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The Political Economy of Destructive Power

Mehrdad Vahabi, Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Management and Research Member, LED (Laboratoire d’Economie Dionysien), University of Paris VIII, France
Economic science has extensively studied the creative power of individuals and social groups, but it has largely ignored the destructive power of economic agents. This highly original book redresses the balance and, for the first time, looks at how much an agent can destroy. Destructive power is conceptualised in a unique way, covering all types of deliberate (violent and non-violent) social conflict behaviour. The theoretical arguments in the book are skilfully linked to burning political issues of our time such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Second Gulf War.
Extent: 296 pp
Hardback Price: $146.00 Web: $131.40
Publication Date: 2004
ISBN: 978 1 84376 898 2
Availability: In Stock
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Evolutionary Economics
  • Institutional Economics
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Terrorism and Security
Economic science has extensively studied the creative power of individuals and social groups, but it has largely ignored the destructive power of economic agents. This highly original book redresses the balance and, for the first time, looks at how much an agent can destroy. Destructive power is conceptualised in a unique way, covering all types of deliberate (violent and non-violent) social conflict behaviour. The theoretical arguments in the book are skilfully linked to burning political issues of our time such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Second Gulf War.

The author embraces destructive power in its two different functions, namely appropriative and rule-producing, the latter having been entirely neglected in classical and neo-classical approaches. The focus of the book is to integrate both these functions of destructive power into the political economy discourse. In doing so, the author offers an original interpretation of social development in terms of a combination of three different types of power: creative (economic), destructive and moral. Destructive power is therefore studied within the scope of collective action and not just as an irrational, abnormal or critical reaction. Throughout the book, the author illustrates many relevant and thought-provoking examples of man’s destructive nature including civil war, military confrontation, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, revolution, strikes, sovereignty, public security and suicide.

This fascinating book offers a challenging new agenda for understanding conflict theory and measuring the ‘value’ of destructive power. It will appeal to a broad and varied readership from a range of disciplines across the social sciences including economics, politics, sociology, history and psychology.
‘Mehrdad Vahabi has produced a unique and original analysis of the economic roles of violence, both its destructive and – more interestingly – its constructive role. He demonstrates successful and unsuccessful uses of violence with examples from ancient times to our time. The book is thorough, erudite, and full of surprises.’
– Thomas C. Schelling, University of Maryland, US

‘This is a fascinating book. Traditionally, economists have been engaged in studying the process of how products and services are created, and have thought about the issue of how they are destroyed only tangentially. Mehrdad Vahabi’s strikingly original idea is to put destruction into the centre of attention. Perhaps the title is – due to the modesty of the author – too narrow because the book goes far beyond the borderlines of “political economy”. This is a truly interdisciplinary work, using the toolkit of the social sciences (including economics, political science and sociology) but also raising relevant philosophical issues and embedding the analysis into an historical context. The reader will be impressed by the width of the literature cited to assist in the explanation of the complexities of destructive processes.’
– János Kornai, Harvard University, US and Collegium Budapest, Hungary
Contents: Preface 1. Three Types of Power 2. The Meaning of Destructive Power 3. The Social Nature of Destructive Power 4. The Value of Destructive Power 5. Sources of Destructive Power Bibliography Index