Bibliography on War and The State

[Created May 26, 2011]
[Updated June 13, 2011]


Honoré Daumier, "The Army Hierarchy" (1850s)

Recommended Reading


Joseph R. Stromberg, “War, Peace, and the State” at November 28, 2001 – an annotated reading guide. – -

The Independent Institute, Oakland, CA - and their new Centre on Peace and Liberty, and new web site OnPower -



The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, Ed. John V. Denson (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1998).

Arms, Politics, and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Robert Higgs (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1990).

William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, Maine: Common Heritage Press, 2000).

Martin van Crefeld, The Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government ( Oxford University Press, 1987).

Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2000).

Gabriel Kolko, Another Century of War? (New York: The New Press, 2002).

Bruce D. Porter, War and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics (New York: The Free Press, 1994).

Charles Tilly, “How War made States, and Vice Versa,” in Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990).

Gore Vidal, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002).

Gore Vidal, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (2002).


On the Formation of the State

Franz Oppenheimer, The State, ed. C. Hamilton, trans. John Gitterman ((New York: Free Life Editions, 1975). One of the clearest and earliest statements of the contrast between the political (via the state) and economic (via the market) means of acquiring wealth. Oppenheimer then provides a brief survey of western history to illustrate how the state and the market have evolved in parallel and in conflict with each other.

Bernard Guenée, States and Rulers in Later Medieval Europe (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985).

The Early State, ed. Henri J.M. Claessen and Peter Skalnik (The Hague: Mouton, 1978). A collection of essays by anthropologists and archeologists who examine the bloody and coercive origins of the earliest states.

Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (Oxford University Press, 1987). An analysis of recent American history which concludes that the state has expanded during periods of crisis (usually of the state's own making such as war and economic depression). The "ratchet affect" means that the vested interests which benefit from expanded state activity prevent the state from returning to its previous size once the crisis has passed.

The central role global war has played in "ratchet effect" of causing the permanent expansion in the size of the state in Britain, France, the USA, and Japan in time of crises is the subject of a paper by Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson, "War making and State Making: Governmental Expenditures, Tax Revenues, and Global Wars," The American Political Science Review, June 1985, vol. 79, no. 2, pp. 491-507, which I strongly recommend to you.

Margaret Levy, "The Theory of Predatory Rule" in Of Rule and Revenue (University of California Press, 1988). An important example of the convergence of rational choice economic theory and "neo-marxist" class analysis which shows convincingly that it is not "capitalism" per se which creates an exploiting ruling class but an alliance of the state and privileged commercial and business interests.

Bringing the State Back In, ed. Peter B. Evans et al. (Cambridge University Press, 1985). A collection of path-breaking essays by left-wing historians and sociologists who have (re)-discovered the classical liberal insight that the power of the state to distribute economic privileges is vital to understand the historical development of the state, war and class conflict.

Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990). A book-length expansion of an essay Tilly wrote for Bringing the State Back In entitled "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime". The originality of his thesis is twofold, that war makers and state makers are coercive and self-seeking "entrepreneurs" and that the same set of moral principles should be used to evaluate the activities of organised criminals and statesmen.

Cities and the Rise of States in Europe AD 1000-1800, ed. Charles Tilly and Wim P. Blockmans (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1994). Argues that during the medieval and early modern period an arc of free cities emerged from the Netherlands to Northern Italy and that these cities provided a "base for resisting the authority of centralising states". It was thus alongside and in opposition to these "obstructing" free cities that the "voracious" modern nation states emerged.


Liberalism and war

Western Liberalism: A History in Documents from Locke to Croce, ed. E.K. Bramsted and K.J. Melhuish (New York: Methuen, 1978). Section B.5. (pp. 278-87) and documents 36-44 (pp. 352-83) include material by Bentham, Cobden, Bright, and Mill on the peaceful consequences of free trade, a foreign policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other nations, and the role of international arbitration as a subsistute for war.

The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings from Lao-tzu to Milton Friedman, ed. David Boaz (New York: The Free Press, 1997). Part 6, pp. 319-344 includes extracts from Cobden as well as 20thC American classical liberal writers (Ravenal and Carpenter) who advocate an updated Cobdenite policy of US "strategic disengagement".

Randolph Bourne, "The State," in War and the Intellectuals. Essays by Randolph S. Bourne, 1915-1919, ed. Carl Resek (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), pp. 65-104. A classic formulation of the idea that "war is the health of the state" (i.e. that the state dramatically increases its size and scope of activity in time of war). Bourne also discusses the role played by intellectuals in justifying this expansion of state power at the expence of individual liberty.

Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1990 (Cambridge University Press, 1990). Chap. 3 "How War Made States, and Vice Versa," pp. 67-95. Tilly uses many historical examples to show the symbiotic relationship between war and the state.

George Orwell, Nineteen-Eighty Four (1948) (Penguin), Section of Immanuel Golstein's book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism dealing with war: Chapter III "War is Peace" pp. 150-61 in Penguin edition. A British democratic socialist shows in fictional form how perpetual war provides an opportunity for the state to suspend all civic rights and to direct nearly all economic resources away from consumers to the war economy.

Robert L. Holmes, On War and Morality (Princeton University Press, 1989). A modern philosophical exploration of the moral consequences of war which concludes that, if innocent people are inevitably killed in modern war, then modern war is immoral.

Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). The memoir of one of the leading literary critics and cultural historians of the experience of war in the 20thC. Fussell shows how the "command" economy of the military leads to chaotic, unintended outcomes with dire consequences for individual dignity and liberty.

The Norton Book of Modern War, ed. Paul Fussell (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991). Fussell's excellent collection of extracts from war novels, war correspondents' reports, and memoirs of war veterans chronicling the horrors, absurdities and criminality of total war in the 20thC.