Vijay Mehta’s ‘The Economics of Killing’ reviewed

Vijay Mehta’s latest book, The Economics of Killing: How the West Fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World (Pluto, 2012) has been reviewed this week in Spectrezine, a journal of the radical left that purports to ‘haunt Europe’.

The reviewer, Steve McGiffen, also editor of Spectrezine, writes favourably of Mehta’s book, that it offers ‘a theoretically original and empirically rich analysis which gives as much as we are perhaps entitled to ask from any writer in this often bewildering and always rapidly-moving situation’.

The review covers a number of published approaches to what McGiffen describes as ‘the current, ongoing and seemingly insoluble crisis.’ Broadly speaking, he considers there to be two schools of thought about the economic meltdown we presently find outselves in:

The first view is that it is an inevitable product of the capitalist system. This is what is suggested by a strict application of Marxist analysis, and it is also the conclusion one must draw from reading writers such as Fred Magdoff and Michael D. Yates in The ABCs of the economic crisis. The other, promoted by radical left parliamentary parties such as Greece’s Syriza or the Dutch Socialist Party, as well as numerous economists and commentators of the left and the more intelligent parts of the centre-left, is that the crisis was caused by an abdication of governmental responsibility in the face of the power of the financial sector, and is being prolonged by austerity policies.

McGiffen sees himself as tempted by both interpretations, even contradictorily so. He argues that Mehta’s contribution to the debate is both rich and somewhat different to the raft of accusations levied against the financial sector:

Vijay Mehta’s take on the crisis does not resolve this dilemma, but like Harmes he does offer a theoretically original and empirically rich analysis which gives as much as we are perhaps entitled to ask from any writer in this often bewildering and always rapidly-moving situation: another piece of a complex jigsaw. Mehta does more than that, in fact. He presents us with a number of pieces, so that the outlines of both crisis and if not ‘solution’ then amelioration become somewhat clearer. Mehta’s basic argument is that the ‘cause’ of the crisis is less the financial sector than the Military-Industrial Complex, though banks and finance houses certainly play a major role in this.

He continues, in something of a mammoth paragraph:

The market for arms has been largely generated by those who manufacturer them, and the overwhelming majority of such manufacturers are US-based. After the huge expansion of the industry made necessary by the need to win World War Two, these companies had to ensure the constant creation of new markets, and their perpetuation, in order not to have to ‘demobilise’, at the cost of their profits. Markets were provided by the creation of a largely fictitious ‘Soviet threat’, and by ensuring that people came to power in newly independent developing countries – and stayed there – who were more interested in acquiring powerful friends and shiny phallic objects that went ‘bang’ than they were in the wellbeing of their populations. American foreign policy was increasingly geared to the needs of corporate capital, but then to some extent it always had been. Its ruling elite had no pre-capitalist traditions to dilute this domination, no projects of aggrandisement apart from the purely profit-seeking. The British and French Empires had many aspects and served many metropolitan interests. Essentially, the American Empire has only one purpose, even if this purpose must be constantly and consciously maintained by corporate political action. Thus, as Mehta explains, a corporation such as Lockheed Martin does not ‘have to endure capitalism’, by which he means it is not subject to any of the rigours of the market familiar to small and medium-sized enterprises. Instead, ‘it ensures its future by investing in political influence in Washington.’ Of course, the United States being a parliamentary democracy, this also involves getting a significant slice of the population on board. This is done partly by the Orwellian method of constantly creating or exaggerating threats which can only be countered by military means. With delicious irony, however, there is also a tendency to draw attention to ‘the vast numbers of ordinary Americans who owe their livelihoods to the Department of Defense’s largesse, rather as all Soviet workers were expected to be grateful to the state.’ Mehta calls this ‘Leninist’, which is a little unfair to Lenin, whose political heirs in the West are about the only tendency to take a different view. Bombs for jobs is such a widespread idea that a few years ago centre-right and centre-left collaborated on a European Parliament report calling for the consolidation of the EU ‘defence’ industry, drawing attention to the fact that it was a major employer. The fact that the two MEPs involved styled themselves a ‘Socialist’ and a ‘Christian Democrat’ respectively may also strike you as ironic or may even, if you are an adherent of any or all of the philosophies to which these labels refer, make you want to vomit.

To read the conclusion, and the rest of this great review, see Spectrezine.

The Economics of Killing

How the West Fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World

Vijay Mehta

Shows how Western governments are trapping the developing world in a cycle of violence and poverty.

“We live in a rich world and yet increasingly people are getting caught in the poverty trap and facing real hardship and pain. Vijay Mehta’s excellent book sets out the problems and solutions, and challenges us all to create the spiritual and political will to implement policies which will bring about real change and give hope to humanity.” – Mairead Maguire, Irish peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“The Economics of Killing brilliantly links the deepening economic crisis facing the West with the dynamics of militarism that is wreaking havoc on the planet. Everyone who cares about the future must read this groundbreaking book.” – Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for the Palestinian Territories, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, USA

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

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