Chapter XXV PART I
War and the need of Economic Unity
Towards the end of World War I, saner minds of the West were contemplating the dynamics of some sort of international union. It was presumed that factors like ‘military necessity, pressure of war between nations and the need for prevention of war by the assumption of force and authority in the hands of an international body, World-state or Federation or League of Peace’ would ‘drive humanity in the end towards some sort of international union’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 485). Sri Aurobindo pointed out that behind the usual factors; another more powerful factor was becoming more and more explicit, the commercial and industrial necessity born out of economic interdependence (Ibid). It was perceived that economic interdependence facilitating inter-State trade would end war and usher peace. Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), French classical liberal theorist and political economist, had observed much earlier, ‘if goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will’. It seems that trades give States economic incentives to avoid wars. Since 1970’s, students of political economy have been evaluating to what extent economic interdependence has been successful in inhibiting conflict behaviour. However it has also been suggested that even if liberal States might not engage in militarized conflict, that does not necessarily mean that they would desist from non-militarized conflicts (Gartzke et al: Investing in the Peace: Economic Interdependence and international Conflict, International Organization 55,2,2001, pg 394; pages.used.edu/-egartzke/publication/..). The ambivalent relations with China and its trading partners in the 21st century is being watched with interest by both industrialists and analysts!
Some sort of economic interdependence between heavily populated nations became explicit since the sixteenth century. The classical example is how Spanish America and Japan went on a silver production spree after China’s silver demand increased manifold following conversion of her monetary system to silver standard by the early sixteenth century. Researchers have shown that subsequently during the second half of eighteenth century, a “tea and opium” cycle propelled British fortunes. (Dennis O. Flynn & Arturo Giraldez : Cycles of Silver: Global Economic Unity through the Mid-Eighteenth Century, Journal of World History,Vol.13, No.2,2002,pg 391; muse.jhu.edu?article/18461)
However the Post-World War I presented a changed scenario for two important factors had gained prominence by this time:
(a) The rise of Industrialization, and as its corollary,
(b) The establishment of Commercialism not only as an objective phenomenon but as an increasingly global mind-set.
The new mind-set shaped by commercialism was not a small affair; it was a gigantic change that ‘affected profoundly the character of international relations’ and ‘is likely to affect them still more openly and powerfully in the future’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 487).
The question is can commercialism as we know it today; sustain its role as deterrent to international conflicts? In this chapter Sri Aurobindo traces the growth of the mind-set of commercialism to answer this query.
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu