I want to thank all the contributors to this book for having taken the time and trouble to critique my recent work. It is an honor that I have experienced before, and I love it.
The third and fourth volumes of The Sources of Social Power bring to an end my history of power relations in human societies. Volume 3 begins for the most advanced countries in 1918. Yet since my second volume on the long nineteenth century largely ignored the empires of that time, in Volume 3, I actually start my discussion of empires much further back. Volume 3 then takes the narrative forward to the end of the Second World War, and then Volume 4 takes over up to (almost) the present day. The amount of empirical material I read for these volumes is large but very far from exhaustive, since an enormous amount has been written about the modern period. It would be very surprising if I did not make mistakes or depended on unreliable historians or took one viewpoint in highly controversial debates.
But my narrative is not merely empirical. It is informed by sociological theory. As before, I structure my narrative in terms of the interplay of four power sources, each one of which generates its own networks of interaction. The four are ideological, economic, military and political power. Although all four are often entwined with each other, each has its own distinct logic of development, and so their relations with each other are ultimately “orthogonal,” independent and irreducible one to another. Thus, while in these periods I persistently stress the importance to social development of capitalism, I am also persistently critical of economic determinism, whether this comes from Marxism or neo-classical economics. Similarly, while recognizing the importance of ideologies in these periods, I reject the idealism which pervades much of the so-called cultural turn in sociology. For military power I try to correct the opposite tendency, the neglect until very recently of the importance of war and armed forces in social development. I would like to believe that the recent revival of interest in military power owes something to my influence. I will say something later in this essay about the continuing political importance of the nation-state.
I here focus in some depth on the causal relationships between nationalism and the two world wars of the twentieth century, asking two main questions: did nationalism cause these wars and did these wars intensify nationalism? Nationalism is generally defined as an ideology embodying the feeling of belonging to a group united by common history and a combination of ethnic/religious/racial/linguistic identity, which is identified with a given territory, and entitled to its own state. There is nothing inherently aggressive about nationalism, though it becomes more aggressive if one's own national identity is linked to hatred of others' national identities. Most scholars of nationalism would not claim that a sense of national identity is ever total in the sense of displacing all other identities, but they do tend to argue that, whether overt or latent, nationalism has dominated modern warfare. It is highly likely that a war between countries in the age of nation-states will have the effect of increasing the aggressive component of nationalism, but I am more interested in the reverse relation: does nationalism cause war? Clearly nationalism has to take rather aggressive forms if it is to do this.
This question can be first addressed by asking whether nationalism and war have tended to rise and fall together, in roughly the same time and place. There seems to be general agreement that nationalism first became widespread in Europe at some point in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, became generally more aggressive at the beginning of the twentieth century, and then spread out to the world in both mild and aggressive forms. So I initially ask whether this corresponds in any way to the incidence of wars in Europe and then the world in the modern period.
The world is a very varied place. Though in the post–World War II period it has experienced globalization, all three of the main pillars of globalization – capitalist expansion, the adoption of the nation-state form, and American empire – have entwined with very different social structures and development opportunities across the world. U.S. policy was dominated everywhere by the cold war and fear of communist advances, but different parts of the world were situated differently in relation to the cold war. So I discuss separately four macroregions, the West, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. I will do this through the narrative lens of American empire, though this should not be taken as indicating that I believe American policy was decisive in determining their patterns of development.
It is useful to begin by recapitulating the main varieties of empire that I distinguished in Volume 3.
Direct Empire occurs where conquered territories are incorporated into the realm of the core, as in the Roman and Chinese Empires at their height. The sovereign of the core also becomes sovereign over the periphery. The United States has never attempted this.
In February 1941 Henry Luce proclaimed the beginning of the American Century. America, he declared, must now: “accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world … to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit …. We must now undertake to be the Good Samaritan to the entire world ….” This was global imperialism for a good cause. As we saw in Chapter 5, American imperialism after World War II had been quite varied. Over Europe it was hegemonic, even legitimate. Over East Asia it was a mixture of indirect empire and informal empire through military intervention, yet domination then became more benign and now legitimate hegemony predominates there too. Latin America and the Middle East were at the receiving end of informal empire through military intervention or proxies, though this has recently declined in Latin America while increasing in the Middle East. The United States had no colonies in this entire period and tended to move toward milder forms of domination. Yet, as Chalmers Johnson (2000, 2005) says, the size and sprawl of its military base network constitutes a new type of global empire, intended to militarily coerce without formal occupation.
This chapter deals with two recent crystallizations of American imperialism: economic imperialism, centered on dollar seigniorage occurring from the early 1970s; and military imperialism intensifying in the 1990s and 2000s. I try to explain them and I ask whether the two were in fact distinct or whether they became merged into a single global imperial strategy, as world systems theorists and others argue. I will ask how successful the two were and whether they reversed the drift toward lighter forms of American empire. Since Chapter 6 already discussed some of the economic intensification, I focus here more on military power relations, and especially on the two main wars of the twenty-first century so far, in Iraq and Afghanistan. I begin with the economy.
Introduction: Three villains: Capitalism, states, citizens
Volumes 3 and 4 have charted the growth of globalization processes. In Volume 3 I dealt with the “segmented globalization” of rival empires and with the Second Industrial Revolution, which diffused new industrial technologies through larger swathes of the world. I analyzed the crises posed for most of the world by two World Wars and a Great Depression and noted the diffusion of liberal, socialist and fascist ideologies. In this volume I have charted the further global diffusion of capitalism and nation-states, and the coupling of a decline in international wars and a growth of civil wars across the globe. Yet in truth the global dimension of all this was not particularly interesting from a sociological point of view. For the most part I was merely describing the global expansion of social structures long familiar to us on more local scales. Does capitalism change because it is global rather than regional? Do geopolitics change because they concern 190 nation-states rather than 30? Yes, but not greatly.
However, a major exception was noted in Chapter 2. The emergence of international peace across most of the world was a world-historical change come quite suddenly upon us. This happened for several reasons, but the major one was the threat of nuclear weapons to the globe. This made warfare between the greatest powers completely and utterly irrational. The use of nuclear weapons could be the most extreme form of globalization. They could cause many millions of casualties, ending civilization as we know it, making the world uninhabitable for humans. Insects might inherit the earth. Military power relations had become fully globalized, for they had hit up against the limits of the earth and then ricocheted back on us. Perhaps the most appropriate metaphor is a lethal boomerang, our own inventions coming back to kill us. But humans took evasive action against nuclear war and this transformed societies. There has never been an entity like the European Union, an economic giant but a military dwarf. On a lesser scale many other states show the same novel imbalance, their civilian far outweighing their military functions. The military backbone of most states has turned to jelly, and for them soft have largely replaced hard geopolitics.
Overall patterns of globalization and development
In this volume I have depicted a narrowing followed by a widening of the ideological spectrum, capitalist triumph and tribulations, the decline of interstate wars and their replacement by either peace or civil wars, the intensification of national citizenship, and the replacement of all empires save one by nation-states. All this was happening on an increasingly global scale – a series of globalizations, which sometimes reinforced, sometimes undercut, and always differed from each other. As a result, the world is more interconnected, though it is not harmonious, and it is nowhere near being a single global system. It is a process of universal but polymorphous globalization.
My second volume identified capitalism and nation-states as the two main power organizations of the long nineteenth century in the advanced countries. In Volume 3 and here I have expanded my horizons to the globe and added empires. The entwined dynamics of capitalism, nation-states, and empires brought disastrous world wars and revolutions in the first half of the twentieth century. This was followed by a fairly sharp break after 1945 as power relations subsided into a short “golden age” of democratic capitalism, in which occurred the collapse of all but two empires, a degree of class compromise within capitalism, the institutionalization of both capitalism and state socialism, the emergence of mass social citizenship, and global economic and population growth. The principal military confrontation eased into a merely cold war, which eased further as the Soviet Union stagnated. This plus the advent of nuclear weapons brought a decline in usable military power and a rapid decline in interstate wars across the world. Reformed capitalism and American-led geopolitics between nation-states now jointly bestrode most of the world. In the North of the world a higher level of civilization, more prosperous, with more public caring, more literacy and greater human longevity was being developed, though the route to it had been circuitous and dangerous. But there was concern in this period that the South of the world was not sharing in much of this and indeed might be condemned to a limited and dependent development.
Since the United States was the leading superpower, its domestic economy and politics became of great significance for the world. Since my general method in these volumes is to focus on the “leading edge” of power in any period, I give most attention now to the United States. In the postwar period, compared to other Western countries, the United States became much more conservative at home in terms of class politics, while becoming more liberal in terms of protecting personal identities. Neither process was steady or continuous. Class politics were closely contested both in the immediate postwar period and in the 1960s, after which conservatism racheted upward. But identity liberalism tended to surge later. In this chapter I will take both stories up to about 1970.
The impact of World War II
To explain postwar developments we must start during the war. The United States did not declare war until the end of 1941 and for two full years before then had profited from selling war material to Britain and mobilizing for a possible war amid a recovering economy. There was military-led growth. Unused industrial capacity and unexploited technological improvements were brought onstream, aided by an increased labor supply (especially women), a decline in low-productivity sectors, and a modest increase in hours worked. Manufacturing production continued to rise as the United States fought across the Pacific and Europe. The share of military expenses in gross national product (GNP) rose from 1.4 percent in 1939 to an astonishing 45 percent in 1944, shattering conceptions of fiscal rectitude. Neither balancing the books nor encouraging private investment mattered anymore. Since the United States was receiving the world’s gold to pay for supplies sent to its allies, it could also run large deficits without adverse monetary effects. Real GNP rose a phenomenal 55 percent during 1939–44, due to an across-the-board mobilization of resources (Rockoff, 1998: 82). Economically, it was a very good war for Americans. For everyone else it was bad. The difference meant the United States dominated the world economy afterward.
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