Though current news reports might suggest another picture, ever fewer people are ready to risk their lives in a war. This is the conclusion reached by a researcher from Leuphana University of Lüneburg in cooperation with colleagues from the US and Sweden. The scholars arrived at this finding by analyzing questionnaires’ results from the World Value Survey of 48 societies, together accounting for more than 80 percent of the world’s population. During the past 30 years, the readiness of the inhabitants of 43 countries to wage war showed a significant decrease. Only in three countries did it slightly increase.
Since 1981, the World Value Survey asks people around the globe about their fundamental values and beliefs. The participants are asked to specify, among other things, whether they would be prepared to fight for their country in case of a war. In the past 15 years alone, the proportion of all persons questioned answering the question with “yes” decreased by 10 percent, lowering the average from 75 to 65 percent.
However, there are significant differences between countries: in Japan, nearly 28 percent of respondents would be willing to enter the struggle; in Bangladesh and Qatar on the other hand, almost all participants responded with "yes". Professor Dr. Christian Welzel, a political scientist at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, seeks to explain this discrepancy. The democratic tradition of a country, it seems, only plays a minor role, he says. "Instead, the readiness to fight seems to depend primarily on the extent to which a society represents emancipatory values, such as tolerance towards homosexuality, equal rights for women, and guaranteed personal freedom."
The more liberal a society, the less ready its members are to wage war. This comes as no surprise to Welzel. “Emancipatory values broaden our possibilities for free personal development,” he explains. “This development inevitably involves a change of perspective: away from the dangers threatening our struggle for survival; towards the chances that life is offering us.” In return, life becomes more valuable; to risk it in a war becomes increasingly intolerable.
Wars are becoming rarer
In spite of major differences between societies and authoritarian relapses: On average, the world has become a more liberal place within the past thirty years. In parallel to this tendency the same period has seen a decrease in the number of armed conflicts. Welzel stresses that "[t]his is a clear trend, even if current media coverage may suggest another picture“, and positively concludes that the rise of emancipatory values acts as a pacifist drive. “This force makes it ever more difficult for governments – especially if they are democratically elected – to gather support for military conflicts among the population. “
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