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Wars and Global Political Economy

Gulshan Dietl

By Kees van der Pijl
Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 459, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 2 February 2007

Kees van der Pijl is the director of the Centre of Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex. His earlier books include The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (1984) and Transnational Classes and International Relations (1998). He is currently working on a project entitled “Tribal and Imperial Antecedents of Contemporary Foreign Relations”. Thus, he straddles the disciplines of Global Political Economy and International Relations; and makes valid connections between the two.   The book under review is a path-breaking analysis of the history of wars and global political economy in the past century; and how these have shaped the relations and rivalries between/among political entities.   The thesis in this study is startlingly simple: the global rivalries can be traced back to the struggle between a liberal, English-speaking, Protestant-Christian world created through overseas settlement and trade in the seventeenth century (the heartland) and a series of contender states beginning with France. Over time, the struggle developed into ever more complex patterns eventually comprising the entirety of the global political economy. Hence, the global rivalries. If it was France that challenged the first British empire, the second British empire and the United States were confronted by Germany, Italy and Japan. The Soviet Union challenged the wider West thereafter. In the seventies, a broad coalition of Third World states even wanted to institute, through the United Nations, a politically controlled world economy along contender state lines.   After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a powerful brake on the overt rivalry within the wider West was removed; the inner tensions of Euro-Atlantic unity were exposed in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo, when the European Union adopted a strategy of neoliberal “Americanisation” against the Americans. The debate over the war on Iraq took global rivalries to the peak. How then does the furious dispute over Iraq square with the idea that history has forever moved beyond rivalry, a thesis most famously developed by Francis Fukuyama in his “End of History” argument?   Pijl’s central argument, therefore, is that the appearance of planetary unification and homogenisation of the global political economy, not unlike the situation a century ago, hides a more profound drift to social crisis and conflagration. The process of breakneck liberalisation driven by transnational capital creates profound instabilities; the mindless propagation and practice of privatisation and economic competition produces extreme inequality and precariousness; and those worst affected cling to ethnic, national and ...

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