quinta-feira, 6 de outubro de 2005

economics, warfare, and the forging of the modern war state

In the light of the following quotations, comment on the relations between economics, warfare, and the forging of the modern war state.

"What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war."

It is a commonplace to say that wars are necessarily, and always, economically motivated. The notion that wars are fought only to fulfill a country's material needs is widely accepted and generally goes undisputed.

As we take a look back on history, one easily realizes that matters are more complicated than that. In general, a war breaks out as a consequence of not one, but several aspects of human relations. The emergence of the modern nation-state well illustrates this point.

Nation-building processes were only possible in the XIX century thanks to the development of the capitalistic economy, which brought about a new social class -- the bourgeoisie -- with new interests. THe aspiration for political autonomy was the consequence of the appearence of a different economic order.

That's true. But it is also true -- and it would be intellectually naïf to deny it, and scientifically incorrect -- that other factos played an important role in nation-building. THe bourgeoisie sought political independence from large empires for their own ethnic community.

In previously more politically organized territories, such as Bismarck's Prussia, cultural mogoneinety was a fact and was not at stake; here, political issues, social cleavages within Prussia itself, were a more determining factor.

Political actors, whether they are a king or an elected official, must act rationally. That means they need to gain and keep legitimacy in order to maintain a grip on power. This basic political rule, which is backed by historic facts, leads us to realize that rulers will make use of force outside their borders, to achieve the goals (be they political or economic) of the government, but only as long as this action does not put at risk the state's ultimate goal -- it's own existence.

Leaders like Hitler, who take their country to political suicide, are exceptions that confirm the rule. Had Hitler acted in a rational manner and pondered the consequences of his decision to attakc Germany's eastern neighbor Russia, he would not have done it at all.

When a ruler opts to start a war, he takes into consideration not only economic factors, but social and political ones as well. To reduce war-making as a mere tool to achieve economic goal is to oversimplify something which is anything but simple.

Comentário do professor-
Very interesting, but what about Weil's quotation?

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