[lbo-talk] A materialist outlook on war

Marv Gandall marvgand2 at gmail.com
Mon Jun 10 20:50:03 PDT 2019

The latest London Review of Books has a feisty essay by Sir Frederick Mount, a pillar of the British establishment, on the economic causes of war. Mount, a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, asks: “Where is Karl Marx now that we need him?”

He dispatches contemporary historians like Niall Ferguson and Margaret MacMillan who “dematerialize” war and see it as the result of “frantic misunderstanding and calculations…who sideline the brute economic drivers of conflict and concentrate on the diplomatic cock-ups and non-economic, sentimental motives…Even when modern wars seem, to the casual observer, to be driven by a struggle for access to natural resources, most flagrantly and often, to oil, we are told they are all about democracy versus dictatorship, or race, or religion – Shia v. Sunni, for example, or the West v. the East.”

Mount is clearly worried by increased global trade tensions, particularly those between China and the United States, and his piece is intended as a warning against the “dangerous insouciance” of politicians and academics who don’t appreciate that most bloody conflicts have their origins in trade wars.


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