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August 22, 2007


Aditya Gandranata

Some of Norman Angell’s argument is wrong and his reasoning to defend it is a little skewed because he makes it look as if human’s mind works in a very simple way. For example, Angell argues that because human beings are capable of thinking logically and that they are educated, war could be prevented since humans are able to make rational decision. He does not realize, however, that human mind can be manipulated by their emotions, irrational thinking, and even propaganda by other human beings. We can see the example of Adolf Hitler who is able to persuade people of Germany to participate in the war through his propaganda movement by blaming the Jews.
Angell also argues that modern industrial war is unprofitable for a nation’s citizens and this is not true because if this is the case, imperialism and world war would not have happened. War is profitable for the winner of those wars because they are able to gain more land, they are also be able to extract natural resources from the land that they have just conquered, and not to mention that the loser of the war also has to pay the cost of the war/reparation to the winner of the war.
Overall, Angell is too positive on how he thinks the world works, because his thought about war, peace and human being is oversimplified.

Dorit Iacobsohn

Angell did not have a solid understanding of how states functioned, interacted, and he most certainly did not understand war. His theory is idealistic and impractical. It is fraught with cracks and holes, and the premises his theory is based on can easily be countered.

For one thing, war can be immensely lucrative for some economies, especially if the war is not fought from the homeland. For example, the US experienced such a powerful economic boom in WWII that it pulled her out of the Great Depression. War(coupled with victory) can definitely be more profitable than peace. War gives nations the potential to conquer foreign lands, acquire resources, increase industrial power, and accrue a larger taxable citizenry.

For another thing, he puts an idealistic and abstract emphasis on knowledge and education. What does this mean? What would be taught in schools? From which national perspective? He says:

"What is needed is a permanent organisation of propaganda, framed, not for the purpose of putting some cut and dried scheme into immediate operation, but with the purpose of clarifying European public opinion, making the great mass see a few simple facts

What are these “facts” and if they are so “few” and “simple” why does he not list them? Can the world be enumerated in bulletpoint? He ignores the reality that information is colored by each nation’s history, ethnic origins, nationalism, etc. So these “few” and “simple” facts--which biases will they cater to? There are no clean and sterile facts. There is no overarching world viewpoint.

Angell’s theory was attractive, but not grounded in any realities of the time.

Houtan Zojaji

Overall I find Angell’s arguments very logical and I believe someday there will be a world that Angell talks about. But there are two major preconditions that he does not consider I believe not defining the preconditions of such a world is the biggest flaw in his--attractive, but for his day completely wrong--argument is. Now I will discuss them briefly.
#1 Not every state and country has the capitalism system, and other states are at different level of growth. This causes the incentives for some states to exploit other weaker states. Therefore we still could have wars until it does not make any sense for different states to go to war in order to have access to each other’s resources.
#2 There are people with what I call traditional mind stetting. They still believe that more land would increase their power, or simply they dream of building a stronger state by concurring other states. There are lots of arguments against these ideas, which could explain why it is not worth for a state to go to a war. Still we could expect to have wars.

Jillian Costello

It is easy to find the faults in Angell’s arguments, looking back on one-hundred years of history and finding pointed examples against his theory that big, destructive wars were unlikely. He claims that war was unprofitable for a nations, but as proved in Arti’s argument, World War II military productions actually brought America out of the hardest economic era in the nation’s history.

Though it is not one of Angell’s front-running arguments, I think the most fictitious argument Angell makes is that religious wars are over. He states:

“…religious wars between nations became impossible for the double reason that a nation no longer expressed a single religious belief (you had the anomaly of a Protestant Sweden fighting in alliance with a Catholic France), and that the power of opinion had become
stronger than the power of physical force…” Angell (44)

Though states were, in fact, becoming more religiously diversified at the turn of the 20th century, this did not mean that tolerance and peace between religious groups would follow. Take the English and Irish conflict, Easter Rising, in 1916, which was centered on the Catholic/Anglican Church tension. Religion is and has always been central in national politics. It is foolish for Angell to think man had grown past the stage of religious bickering.

Michael Pimentel

“I have…always urged, with the utmost emphasis that war is not only possible but extremely likely, so long as we remain as ignorant as we are concerning what it can accomplish”

To champion Norman Angell as anything less than a visionary is a grave disservice to the history of Political Economy. His only fault: subscribing to the belief that people are inherently good-natured, compassionate, but more importantly, rational beings. While those who oppose his reading of history are quick to point out the onslaught of WWI and WWII as clear refutations of his discourse, I believe that he was, to put it simply, ahead of his time; the understanding of world affairs and the blatant compassion that Angell details as the prerequisites for peace, are still, 100 years later, almost entirely absent from the mainstream psyche. In order to reach a station like that described by Angell, we must learn to see the cohabitants of this world as our equals and realize the benefits of being on amicable terms with them. I have no doubts that at some point in the course of humanity’s political evolution, we will learn to coexist and realize the necessity for interdependence; we simply aren’t there. The only sense that Angell was really wrong is in the rapidity with which he believed the human population would come to realize the futility of war.

Connie Lim

While perusing through all of our comments, I find many interesting and valid points regarding Angell’s work. One entry that stuck out to me was Mallory Sadan's. She points out that despite Angell's optimistic and idealistic ideas, ultimately, citizens are governed by their emotions and self-interests.

Throughout history, much education is based upon historian’s decisions to omit or add information in order to portray their own opinions. For example, the continent of Africa has very often been viewed as the land of “darkness,” creating a negative perspective of the indigenous peoples; African inhabitants are referred to as backwards, incapable and unproductive. However, much of the sentiments found within these biased, 19th century historical documents regarding Africa are drawn from the frustration of not being able to adequately conquer and tame the lands of Africa.

With this example in mind, it is clear to me that historical documents used to educate peoples are often biased, and hardly ever able to encompass all the available perspectives around the world.

With this premise in mind, I would have to extend on Mallory’s argument and say that a lot of the times, people will find ways to believe that their actions are justified with years and years of education. However, education with a motive can be dangerously convincing, and many actions (September 11 as an example)of belligerence may result.

Tomas Salcedo

Sorry that my post is late.. I actually thought that it was due on Friday. Anyhow.. I believe the biggest flaw with Angel's arguement is illustrated by what Hobson proposed in the previous readings. Despite the fact that war is unprofitable for society as a whole, it may well be profitable for a segment of society. Democratic institutions, while they serve as a buffer for the arbitrary powers of the state, are also maleable by certain groups of people. To the extent that those who seek to profit from war can lobby the government into using war (a phenonmenon I think is very visible today) against another countries, then there will always be those who try to find a way to convince the people to hop on board. Whether it be through cultivating nationalist sentiments or by fear mongering, the government may always see fit to go to war for reasons other than an imminent threat, and may always be able to convince the constituents that war is necessary.. hence the democratization of society does not shield us from war, it rather provides a different set of incentives and hence different institutional mechanisms to wage it.

Michael Budahn

First of all, please forgive me, I thought that this was due Friday at noon like the others…
Angells appears to have fallen victim to the unbridled optimism that gripped Europe on the brink of the First World War. In observing the position of Europe at the time, with its worldwide empires and unprecedented levels of productivity, one cannot help but marvel at the products of Europeans minds. Surely, if the Europeans could reason their way into an industrial revolution, the temptation of war could not match such accomplished minds. However, there is a reason why in the PEIS major we are permitted to take classes other than economics and that is because humans are not wholly logical.
When considering the requisites for peace advocated by Angell, I could help but think about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It appears that both had relatively similar approaches to how peace might finally be achieved. However, to Huxley’s credit, he recognizes that the education is more a brain washing and the abatement of destructive passions is drug induced. Such methods designate this society as an actual dystopia, in which humans are mere gears in a factory like society (perhaps a nod to the insidious preeminence of economics advocated by Angell).
Also, the trumpeting of economics seams to drown out the many wars conducted with economic intentions such as the Opium War. Furthermore, economic rivalries with regards to markets and colonies were one of many reasons for the antagonistic mood that preceded WWI. Some historians even argue that the First World War was lobbied by industries likely to profit from such a conflict. Of course, few imagined that in the end such devastation would ensue, but still, the initial grounds could not be completely invalidated via economic arguments.
Education, like economics, does not necessarily act exclusively as a deterrent of war. The Germans, at the outbreak of World War One, were in many ways the most educated peoples on the planet. As we have seen in regimes such as those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini is that education can be conducted in a way that directs its youth into a mindset conducive to war. Even countries as modern and liberal as Japan are attempting to structure there education in a way that dilludes the realities of World War Two, comfort woman, for example, in order to promote nationalism. Additionally, governments have alternative means of shaping the mindsets of there populace to render public opinion less of an issue than expected. First of all, many of the regimes at the time, given their despotic nature, were not too susceptible to public opinion. Governments also employed propaganda to turn public opinion to there favor to the effect that World War One was greeted with enthusiasm by the majority of the citizens in the countries involved.
In conclusion, I consider the ideas advocated by Angell as constructive theories; however, when applied to the period, they crumble under historical realities. With the Brave New World serving as a valuable example, it becomes evident that the world advocated by Angell, in addition to being difficult to achieve in the required pure form in the first place, might not pan out as well as was intended.

Miranda Huey

Also sorry about the lateness – I thought that it was due on Friday as well.

However, in answer to this question, I would agree with a lot of the arguments above (in that Angell argues that modern European powers have become more advanced, interdependent, and rational concerning the pros and cons of war) but I feel like the question is a bit misleading, especially part d that surmises that he thinks that big, destructive wars are unlikely to happen. Angell even says himself that: “I have, on the contrary, always urged, with the utmost emphasis that war is not only possible but extremely likely, so long as we remain as ignorant as we are concerning what it can accomplish, and unless we use our energies and efforts to prevent it, instead of directing those efforts to create it.” In fact, most of his argument seems to be that wars are irrational and not so beneficial, and we now may have the capacity to realize this and stop the onset of unecessary war, but it takes more than time. He also even points out that afterwards that the English press is very war-mongering against Germany, and the journalist John Bull saying things like “War with Germany is inevitable... shall we wait... or shall we strike now?” in 1912. Angell argues against this kind of dogmatism, this second-guessing that leads away from wisdom and makes armies immediately reach for their guns at any point of unease. Instead, he argues, we no longer have the excuse for being in this mindset, since we should learn from history the immense consequences, as compared to any benefits of security, of a constant competitive insecurity between nations and their forces. Perhaps, if I were forced to answer this question, I suppose, I would say that Angell's biggest flaw is not making this imminent threat clearer. (maybe putting it up nearer to the front of the book so that tired readers do not label him as pacifist and move on)

Zaheer Cassim

What happened to Friday?

So where did Angell go wrong?

Angell in a way thinks like J.J. Rousseau in that he has very optimistic version of human nature. At the core we will help each other, we care for each other. I think that this reasoning, although paints a beautiful picture of human nature, falls short of what really goes on in the real world. Hobbs explains how in a state of nature, we would all be competing with each other, which gives some insight into why humans choose to go to war.

Heres an example. Angell makes many references to the Turkish and says that war is in their narute, but over time this will change. What evidence does he give for this? He says, as Christiniaty grows things will change in the country. Earlier on in his writing, he discusses how religion is the cause of many wars. Now what would stop the Turksih muslims who were in power from killing this uprising of Christians. Nothing. People in power don't give up there power without a fight.

Angell also touches on how wealth is acquired through work and not robbery. Ironically, the British Empire gained much of its wealth by violently colonizing or imperialising other nations. Angell doesnt consider this form of violence.

Finally, Angell explains that "few benefit from war." This is true, much like Imperialism, but imperialism still happened, just like war is still going to happen. The "man in the train" has no choice whether he goes to war or not. Few individuals benefit from war but these are the politicians and entrepreneurs who have power and if they want a war, they get a war. The average man has no say in the matter.

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