On the scale of countries and nations, the outcomes of bargains can be as multiple as for common people. Sometimes bargains are favorable for all parties involved, sometimes for one party more than for another, and sometimes for none. Bargains are often used for nations at the brink of war in order to postpone offensives or, on the contrary, to appear mightier and win the impending war. In 1914, the major players Austria and Germany practically started the World War One by involving Serbia and Russia into military actions. Additionally, the states used the bargain principle to call on the populace support should the country get involved into a war. During the First World War, the participating countries widely used the mass conscription, in return ‘promising’ their people to sustain the status quo and their citizenship. Although it was not a good time to launch offensives for any of the states and the costs of warfare were significantly increased, the countries managed to convince their citizens to take part and get conscripted in order to retain what they had already gained.
All governments are expected to “rest on a mix of tacit, customary and formal (constitutional) expectations concerning the level of government output (balance of costs and benefits) for rulers and ruled” (Magagna). To reach a favorable level of bargaining between the state and its citizens, the authorities have to offer adequate benefits to their people. Pre-World War One Europe was a place torn by class struggles. The Industrial Revolution intensified a division between the rich and the poor. Working class continuously demanded better pay, as well as working and living conditions. In case of war, working class usually suffers the most. Therefore, the rulers were aware of their peoples’ behavior, should it come to war between nations: “Would class and social clashes divide, or would international conflict unite” (Fromkin 22).
One part of the bargaining hypothesis states: “The timing of an expansion in the political bargain correlates strongly with increases in the costs of warfare” (Magagna). At modern times, the cost of warfare has been continually increased due to the division of labor between fighters and producers of gunpowder and military ammunition. Additionally, producers are supposed to pay for logistics, which results in conscription, taxes, and debts. Ultimately, the burden of war cost lies heavily on the nation and the entire society (Magagna). With the technological progress, the cost of gunpowder and warfare inexorably increased through “continuous, incremental change and occasional discontinuous change” (Magagna). Historian David Fromkin remarks that prewar Europe had a significant superiority in the arms race. Striving for security and peace, European countries competed against the others in better equipment in case of war: “Each adjusted its military manpower requirements – its blend of regular army, conscripts, and reserves of one sort or another – to at least match the levels of its potential adversaries” (Fromkin 30).
The second part of the bargaining hypothesis is “The strategy of rulers facing the problem of rising costs and potential resistance is to bind the interests of the ruled to the survival of their states” (Magagna). Although each country was to some extent involved into the arms race, the experts say that the wide public was largely unaware of the impending world war. Each country believed that their neighbors would be too weak to join the war. France was reluctant to wage war, even though it wanted to return the territories annexed by Germany and at the moment it was in very good relations with Germany. Russia was too feeble after the Russo-Japanese war to initiate any warlike activities by itself. Britain wanted peace and was not inclined to launch war on anyone (Fromkin 14). Germany and Austria placated the other countries that they were not bellicose, even though they were plotting aggression against Serbia for some time.
Anyway, each country was torn with inner struggles and distrust. The antidote to it was nationalism cultivated by many nations: “the most widespread feeling in Europe at the time was xenophobia: a great deal of hostility toward one another” (Fromkin 26). Thus, England hated the French, the Germans, and the Russians; Germany was fiercely afraid of Russia while Austria was in a spasm of fear as to the rising independent spirits of Serbia. The Balkan countries were in a permanent state of bickering.
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As for a logical connection between “a survival of their states” through warfare and “the interests of the ruled,” European nations were prepared to suffer destruction of one things in order to gain renewal of the other ones. Being brought up on Nietzschean philosophy of God being dead and regeneration through destruction, Europeans turned out quite ready to get tangled up in war (Fromkin 39). These moods were intensified by the general feeling of frustration and desolation tangible in art and politics. Philosophers attributed it to Gotterdammerung, ‘twilight of the gods,’ which signals an impending change of world powers. Out of all this, Europeans saw a way out through violence and aggression. The general public sentiment can be summed up in a famous speech of Theodore Roosevelt who said: “No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumph of war” (Fromkin 41). Thus, it is obvious that both politics and the intellectuals of the time shared the notion that the war was desirable. However, working and middle class did not necessarily share these moods. In war, less influential people usually lose more, but at that time the opinions of the masses were not heeded (Fromkin 42).
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There was an opinion that Germany was forced to start war because it had “no other way to assert itself other than through war” and “Germany’s increasing greatness should have been peacefully accommodated by the other powers” (Fromkin 56). In fact, it was Germany’s weakness that caused war, rather than its greatness. Germany increased its arms race because it believed that the preventive war could protect the country. At the time, the Germans strongly believed that they should have stricken Russia in 1905 when it was at its weakest point after the Russo-Japanese war (Fromkin 56). Furthermore, Berlin convinced Austria that they were right about Serbia, and should give it a good lesson. Meanwhile, Germany used an aggression against Serbia as a pretext to get even with Russia.
The situation was similar for Austria-Hungary in a way that the Empire was shaky, and it saw its chance of maintaining the status quo in erasing Serbia from the political map. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans became an active formation of free countries that set their sights on claiming some areas of the Turkish Empire. Serbia was especially bold and daring, which immensely frightened Austria. Having only 10 million of Germans against 38 million of the Slavic nations as their populace, the Austria-Hungarian Empire was on the verge of dissipating. Besides, even in literature Austria was presented as a villain. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Balkan states aimed at taking up Hapsburg lands. Thus, the rifle between Austria and Serbia is twofold: while the Hapsburg Empire fears Serbia and wants to squash it, Serbia dreams of grabbing Austrian lands (Fromkin 51-53).
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In order to wage war, countries need a great support of the masses and their direct participation. In the developed states, this is usually regulated by the mechanism of conscription. Since the late eighteenth century, “rulers (states) gain fiscal and debt resources and mass conscription in exchange for mass citizenship” (Magagna). The conscription bargain is regulated by legislation and usually is required during wars of defense. In case of worsened relationship between citizens and the state, people are reluctant to respond to conscription. However, mobilization had different aspects in different countries. For example, for Germany it meant war and a necessity to launch within twenty-four hours (Fromkin 231). Meanwhile, Russia could stay in a semi-mobilized state behind its borders for indefinite stretches of time. England was generally against mobilization with the purpose to fight for third parties and entered mobilization for WWI only in 1916.
Inasmuch as the new democratic order allowed the mass conscription, “underlying bargains transform subjects and citizens into stakeholders who have an incentive to support their states in war” (Magagna). Therefore, at least at the beginning of the Great War, European countries never knew a lack of recruits. The First World War was so necessary in the eyes of people and the Allies countries were so indignant at the impudence of the Teutons that recruitment offices in Russia and later in Britain had more people than they intended. The interesting fact is that each party believed that its cause was right. The Germans and the Austrians were eager to get into the war because they believed that in this way they would restore the unjust imbalance of powers. In Britain and Russia, patriotic sentiments prevailed.
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In no small measure, people’s enthusiasm can be explained by the fact that “state death means destruction of the asset value of state membership” (Magagna). Therefore, citizens are more likely to support the war because they view it as state survival. States form their armies through conscriptions of recruits and local militia. At that, democracies are usually characterized by strategic policies of conscriptions. The government offers people what they are prepared to accept: “they consider the likely reactions of citizens to the policy” (Levi 109). However, even when citizens are ready to do their share of the conscription bargain, they expect the state carry on with giving money and benefits. But from the first days of the Great War, it was evident that all countries had more serious wartime problems with delivering provision, ammunition, medication, etc.
By the time of hostilities outbreak, mass male conscription became a rule. All European countries but Britain had a pool of manpower ready to pounce, and each year the countries increased the number of soldiers in their standing armies. For example, France and Russia had 611,000 and 1,332,000 equipped soldiers correspondingly in 1912. By the summer of 1914, the allies had a joined number of 3.6 million mobilized men (Williamson 14). The matter is that “mass militaries are tied to universal conscription;” and mass militarization is “core strategic military technology” (Magagna). Germany and Austria-Hungary realized that they did not have enough manpower against Russia. That was the reason why Berlin was so afraid of Russia and favored a preventive war, so not to lose all its men. Therefore, when Russia just called for a partial mobilization, for Germany its sheer number of recruits equaled a full-blown mobilization and a beginning of war action. In Russia, the populace responded eagerly and actively to mass conscription, and there was almost 100% appearance at recruit checkpoints. By the end of 1914, Russia gathered more than 6.5 million men on active duty (Fromkin 253).
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In contrast to previous wars of the eighteenth century, the First World War was a result of the Industrial Revolution where a large number of innovations changed the course and duration of the war. Apart from railroads that made possible quick transportation of a big number of people, Industrial war had great destructive power due to chemicals, fuel, and large production of steel and explosives. Production of military vehicles such as tanks, aircrafts, aircraft carriers, and ships allowed armies quick mobility. At the same time, the mass conscription resulted in a lack of workforce in industries. While all men had gone to war, women had to take their places and engage in all fields of industry from agriculture to arms and munitions manufacture.
At the beginning of the First World War, the participating states used the principle of the conscription bargain to engage their manpower. Every country had long-service professionals and conscripts as well as volunteering recruits. Although it was not a good time to launch offensives for any of the countries and the costs of warfare were significantly increased, the states managed to convince their citizens that they needed to take part and get conscripted in order to retain what they had already gained. It was the principle of asset binding where people realize that the more they obtain, the more they have to lose because “state death means destruction of the asset value of state membership” (Magagna). In order to retain their citizenship, men had to participate in war as soldiers while women took their places in industries.