Review: The Contemporary Mode of Warfare? Mary Kaldor's Theory of New Wars

TitleReview: The Contemporary Mode of Warfare? Mary Kaldor's Theory of New Wars
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsShaw, Martin
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Start Page171
Date Published2000

This article is a review of a book by Mary Kaldor. Kaldor is a recognized expert theorist of war and is a foremost authority on "new wars". Her core argument is introduced in the 1997 book New Wars. Kaldor's book Theory of New Wars examines the politics of "new wars" and "the globalized war economy". Shaw writes, "Against the grain of widespread assumptions that most wars of the 1990s are merely ‘civil’ wars produced by ‘ethnic conflict’, or that what we are seeing is a simple ‘privatisation’ of violence, Kaldor clearly demonstrates that Bosnia and other conflicts were political conflicts, involving state power as well as various ‘private’ forces, in which ‘identity politics’ is a means by which political elites reproduce their power. She shows how this is part of a new political economy of war, in which a range of new militaries - the decaying remnants of state armies, paramilitary groups (often financed by governments), self-defence units, mercenaries and international troops - engage in new forms of violence. These include systematic murder of ‘others’, forcible population expulsion known as ethnic ‘cleansing’ (linked ironically to electoral legitimation), and rendering areas uninhabitable - all of which are genocidal. It is estimated that 80 per cent of victims in current wars are civilians; over 80 per cent were military in wars earlier this century. These forms of violence are reproduced through an ‘extreme form of globalization’ in which production collapses and armed forces are sustained via remittances, diaspora fund-raising, external governmental assistance and the diversion of international humanitarian aid. The global context is crucial to understanding this new political economy of war: globalized arms markets (analysed by Schméder in Military Fordism), transnational ethnicities and internationalized Western-global interventions are all integral to new wars."

Short TitleThe Contemporary Mode of Warfare?
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