages, the war of mercenaries or war in times of global “terror”, Elias, by contrast, concentrated on what had changed. He emphasized the decline of the joy of attacking that can be found in mechanized warfare. He insisted on the existence of a more comprehensive web of self-restraint that reduces spontaneous aggressiveness even in war, although he recognized that barbaric, but affectively controlled organized mass-killing could still occur. The period dealt with here is but a small section of the millennia-long history of war and only refers to the transition from the dynastic wars of princes to the “democratic” wars of people against people. But also for this short period, our examples of officers and soldiers show that there is not much to support the idea of a perennial, eternally invariant nature of war. Rather, war and its emotional meaning vary with the developmental stage of the societies in and between which it takes place. Much depends on the type of situation the soldier/officer finds himself in. Fury and frenzy are experienced in situations that evoke them; they cannot be detected in the diligent paper-work of staff-officers. The work-type of affect-regulation in war resembles that of work-places in general. It is not easy to define the direction of civilizing trends, nor, on the contrary, of trends in the opposite, de-civilizing direction either. One must also be careful to avoid interpretations of Elias’s insights that are too schematic when defining middle-range hypotheses concerning “civilizing” or “de-civilizing” developments in war. Regarding motivations and enthusiasm for a fight, the machine-like, drilled soldier from Early Modern Europe was already rather far away from the furore of the Norman knights in medieval Sicily. In terms of motivation, the developmental lines pointing to “civilizing” rather to de-civilizing tendencies are rather heterogeneous. In the complex division of labour of modern war, however, the former probably prevail. Regarding the effects of armaments or weapons and how these were experienced, the brutality and accidental, often unpredictable nature of things may be exactly the other way round. This leads to the question of how strong the possible identification of leaders and ‘ordinary’ men was with the fate of their opponents. Our sources tell a rather sobering story: from a distance, neither the enemy nor one’s own infantry men were subjects of much moral concern. It is apparently very easy to apply the civilized cognition of the absolute necessity to cause harm and damage if higher aims or authorities are behind it. But a final, important difference can be detected in the analyses of Van Creveld and Elias: While the former maintains the arbitrariness of what constitutes the causes of wars, masking only the eternal male longing for a fight, Elias’s (1985) more sober insight into the mechanisms of dynastic or nation-state competition provides us with an acknowledgment of the fatal situation of given conflicts producing states of fear in all participants prior to any aggressive conduct. Sharing insights that have also been formulated by “offensive” (Mearsheimer 2001) or “defensive realists” in the analysis of international state-competition, Elias tended to believe that only a credible global monopoly of violence might help. Whether the period of the last three centuries has been sufficient to secure pacification without external pressure, only by means of more pacified types of “habitus”, remains hypothetical. But at least, the process of pacification occurring within states has become so successful that the type of “warrior” produced under these conditions has itself changed quite considerably.


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[1] Elias apparently thought it possible that China would creep up on them, according to Eric Dunning (oral communication).

[2] I am very grateful to Prof. Eric Dunning, University of Leicester, who has helped me a lot by reading and correcting an earlier version of this paper, in particular its English.  This paper is also partly based on a German text that is part of the book: Kuzmics, Helmut/Haring, Sabine A.: Emotion, Habitus und Erster Weltkrieg. Soziologische Studien zum militärischen Untergang der Habsburger Monarchie, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht unipress 2013, 513-541  

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