Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dimensions of War: Understanding War as a Complex Adaptive System
by Solvit, Samuel, M.A., The American University of Paris (France), 2011, 114; 10305804
Abstract (Summary)

War is elusive. This is especially the case in modern world affairs where the complexity of the world and its fluidity confuse our points of reference. In this period of mutable identities and various kinds of warfare, how do we further our understanding of war? This research looks to answer this concern by proposing an innovative and transversal perspective on the war phenomenon, and by extension on contemporary warfare.

Reviewing some of the most influential war theories since Machiavelli – Hobbes, Kant, Montesquieu, Clausewitz, Marxist-Leninist theories, Waltz, Wendt, economic perspectives, and peace research – this work underlines their lack of focus on the dimensionality of war. By understanding these authors’ limits, this thesis analyzes how they tend to fix war in order to make it manageable. Thus, in the end, they simplify and reduce war in terms of time, space, interaction, purpose, aim and/or evolution.

In contrast to these approaches, this thesis will show that war is alive. It is a generative social phenomenon which is accordingly uncertain and self-modifying, or put differently, it is a complex adaptive system. Bringing out into the open the social, temporal and spatial dimensions of war, this work exposes its unpredictability, complexity, change, and generativeness. War comes to resemble an “ecosystem”, given that central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms are continually engaged in a set of relationships with every other element constituting the environment in which they exist.

This hypothesis will be supported by two main examples: the Second Congo War (1998-2003) and the Vietnam War (1954-1972). It will demonstrate that war is not fixed to an immutable political plan. War is rather a complex sequence of actions in constant motion. Its multi-dimensionality implies that reasons of war change throughout war – one can start to fight for a reason, continue to fight for another one, and end for yet a different one.

Through this understanding of war as a complex adaptive system, this thesis tries to shed new light on the comprehension of contemporary wars.

Indexing (document details)
School: The American University of Paris (France)
Department: International Affairs
School Location: France
Source: MAI 56/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: International Relations
Keywords: Complex adaptive, Modern world affairs, Peace research, War
Publication Number: 10305804
ISBN: 9781369493689
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