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The Norms of War: Cultural Beliefs and Modern Conflict

Theo Farrell
The Norms of War: Cultural Beliefs and Modern Conflict
ISBN: 978-1-58826-361-2
ISBN: 978-1-62637-017-3
2005/225 pages/LC: 2005011001

"Farrell's extraordinarily lucid presentation of large bodies of literature on the role of norms in international politics and his efficient presentation of a range of cases should make the book highly useful for pedagogical purposes.... Even for those readers who are already persuaded, the clarity of Farrell's presentation, the diversity of his cases, and the breadth of his theoretical arguments make Norms of War well worth reading."—Tina Tannenwald, International Studies Review

"[An] important study of how culture and war interact.... Rarely [have] the diverse strands of analysis necessary for comprehending the human recourses and responses to the phenomenon of war been so comprehensively yet clearly mustered and assessed. Farrell's book will make scholars in his field sit up."—Ian Gooderson, Contemporary Security Policy

"The Norms of War deserves to be widely read. It is highly recommended to everyone with an interest in security and defence affairs."—Christoph Meyer, International Affairs

"A powerful and incisive work that is breathtaking in its intellectual sweep and multidisciplinary ambition."—Thomas Berger, Boston University


Although the horrors of war are manifest, academic debate is dominated by accounts that reinforce the concept of warfare as a rational project. Seeking to explain this paradox—to uncover the motivations at the core of warring communities—Theo Farrell explores the cultural forces that have shaped modern Western conflict.

Farrell finds that the norms of war—shared beliefs about what is right and what works—are created and embraced not only by polities and military organizations, but also by constituencies throughout civil society. Culture, he demonstrates, accounts for all core areas of military activity and at every level, sometimes with puzzling results.

Tracing the lineage of the modern military and ranging from historical examples to charged contemporary issues, this provocative book goes to the heart of the relationship between society and war.


Theo Farrell is Reader in War in the Modern World at King's College London. He is author of Weapons Without a Cause: The Politics of Weapons Acquisition in the United States and co editor (with Terry Terriff) of The Sources of Military Change: Culture, Politics, Technology.


  • The Norms of War.
  • The Modern Military.
  • Mass Industrialized War.
  • Nuclear War.
  • Humanitarian War.
  • The Changing Culture of War.