Victory for the Regime = Defeat for Society?

Does society benefit more from victory or defeat? If the latter, how do we resolve the contradiction between society’s interest and that of regimes, which live off victories?

Простая истина, но и еЈ надо выстрадать: благословенны не победы в войнах, а поражения в них! Победы нужны правительствам, поражения нужны — народу. После побед хочется еще побед, после поражения хочется свободы — и
обычно еЈ добиваются. Поражения нужны народам, как страдания и беды нужны
отдельным людям: они заставляют углубить внутреннюю жизнь, возвыситься духовно.

There is a simple truth which one can learn only through suffering: in war not victories are blessed but defeats. Governments need victories and the people need defeats. Victory gives rise to the desire for more victories. But after a defeat it is freedom that men desire–and usually attain. A people needs defeat just as an individual needs suffering and misfortune: they compel the deepening of the inner life and generate a spiritual upsurge. [Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 272.]

Solzhenitsyn illustrates his point with several nice examples from Russian history, e.g., the buttressing of repressive conservative rule following the victory over Napoleon. How well does this hypothesis hold for other societies?


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