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In this essay the author attacks the idea that modern conflicts are more driven by economic motivations than those in the past. Romantic ideals of gentlemanly European conflicts have masked the harsh realities of war. Even in the most egregious cases of greed and ‘warlording’, the political motivations can never be fully amputated from the criminal behaviour.
If modern conflict is to be understood the language of ‘new wars’ must be avoided. In the case of the Lomé Peace Agreement, the concept of economic determinism was taken to the extreme and led to the subsequent collapse of the peace. Future peacemakers must keep this simple message in mind: money is not the only form of power.
By Jack Hamilton, 4th May, 2012
In 2007 the Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers described the links between economics and politics in conflict regions as ‘something out of Dickens: you talk to international relations experts and it’s the worst of times. Then you talk to potential investors and it’s one of the best of all times’ . This idea that modern warfare has evolved into a new era in which economic motivations have overtaken political ambitions has become popularised in the post-Cold War era. The notion has led Carl von Clausewitz’s aphorism to be rephrased to claim that ‘war has increasingly become the continuation of economics by other means’ . This substitution of ‘politics’ in favour of ‘economics’ poses the question: have economic incentives created a situation in which there is now more to war than winning?
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In this essay, the author critically analyses Mary Kaldor’s new wars theory and challenges views that portray new wars as a continuation of economics by other means. Drawing on the writings of Mats Berdal and Stathis Kalyvas, as well as on theories of peace and conflict, the author dismisses Paul Collier’s greed thesis and concludes that it is necessary to move beyond reductionist theories and adopt holistic approaches to conflict.
By David J. Franco, 17 Nov, 2011
Some scholars claim that war has shifted from a classical model to a new mode of intra-state warfare in which ‘states have given up their the facto monopoly of war’ to groups and actors driven by greed. This, in turn, has led some to propose a reformulation of Clausewitz’ dictum of war by defining the so called new wars a continuation of economics by other means. In this regard, if we accept that new wars are driven only by economic motives then surely these should be seen as the continuation of economics by other means. In other words, defining new wars as wars driven by greed or defining these as the continuation of economics by other means is the same. Therefore, the answer to the actual question lies in the same definition of new wars and, in particular, on whether these can be defined as wars driven only by private, greedy motives or economics. This essay looks into this issue with a critical view. My argument is that the so called new wars are not so new and that, even if we accept some of the alleged new elements of these wars, economics is generally not the only motive driving conflict. Hence, I contend that no general theory of war based on economics can be drawn from these so called new wars and that a holistic approach is always necessary if we want to translate theory into effective policy.