Book Review: Navies and State Formation: The Schumpeter Hypothesis Revisited and Reflected


by Jurgen G. Backhaus, editor

Berlin: LIT Verlag / Portland, Or.: International Specialized Book Services, 2012. Pp. 384. Map, tables, notes. $59.95 paper. ISBN: 3643902123

How navies help explain Joseph Alois Schumpeter’s idea of the need for “creative destruction” to achieve economic progress.

Schumpeter (1883-1950) proposed the idea that “creative destruction” of older economic models is necessary for economic progress.  Navies and State Formation uses the economic impact of the development of navies which, even more than armies, disrupted traditional internal state structures, helping give rise to the modern bureaucratic state and, not incidentally, fueling economic growth.  As the authors, all established academics in the fields, probe the relationship between national economic development and naval expansion, the reader gets a sense of how often different solutions were found for similar problems, and how these developments often had secondary effects not only in terms of economics, but also on national policy and even international relations.  The individual essays deal with the cases of Denmark (1500-1700), Sweden (1521-1721), Germany (1894-1914), Britain (1688-1846), the Netherlands (1570-1810), and Spain (1500-1800).   The authors are at times deep in theory and detail, but most essays are very well written.

Although Navies and State Formation oddly omits Louis XIV’s France, perhaps the best example of a deliberately planned bureaucratic state, the analysis of the countries that are covered will prove of great interest to students of the rise of permanent military institutions.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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