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Militarism and Business Cycles


Raja Menon

QUESTIONING GLOBALIZED MILITARISM: NUCLEAR AND MILITARY PRODUCTION AND CRITICAL ECONOMIC THEORY
By Peter Custers
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 437, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

For those who may not realize that the lengthy title of this book means more than what it says, Critical Economic Theory is a Marxist addition to the critique of political economy. Today, of course not all adherents to the theory are Marxist.   So the author comes to this book from a long association with nuclear disarmament in Holland, where he worked with an NGO advocating unilateralist western disarmament at the height of the Cold War. En route he wrote a work entitled Militarism and Critical Economic Theory. That book, the contents of which are not available, looked at militarism through the eyes of ‘left economic thinkers’ such as Rosa Luxembourg, Sweeney, Mandel and Samir Amin, the last of whom has written this book’s foreword. Despite such strong leftist credentials, the author points out that he is currently aware that people will not accept that Marx could explain everything that goes on in the world. Hence his realization that the relationship between militarism and the business cycles cannot fully be explained in classical Marxist theory, but through a critical review of Marxism. That establishes the need for the book, which does not in the end, go against anything Marx said, but apparently supplements Marxist theory.   The overview of the book comes in the first chapter which describes the short lived jubilation at the end of the Cold War. Gloom apparently descends again owing to three causes. The first arises from the US decision to become a hyper power and therefore to maintain defence spending at ‘high ‘ levels , although total spending came down from six present of the GDP during the Cold War to three percent after it.   The second cause comes from a proliferation of nuclear weapons among newer countries, such as India and Pakistan. The third is the depressing amount of arms that are being transferred from the North to the South, in exchange for primary commodities that the poor arms importing countries can ill afford to export. So how can an analysis of these three subjects be illuminated by Marxist theory, or what exactly did Marx have to contribute to suggesting alternatives to these three phenomena, if Marxist gonernments ruled? Truly a challenging task since both Russia (and the old Soviet Union) and China have been guilty of all the three sins to a much larger degree than the ‘great Satan’.   In amplification, the author says that ...


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