Thoughts on the “post war reaction” – the effects of the “war cause authority”

Here’s a thought I had:

It seems that war tends to cause a reaction following the war.  I call it the “post war reaction”.

I should point out that in this article I will primarily focus on the effects caused by what I call the “war cause authority”.  This is primarily looking at things from a sociological perspective.  In other words, the “post war reaction”, as I use it here, is referring to a sociological reaction.  This, of course, does not mean the “war cause authority” is the cause of all problems following a war.  There are many others as well.  These include:

  • Trauma – horror.  Naturally, the effects of war can be traumatic, even on the winning side.  This can lead to a process of recovery in which a society may have to go through “stages” of recovery.
  • Stunned – unable to react.  War can be so dramatic that a person, or even a culture, simply cannot react to it.  We could, perhaps even say that some people, and cultures, does not know how to react to war.
  • Social/political/economic imbalance.  A war, of course, can have great impact on the functioning of society on many different levels.  This can last for years and decades after a war.


The conditions of war tends to create a particular form of authority that pervades the society.  Its not an actual authority, as in a leader or organization, but based in what can be described as a social-based reality.  In this way, its more akin to a “sense” than anything else.  You can’t really point to someone and say “there is the authority” but its a social-based quality that is “sensed” by the people in the society.  I call this the “war cause authority”.

Some of the qualities associated with this authority include:

  • A sense of cause
  • A sense of unity
  • A sense of threat
  • A sense of pride

In these ways, we can see that the “war cause authority” is a social-based self-preservation reaction to a threat.  This makes it a transient phenomena, only valid in the crisis.  That is to say, the “war cause authority” has a life span . . . it only lasts as long as the threat lasts. 

In addition, since it is a reaction to a threat it can be particularly intense and severe, depending on the conditions.  This can give the “war cause authority” great power and authority, perhaps surpassing any social authority in the society at any other time.  It can mobilize and unite a people, resources, on a scale never seen before.  This means that the “war cause authority” can do several things:

  • It can achieve great things that normally could not be done
  • It can get out of control

In this way, we can see that the “war cause authority” is something with great power which can lead in any direction, good or bad.


Its my opinion that the “post war reaction” primarily consists of the remnants of the “war cause authority” after its life span has passed (that is, after the war has ended and the cause is gone). In other words, the “post war reactions” is the continuing effects of the “war cause authority” after it disappears.

We must remember that the conditions of war make the “war cause authority” have great power and influence in life and society.  Its presence is a reality during the crisis.  Oftentimes, life is changed and altered as a result.  This means that the presence of the “war cause authority” as if intrudes into life and changes it.  In this way, we could say that the “war cause authority” creates a “war culture”.  This is a unique culture that exists only during the time of war and which the “war cause authority” causes to exist.

But when the war ends the conditions change, the “war cause authority” disappears and the effects of its intrusion become redundant . . . the “war culture” dies.  In some ways, the loss of the “war cause authority”, and its “war culture”, creates a culture clash, between the “war culture” and the post war culture.  This, it seems to me, can cause great confusion and crisis in some cases.


When a society wins a war there often appear reactions such as:

  • The “post war culture”
  • The power vacuum

The “post war culture”

This is really a maintaining of the “war culture” after its use has vanished.  In a way, its a way of continuing the positive effects of the “war cause authority” and what it has done to the society.  It tends to display qualities such as:

  • It tends to be conservative in attitude
  • It tends to emphasize the need to obey
  • It tends to emphasize the need to conform
  • It tries to maintain a sense of “glory”

The effect of all this is that it can often become very controlling.  Sometimes this control can cause a rebellion against the “post war culture”.

Sometimes, there are people who will refuse to let the “war culture”go.  They will maintain its values and ideals, often acting as if they are still in war.  This can make them start to live in something like a “shell” or “cocoon” removed from the rest of the world.

The power vacuum

When the “war cause authority” vanishes, after a war, it tends to leave a great power vacuum.  This can cause a number of reactions such as:

  • Loss.  A sense of loss and emptiness in the society . . . something is missing.
  • Rebellion.  It can also cause a rebelliousness as there is no longer a “perceived authority” in society.
  • Confusion.  It can lead to a feeling of lack of direction or confusion.
  • Alienation.  The clash between the “war culture” and post war culture can make some people feel alienated and disconnected.

In ways such as these, winning a war can actually cause more problems after the war ends.


Some reactions of the losing side include:

  • The attack of authority.  This can create feelings of anger and betrayal which causes them to attack and criticize authority.
  • The loss of authority.  This can create apathy, depression, and emptiness.
  • Disillusionment.  This can create confusion and despair.
  • Loss of “war culture”.  This can create alienation and identity problems.

On the losing side there is usually no “post war culture” and no power vacuum.  Generally, there is primarily a sense that the “war cause authority” has let them down or a great sense of loss.  If anything you could say that the “post war reaction”, on the losing side, becomes a “culture of reparation”, trying to repair itself.


I’m not certain but it seems that the “post war reaction” is worse with societies where there is no “defined authority” in the culture, such as democracies.  These are societies with what can be described as having an “authority deprivation”.  This absence of authority causes a number of reactions:

  • When the “war cause authority” appears it makes a more dramatic entry and influence, creating a unity, cause, etc. that is not inherent in the society.  This can be something totally new and have a great impact.
  • When the war ends there is a greater sense of loss.  The power vacuum is felt more strongly.  The benefits of a social authority disappears.  This can be more confusion and rebelliousness.

It seems that societies with “defined authority” tend to experience nothing new with the “war cause authority” . . . its business as usual.  There tends to be no power vacuum following the war and the post war culture may not be all that different from the “war culture”.  It seems they make the transition a little easier.


The U.S. reaction to the WWII victory entailed two reactions:

  1. A conservative reaction.  This is what most people think of when they think of the 1950’s, right after the war.  The guys are all wearing ties, with short hair and girls are all in “appropriate dress”.  Everyone is in perfect manners and conforming to “accepted behavior”.  This is a manifestation of the “war culture” which they are trying to keep going.
  2. A rebellious reaction.  This would primarily entail people that generally went against or was counter to the conservative reaction.  This would include people like the “troubled youth” of the 1950’s, biker gangs, and the Beat Generation which would lead to the Hippie Movement and the social rebellion of the 1970’s and later.

The conservative reaction was very dominant from 1945 to about 1967.  The rebellious reaction was dominant from about 1967 to, probably, 1973.  These reactions tended to clash and have caused great conflict for the U.S., often appearing to split it in two.  There is still a “war” between these two reactions over 70 years after WWII ended!  Which one is dominant depends on where you’re standing.


Even though the cold war was not a “real war” it had great impact on the society.  This is because the conditions of the cold war created a very strong “war cause authority” and “war culture”.  This gives it a unique quality.

n addition, many of the qualities of the post WWII reaction were carried over into the cold war reaction.  This means that, in a way, WWII and the cold war are really phases of the same reaction.  In other words, WWII and the cold war should be looked at as two phases of one event and one reaction.  I believe this to be true.

It seems, to me, that there are a number of reactions:

  • An attempt at reviving America’s “glory years” after WWII.  Many people are trying to relive America’s former glory and are trying to keep it going.  Other people are trying to “cash in” on America’s former glory.  This tendency has caused a sense of entitlement in some people, as if they think that they are entitled to America’s glory, even though they had nothing to do with its creation.  This tendency to relive the past has also created a tendency where the U.S. is as if “stuck in the cold war”.  This has caused the U.S. to remain as if “in a shell”, unchanging and constant.  It has also made the U.S. tend to become behind the rest of the world, it seems to me.
  • A conformism.  There now seems to be strong “conforming” attitude where everyone must do what’s expected of them and/or what everyone else is doing.  This has been so greatly instilled in the youth that conformism, in one form or another, seems to dominate a younger persons life.  This tendency to conformism is related to the conservative reaction.
  • An arrogance and sense of self-righteousness.  This can get bad in some people.  People use the American Constitution, laws, etc. as if it were some weapon or commandment from god.
  • A strong power vacuum.  This has created a great sense of confusion, loss, apathy, and uncertainty.  Its also caused a degradation and deterioration of authority.  In fact, it seems that there is no longer any authority in the U.S.  We went from having a “strong authority and unity” to “no authority and unity”.  I often think that, the loss of authority and unity after the cold war ended has been replaced by an overemphasis on the pursuit of money, success, and social status.  This has become the new “authority” and the pursuing of all this is the new “unity”.
  • Power struggles.  The power vacuum left by the cold war has caused a power struggle in some people.  It seems, sometimes, that there are people who seem like they are trying to usurp power in the U.S.  I see it a lot in minorities and females, many of who are trying to portray themselves as “leaders” and such.  Its like they’re trying to be the “new authority” in America.
  • A fear and paranoia.  For some people, the cold war left a feeling of a “floating fear and paranoia”.
  • A rebellious reaction.  This actually seems rather minimal in general.

It seems, to me, that because of the rebellious reaction of the post WWII reaction, which continued on into the cold war reaction, the U.S. reaction to the cold war has qualities of both a winning and a losing side.  This would mean that the rebellious reaction was so strong that it developed a quality as if we lost the war!   I think that there is great truth to this and reveals how a rebellious reaction can be damaging.

Overall, though, I tend to feel that the U.S. is still reacting to the effects of WWII and the cold war and will be doing this for some time.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Battle trauma, Culture, cultural loneliness, etc., Historical stuff, Society and sociology, The military and war, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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