World at War: Terror on the Tube and Plans to Invade Iraq Are Just the Beginning. Industrialisation, It Was Thought, Would End Human Conflict; in Fact, It Leads to a Fiercer Battle for Scarce Resources. (Cover Story)

By Gray, John | New Statesman (1996), November 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

World at War: Terror on the Tube and Plans to Invade Iraq Are Just the Beginning. Industrialisation, It Was Thought, Would End Human Conflict; in Fact, It Leads to a Fiercer Battle for Scarce Resources. (Cover Story)


Gray, John, New Statesman (1996)


The new world order is consigned to the rubbish heap, and the outlines of the world in which we will live over the coming century have become clearer. The end of secular ideology has not brought peace. It has simply changed the character of war. In the Persian Gulf and central Asia, in Africa and the South China Sea, we see nations playing out new struggles. Those struggles are about the control of scarce resources. Ideological conflicts are being replaced by geopolitics. The strategic rivalries of the cold war are being followed by resource wars.

This, in many ways, is a return to normalcy. The ideological struggles of the 20th century were extremely anomalous. Throughout history, wars have been fought over gold and diamonds, access to rivers and fertile land. If we find the emergent pattern of conflict unfamiliar, it is because we are still haunted by 19th-century utopian visions in which the spread of industry throughout the world ushers in an age of perpetual peace.

Until mid-Victorian times, most thinkers regarded scarcity in the necessities of life as the natural human condition. They agreed with Malthus that there are limits to growth -- particularly in human numbers. The earth's resources are finite; they cannot be stretched to accommodate the unlimited wants of an exponentially growing human population. As John Stuart Mill argued, this does not mean there is no prospect of improving the quality of human life. New inventions can bring a comfortable and leisurely existence to increasing numbers of people, so long as overall human numbers are themselves kept in check. Human progress cannot transgress the limits imposed by natural scarcity.

With the accelerating advance of the industrial revolution, this insight was lost. With few exceptions, the great economists and social theorists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries believed that, with the rise of industrialism, scarcity could be overcome. Marx and Keynes disagreed on many fundamental points, but they were one in believing that in modern industrial economies natural resources are basically irrelevant. If Marx envisioned a world in which goods had become so abundant that they need not have a price, Keynes was not far behind in declaring that mankind's economic problems had been solved.

Towards the end of the 20th century; Hayek voiced a similar view, when he insisted that in a world ruled by the free market there were no insuperable limits to economic growth. This fantasy has become part of the conventional wisdom of all mainstream parties, whose leaders never tire of reciting the Nineties mantra that we live in weightless economies that are decreasingly dependent on the limited resources of the earth.

The belief that resource scarcity can be transcended by industrialism unites many seemingly antagonistic political standpoints. When neoliberals announced that the collapse of communism meant the end of history, they showed how much they have in common with their Marxist opponents. They assumed that once the struggle of capitalism with central planning had ended, so would geopolitical conflict. In the global free market, as in Marx's vision of world communism, there would be no shortage of the necessities of life.

It did not occur to these breathless missionaries of the free market that worldwide industrialisation might trigger a new and dangerous kind of conflict. Like Marx, they took it for granted that wars of scarcity are relics of the pre-industrial past.

Yet the neoliberals, unlike Marx, had a clear example of a resource war waged by an advanced industrial society right under their noses. Even more clearly than the likely war in Iraq, the Gulf war was fought to retain control of western energy supplies. If Saddam had been allowed to take Kuwait, he would have controlled a crucial part of the world's oil reserves. There is plenty of oil left in the world; but most of it is much more expensive to extract than the oil that lies in the regions around Iraq and Kuwait. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

World at War: Terror on the Tube and Plans to Invade Iraq Are Just the Beginning. Industrialisation, It Was Thought, Would End Human Conflict; in Fact, It Leads to a Fiercer Battle for Scarce Resources. (Cover Story)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.