War and the Rise of the State

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9780029250952: War and the Rise of the State

Examines both civil wars and international conflicts, exploring warfare's effect on states.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

By Porter (Political Science/Brigham Young/Harvard), an important assessment of the critical role played by war in expanding and defining the modern state. Drawing on five hundred years, mainly of European history, Porter argues that, far from being the transient phenomenon that liberals or progressives believe, or the dialectical engine of progress imagined by Marxists, war is above all ``a powerful catalyst of change,'' the consequences of which can be both reforming and ruinous. Concerning himself ``not with what causes war, but with what war causes,'' the author sees it as the main force behind the territorial consolidation of Europe from perhaps a thousand political entities in the 14th century to 25 by 1900; and as the single greatest force for bureaucratizing and government growth: ``wherever the gun went, the filing cabinet followed.'' The Napoleonic Wars swept away feudal structures through much of Europe; the Russian Revolution followed the huge losses suffered by the Russian armies; and the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century have used the glorification of war in their ``prostration of all politics to the good of the state.'' One of Porter's most persuasive revisions of current orthodoxy is his argument that the welfare state in the US was constructed between 1939 and 1945 rather than during the Depression. The substructure was built during and following WW I, when the principle of the state's responsibility for the welfare of its citizens became widely accepted, but was ``essentially finished in its full bureaucratic and fiscal form'' by 1949. Even after peace had come, the budget was almost five times larger than in 1938, the peak spending year of the Depression. Well written, thoughtful and provocative. Porter has made a strong case with persuasiveness and historical sweep. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Surveying the past 500 years of Western history, Porter examines the effects that warfare has had on the growth of the centralized state in the West. Although we do not like to admit it, our contemporary society clearly has been shaped by war's effects. In the United States, the demands of fighting the Civil War, two world wars, and the Cold War all influenced the contours of our government and social institutions. Porter voices concerns about the impact that the end of the Cold War will have on the overall cohesiveness of American society. Without the specter of an aggressive USSR, how will our political leaders rally the nation to solve our more intractable and messy domestic problems? Porter is not sanguine about our overcoming the very human trait of using violence to effect change. If we have not learned any lessons from the past, new and awful wars await us in the next century. This fine survey of Western military history is recommended for academic collections emphasizing military and political history.
- Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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