Saturday 12 November 2022

Joseph de Maistre: War is the habitual state of mankind

"Unhappily, history proves that war is, in a certain sense, the habitual state of mankind, which is to say that human blood must flow without interruption somewhere or other on the globe, and that for every nation, peace is only a respite."

I remember my supervisor Robert Tombs looking askance when I said I was attracted by Joseph de Maistre. I was right. He also said civilisation rests on the hangman, a statement of the obvious that the 189th century considered shocking. (I am not in favour on balance of hanging, but civilisation rests on the state's monopoly of lethal force.)


  1. "He was, besides, of an active disposition, and had a great antipathy to those close quarters in the castle of Gloucester, for which a justice of peace might possibly give him a
    billet. Nor was he moreover free from some uneasy meditations on a certain wooden edifice, which I forbear to name, in conformity to the opinion of mankind, who, I think, rather ought to honour than to be ashamed of this building, as it is, or at least might be made, of more benefit to society than almost any other public erection."

    Tom Jones, Ch. XV

    One could argue that Fielding arrived at the judgment before De Maistre.