chapter  5
19 Pages

The military–industrial complex in a globalized context DAvID N . GIBBS

The post-Cold War period era has truly constituted the triumphant historical phase of capitalism. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, capitalism has become a worldwide system, with few serious ideological challengers. Within the former Soviet Union, the former Eastern bloc, and China, varieties of capitalism have replaced communism, apparently as a permanent shift. Outside the former communist bloc, major ideological challengers to capitalism also have retreated. At the same time, the world has become interlinked to an unprecedented degree, through a globalized network of trade, investment, and corporate ownership (Robinson 2004). Whether these trends can be maintained into the future is open to question. For the moment however, capitalist globalization appears as a hegemonic system. A related and widely held view is that globalized capitalism is not militaristic. On the contrary, investors are viewed as peaceful or even gentle (associated with the idea of “le doux commerce,” as described by Hirschman 1997: 56-62). Businesspeople are interested in maximizing profit, according to standards of market rationality, and minimizing risks. The risk of war evokes feelings of dread among rational investors and traders; hence their aversion to warmongering, and to militarism more generally. Imperialism and overseas aggression are viewed as “atavistic” activities (so the argument goes), a throwback to an earlier, precapitalist era (Schumpeter 1955: 65). Furthermore, international trade and investment increases the tendency for peaceful interaction, at least among the core capitalist states, and this point is conceded even in certain Marxist circles (for an early statement of this view, see Kautsky 1970).