Books by Bruce D. Porter

Released: Feb. 15, 1994

By Porter (Political Science/Brigham Young/Harvard), an important assessment of the critical role played by war in expanding and defining the modern state. Drawing on five hundred years, mainly of European history, Porter argues that, far from being the transient phenomenon that liberals or progressives believe, or the dialectical engine of progress imagined by Marxists, war is above all ``a powerful catalyst of change,'' the consequences of which can be both reforming and ruinous. Concerning himself ``not with what causes war, but with what war causes,'' the author sees it as the main force behind the territorial consolidation of Europe from perhaps a thousand political entities in the 14th century to 25 by 1900; and as the single greatest force for bureaucratizing and government growth: ``wherever the gun went, the filing cabinet followed.'' The Napoleonic Wars swept away feudal structures through much of Europe; the Russian Revolution followed the huge losses suffered by the Russian armies; and the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century have used the glorification of war in their ``prostration of all politics to the good of the state.'' One of Porter's most persuasive revisions of current orthodoxy is his argument that the welfare state in the US was constructed between 1939 and 1945 rather than during the Depression. The substructure was built during and following WW I, when the principle of the state's responsibility for the welfare of its citizens became widely accepted, but was ``essentially finished in its full bureaucratic and fiscal form'' by 1949. Even after peace had come, the budget was almost five times larger than in 1938, the peak spending year of the Depression. Well written, thoughtful and provocative. Porter has made a strong case with persuasiveness and historical sweep. Read full book review >