THE PERMANENT WAR ECONOMY: American Capitalism in Decline by Seymour Melman

THE PERMANENT WAR ECONOMY: American Capitalism in Decline

Email this review


Melman, who possesses a strong background in industrial engineering, has previously written some ground-breaking works on the stagnation of the productive capacity of the U.S. economy. His Depleted Society (1965) and Pentagon Capitalism (1970) documented the collapse of the industrial sectors required to produce for human needs, and also destroyed the guns-and-butter nonsense of certain esteemed economists. In this latest book, Melman's intellectual weaponry seems dulled -- partly because he posits reconversion from military production under an unrealizably idyllic decentralized capitalist system, and also because he falls to grasp how advanced the industrial collapse actually is. His approach to the switch from military production to useful production lists a number of ""good things"" rather than a conceptualized program; he entirely fails to mention production for world agriculture (farm implements, chemical fertilizer, etc.) or any investment for the solution of the energy crisis (like nuclear fusion power). Finally, Melman makes a courageous but losing attempt to convince us that the war-economy capitalists can be whipped politically on the basis of such initiatives as George MeGovern's pathetic 1963-4 program for redeploying the war economy. Melman moralizes about the insanity of nuclear war and the fraud of nuclear deterrence, but misses the psywar dimension of the pathological game theory ideas of Herman Kahn and James R. Schlesinger. Melman's notions of political reform of the early '60's have been superseded by the political and economic avalanche of the early '70's; his readership will be disappointed.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Simon & Schuster