Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century

By Ian Clark | Go to book overview

4
THE FRAGMENTATION OF THE INTER-WAR ERA, 1919-1939

There is a suggestion that the forces of globalization and fragmentation are engaged in a perpetual and dynamic self-correcting relationship: once a certain point is reached the balance moves back in the opposite direction. Some such notion was hinted at by the Cambridge historian, E. H. Carr, in his account of the inter-war crisis. He noted the longer-term tendency towards 'integration and the formation of ever larger political units' which set in during the later nineteenth century, and was associated with developments in capitalism, industrialism, and the technology of communication. As against this, he also recognized the persistence of 'disintegrating forces'. These, he speculated, might be governed by some law of size and become virulent when certain orders of magnitude were exceeded. When this happened, they would provoke 'a recrudescence of disintegrating tendencies' ( Carr 1940: 293-5).

The inter-war period certainly witnessed the reassertion of such disintegrative trends. As such, the period offers a fascinating interpretive challenge, and has been the subject of considerable revision in recent decades: out of this emerges the view of the 1920s as the critical stepping stone between pre- 1914 concepts of international stability and their final redefinition after 1945 ( Jacobson 1983: 623). These wider debates about the period can be applied to the discussion of the causes of fragmentation. Did fragmentation prevail because the economic and technical sources of globalization faltered? Did fragmentation revive, as Carr hints, because of some dynamic law which ensures that a dominant trend is periodically corrected? To what extent were the forces of globalization thrown off course by the exogenous shock of the events of the First World War? Can it be argued that during this phase, certain social and political forces were unleashed which, once established as state policies, demonstrated that political voluntarism is always capable of overturning what might appear to be secular and predetermined technological and economic trends?

The inter-war era, or at least the 1920s, represented a more complex interplay between globalization and fragmentation than these remarks might imply. There was certainly no instant nor uniform return to disintegration. As already discussed above, the First World War gave rise to a rhetorical and ideological

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Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Detailed Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Globalization and Fragmentation 16
  • 2 - The Paradoxes of the Pre-War World, 1900-1914 33
  • 3 - The Impact of War, 1914-1919 52
  • 4 - The Fragmentation of the Inter-War Era, 1919-1939 75
  • 5 - States of War, 1939-1945 99
  • 6 - The Cold War and Globalization, 1945-1969 122
  • 7 - Eras of Negotiation and Confrontation, 1970-1989 148
  • 8 - Beyond the Cold War, 1990-2000 172
  • Conclusion 197
  • Bibliography 203
  • Index 215
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