The Formation of the ‘Western’ Strategic Gaze: A Case Study on Emotional Irrelevance in International Politics

WASINSKI, Christophe
Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Palgrave Studies in International Relations book series (PSIR)
pp. 151-177

WASINSKI C. (2018) in Clément M., Sangar E. (eds) Researching Emotions in International Relations. Palgrave Studies in International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham


Why and how did a cartographic narrative emerge, which makes empathic emotions irrelevant, encourages resorting to violence, symbolically transforms ‘own troops’ into reified entities that can be sacrificed, and, in general, facilitates war-waging? The analysis of material factors (be they military manpower, defense budgets, and/or weapons available in armed forces’ arsenals) and/or of balances of power is not sufficient to decipher this puzzle. In order to understand war, it is necessary to take into account the existence of social representations, especially those contributing to hush up ‘positive’ (empathic) emotions toward the Other. Using a sociological historical approach inspired by Science and Technology Studies, this chapter aims at exploring the social forces that allowed such dehumanizing representations, thereby making emotions largely irrelevant, to succeed and circulate transnationally in Europe for centuries.

The starkest reality of war is that the enemy is never really a monster, never inhuman. Warriors have often tried to reduce their foes to sub-humans to prop up their denial, but the fact is the enemy is someone who dreams, someone who loves,someone who just needed a job, someone who is just wanting for a break to take a leak or eat his supper: a full-fledged human just like us.

Stan Goff (US Army, retired) (2004, p. 38)