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International Political Economy: The Business of War and Peace Paperback – 11 Dec 2014

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In an attempt to reframe the history of the modern global economy, this interesting and erudite book by Nolt (senior fellow, World Policy Institute) critiques conventional literature of international relations through the lens of the author's theory of corporatist international relations. Nolt's theory stresses that international relations are more than the interplay among various nation states; rather, nations' international policies reflect, in part, the powerful influence of various interest groups. In contrast to this theory, the realist school of international relations interprets national policies as emerging because of the nation-state's understanding of its self-interest without acknowledging the role of national interest groups. Though the book does not offer a comprehensive understanding of the nature of international relations, readers should not fault the author; with so many parties influencing outcomes, outcomes remain elusive. What Nolt does do—and does very well—is show how various kinds of corporate interests (e.g., manufacturing or finance) influence countries' international policies over long swaths of time, beginning with the Peloponnesian War. The book ends with an interesting final discussion about the evolving instabilities of international political economy.

--M. Perelman, California State University, Chico

About the Author

James H. Nolt is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York and Adjunct Associate Professor at New York University, USA.


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Brilliant, revisionist approach to political economy 28 May 2015
By A reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a highly innovative study of political economy, which challenges conventional thinking at several levels: Author James Nolt emphasizes systemic conflict between two major blocs of investors, as the key pivot of the political economy, the bulls and the bears – i.e. between sectors of the economy that favor economic growth (“bulls”), and those that favor austerity (“bears”). The very existence of bears as an organized faction of business will surprise many readers, who will assume that everyone favors growth. But Nolt stresses the often overlooked roles of corporate raiders, deflation oriented creditors, vulture funds, stock brokers engaging in “short” selling, and hedge funds profiting from bets against economic growth. Second, Nolt notes strategic action by investors, in ways that have little to do with impersonal market forces. He emphasizes that investors exhibit market power in every aspect of the investment process, from initial public offerings of stock, to purchasing of inputs, to hiring of workers, and to sales of products. He piquantly shows for example, that the low wages paid to workers in China has nothing to do with market forces and marginal productivity, and is instead the result of the workers' weak bargaining positions vis-à-vis multinational manufacturing firms. And finally, this book shows how conflicts between different investor groups can lead to conflicts between various political actors and even states, thus generating international political tensions.

This brilliant book presents a major challenge to traditional paradigms rooted in abstract and essentially apolitical approaches to the topic, which still dominate academia. Nolt's study is difficult to pin down ideologically, with challenges to laissez faire economics, as well as many left-wing critiques. This study will be invaluable for academic theorists of political economy, and also useful for graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

David N. Gibbs
Professor of History
University of Arizona
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