The politics of war, an unconventional view of clashes between global powers.
Ben Bittrolff discusses Niall Ferguson’s theory of violence in the 20th century. The theory suggests that ethnic unrest erupts during periods of economic stress and uncertainty. This is similar to the premise of Socionomics. According to Socionomic theory, social mood affects the economy and the economic landscape is a driving force in global conflicts. – Ilene
Courtesy of Ben, The Financial Ninja
Watch the clip from Ron Paul explaining the consequences of destroying a currency…
Then read this book: The War of the World by Niall Ferguson.
Ferguson develops a theory to explain the brutal violence of the 20th century. He postulates that ethnic unrest is prone to break out during periods of economic volatility and uncertainty. Severe economic distress has the tendency to suddenly unravel even advanced processes of ethnic assimilation which then rapidly escalate into full-scale conflict. The catalyst for catastrophe is always the decline of great economic and political powers and more importantly the emergence of new powers.
One of many examples analyzed by Ferguson is the Second World War where empires in decline clashed with those on the rise while the global economy convulsed wildly.
Fast forward to the present. The "descent of the West" is now obvious. New economic and political blocs such as China and India are struggling to define their global identities. A truly massive philosophical, ideological and religious struggle has gone from a ‘cold war’ to a controlled ‘hot war’ on a global scale pitting Individualism against Collectivism, Science against Religion, and Christianity against Islam.
The current global economic instability will almost certainly be the final spark to set the entire world aflame.
"According to historian Professor Niall Ferguson, we need to rethink our understanding of the 20th century. There were not, he says, two world wars and a ‘cold’ war, but a single Hundred Years’ War. It was not nationalism that powered these conflicts, but empires. The driving force was not class or socialism – race was. And finally, it was not the West that triumphed; in fact, power slowly and steadily migrated towards the new empires of the East." –The War of the World
This is from the Introduction to Niall Ferguson’s book War of the World: History’s age of hatred.
The lethal century
The 100 years after the year 1900 were without question the bloodiest century in history, far more violent in relative as well as absolute terms than any previous era.
Significantly larger percentages of the world’s population were killed in the two world wars that dominated the century than had been killed in any previous conflict of comparable geopolitical magnitude. Although wars between ‘great powers’ were more frequent in earlier centuries, the world wars were unparalleled in their severity and concentration. By any measure, the Second World War was the greatest man-made catastrophe of all time.
And yet, for all the attention they have attracted from historians, the world wars were only two of many 20th-century conflicts. Death tolls quite probably passed the million mark in at least a dozen others. Comparable fatalities were caused by the genocidal or ‘politicidal’ wars waged against civilian populations by the ‘Young Turk’ regime during the First World War, the Soviet regime from the 1920s until the 1950s and the National Socialist regime in Germany between 1933 and 1945, to say nothing of the tyrannies of Kim Il Sung in North Korea and Pol Pot in Cambodia. There was not a single year before, between or after the world wars that did not see large-scale organised violence in one part of the world or another.
Progress, people and weapons
Why? What made the 20th century, and particularly the 50 years from 1904 until 1953, so bloody? That this era was exceptionally violent may seem paradoxical. After all, the 100 years after 1900 was a time of unparalleled progress: by the end, thanks to myriad technological advances and improvements in knowledge, human beings on average lived longer and better lives than at any time in history…
…In what follows, I shall argue that historians’ traditional explanations for the violence of the 20th century are necessary but not sufficient.
The extreme violence of the century was highly variegated. It was not all a matter of armed men clashing. Of the total deaths attributed to the Second World War, two-thirds were civilians. Sometimes they were the victims of discrimination, as when people were selected for murder on the basis of their race or class. Sometimes they were victims of indiscriminate violence, as when the British and American forces bombed whole cities to rubble. Sometimes they were murdered by foreign invaders, sometimes by their own neighbours. Clearly, then, any explanation for the sheer scale of the carnage needs to go beyond the realm of conventional military analysis.
Ethnicity, economics and empires
Three things seem to me necessary to explain the extreme violence of the 20th century, and in particular why so much of it happened at certain times, notably the early 1940s, and in certain places, specifically Central and Eastern Europe, Manchuria and Korea. These may be summarised as:
- ethnic conflict
- economic volatility
- empires in decline.
War of the World: The War of the World, published in 2006, had been ten years in the making and is a comprehensive analysis of the savagery of the 20th century. Ferguson shows how a combination of economic volatility, decaying empires, psychopathic dictators, and racially/ethnically motivated (and institutionalized) violence resulted in the wars, and the genocides of what he calls "History’s Age of Hatred". The New York Times Book Review named War of the World one the 100 Notable Books of the Year in 2006, while the International Herald Tribune called it "one of the most intriguing attempts by an historian to explain man’s inhumanity to man". Ferguson addresses the paradox that, though the 20th century was "so bloody", it was also "a time of unparalleled [economic] progress."