A State under Siege: Military Origins of Command Economies

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This dissertation develops a war-centered theory of collectivist regimes. I argue that in a large-scale industrial war of coalition alliances, belligerent nations launch extensive programs of economic mobilization and establish centralized bureaucratic institutions of economic regulation. Because exterior states are likely to restrict interior states in their access to the international markets, measures of centralization are likely to be more extensive among interior states than exterior states. Deprived of free access to global markets, even the most economically developed interior states deplete their domestic resources. Such states experience shortages of goods, social unrest, crisis within ruling elite, military setbacks, and, due to the combined effect of these aggravating conditions, state breakdown. Under conditions of scarcity and unequal distribution of resources, a total collapse of a central state authority may unleash coercive redistributive action of the lower classes directed against the better-off classes and, as a culmination of this action, seizure of power by a radical political coalition, which institutionalizes redistribution through nationalization of economic assets by the state. My comparative analysis of economic and political transformations in five European nations (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia) during World War One (1914-1918) supports the war-centered argument. The exterior nations that maintained access to the world economy (France and Great Britain) survived total war. The interior states (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia) experienced breakdown. In Russia, where the old system of authority had become completely paralyzed, the state collapse resulted in massive redistribution of economic assets and institutionalization of the collectivist form of social organization.

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  • 07/26/2018
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