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Analysis Of The Great Illusion, By Norman Angell

2783 words - 11 pages

Advances in technology and the expansion of trade have, without a doubt, improved the standard of living dramatically for peoples around the world. Globalization brings respect for law and human rights and the democratization of politics, education, and finance to developing societies, but is usually slow in doing so. It is no easy transition or permanent solution to conflict, as some overly zealous proponents would argue. In The Great Illusion, Norman Angell sees globalization as a force which results from and feeds back into the progressive change of human behavior from using physical force toward using rational, peaceful methods in order to achieve economic security and prosperity. He believes that nations will no longer wage war against one another because trade, not force, yields profit in the new global economy, and he argues that “military power is socially and economically futile” because “political and military power can in reality do nothing for trade.” While the economic interdependence of nations should prove to be a deterrent from warfare, globalization is not now, and was not a century ago, a prescription for world peace. At the turn of the twentieth century, formal colonialism was still profitable in some regions, universal free trade was not a reality, nationalism was not completely defunct, military force was necessary to protect economic investments in developing locations, and the arms race of the previous century had created the potential for an explosive war if any small spark should set the major powers off against one another. The major flaw in Angell’s argument is his refusal to acknowledge the economic advantages that colonizing powers, even after globalization has started to take shape, can actually gain from military strength when allows them to access new markets, to regulate and to restrict trade with valuable markets, and to protect their holdings and to promote development. His rosy view of globalization at the beginning of the twentieth century is also naïve in that it downplays the role and the potential strength of nationalism, especially during times of crisis, and refers to military spending and arms buildup as “economically futile” rather than as dangerous but necessary, as they in fact were.

While colonialism did not always pay, in many cases it did allow a military power to promote development of and trade with a colony in ways that would benefit the mother country. Angell correctly emphasizes the importance of trade to economic prosperity, but incorrectly asserts that colonizing nations cannot influence trade patterns or reap a profit from the trade that a colony carries on. Furthermore, Angell focuses his criticism of military spending on demonstrating the pointlessness of using military force to physically invade and steal gold reserves or take over factories, or to kill off foreign “competitors” who are vital as producers and consumers in the global economy. No nation intended to use...

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