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The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000 Paperback – February 21, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a work that neatly marries the subjects of his previous books, Ferguson, who made his name with controversial popular histories of World War I (Pity of War, 1999) and the Rothschild banking empire (House of Rothschild, 1998), continues to challenge conventional wisdom. Here, he argues that the enormous expense of war, which forces governments into fiscal innovation, is the primary agent of financial change and its political repercussions, which sometimes include starting new wars. In Ferguson's view, political crises defined broadly to include those spurred by religion, law and culture cause both wars and financial disasters; the ensuing political outcomes determine the long-term economic fallout. Economic events, on the other hand, affect politics in indirect and unpredictable ways. Emphasizing the nuances and exceptions to his argument, he marshals economic statistics to support it, though he does not discuss alternative explanations for financial change. Despite frequent, jarring digressions into the minutiae of 1980s British politics and in praise of Thatcherism, the book is lucidly argued. But for a history that focuses so much on war, it includes little discussion of the military. Most controversially, Ferguson challenges the orthodox assumption that the world is headed toward a peaceful, prosperous and democratic global future. Economic success does not always lead to stability, he argues, and economic freedom is neither necessary for economic growth nor sufficient for political freedom. Nor, he warns, will economic globalization necessarily lead to greater economic or political cooperation. (Mar.) Forecast: This book will be more talked about than read, though it will attract serious readers. Like Ferguson's The Pity of War, its merits should outlive the controversy over its predictions.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this scholarly tome, Ferguson (history, Jesus Coll., Oxford; The Pity of War) presents a heavily noted, high-level economic analysis of the impact of economic trends on political change. As he thoroughly analyzes the nexus between economics and politics, he delves deep into the complex relationship among economic principles and international war, political changes in major countries, social liberalization, and national demographics. He challenges the prevailing principles of well-known author Paul Kennedy (The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers), specifically that economic change is the prime mover of political change, contending rather that the conflicting impulses of sex, violence, and power are together more powerful than money. In the book's many dense chapters, Ferguson argues that political institutions have often dominated economic development, and he deftly integrates historical trends and eras, multiple economic principles and theory, as well as modern economic growth and development. This very complex economic analysis will well serve larger university libraries supporting higher-level study in economics, especially international economic theory. Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (February 21, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465023266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465023264
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Niall Ferguson is a professor of political and financial history who has written other well-received, albeit controversial, books. My feeling after reading this book was rather mixed.

[..]
This, I think, is where things become more complicated than the book suggests. Did England found the Bank of England and establish the other institutions that allowed the United Kingdom to become the global hegemon in order to become a global hegemon? Or did Parliament and the Bank of England etc. arise to meet other needs, and prove far more useful than originally foreseen? I strongly believe the latter to be true: Britain, as an island nation, had no neighbors, and was an (after 1066) invasion-proof distance from France. These factors almost certainly allowed the United Kingdom to generate a merchant class far more influential than its counterparts on the continent, engage in more maritime trade, and devote less to military spending than did land-locked nations that faced war at any time. In time, this merchant class, and the practice of dividing risks and participating in syndicates to conduct foreign trade almost certainly led to the culture and institutions that led to the Bank of England. Of course, if the Bank of England and the like did not arise as much from conscious policy decisions as from circumstances, it would seem more expedient to focus on the circumstances that led to the BofE and Britain's broad and deep credit markets, rather than on arcane policy decisions.

The rest of the book is an exhaustively documented look at the relationship between the health of various states and various financial indicators, such as debt, the presence of the gold standard, unemployment and the like.
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Format: Paperback
It's pretty obvious from the outset where Ferguson's arguments are going in this book and what his political philosophy and world-view is. He states in quite plainly in the end. In contrast to Paul Kennedy who argued in THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS that "imperial overstretch" is the economic causal factor that was directly linked with "Great Power" decline, Ferguson sees political will (or the lack thereof) and "understretch" as the problem. He says in the world today "we've got economic globalization very much on a 19th century model" however "there isn't a global policeman with the kind of interests Britain had then". The real difficulty in his view is that "the leaders of the one state with the economic resources to make the world a better place [the US] lack the guts to do it." OK, so Ferguson sees the US adopting an "imperial" approach to world affairs, and he supports Friedman and Fukuyama who argued that the spread of capitalism and democracy are neccessary for freedom to bloom. Before we look at whether he convincingly makes his point there is a basic question that puts this whole discussion in context. How persuasive can a British writer be in directing his argument to Americans for a more economically activist role by their country, and how are we supposed to read this in our new world of narrower priorities?
If our American economic and political system is to be supported and encouraged, and we are his intended audience, then who is the target of Fergusons criticism? It's axiomatic that it's Marxist historians and supporters of historicism as Ferguson sees nothing "deterministic" or directional about economic history.
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Format: Hardcover
The Cash Nexus is an overly ambitious attempt to re-examine the link between economics and politics in the post-Cold War period.
The most interesting part of the book is the first 6 chapters, which focus on how state institutions have emerged over time to serve the needs of war finance--the principal impetus behind the rise of the modern state. These institutions produce what Ferguson calls an optimal combination for producing power and include 4 institutions: a professional tax gathering bureaucracy; a parliament that accords a measure of representation to tax payers; the management of a system of national debt, which allows the state to borrow; and a central bank to manage a currency and the national debt. Ferguson maintains that this combination first emerged in Britain after the Glorious Revolution and was later exported to other countries and, together, produced many unintended benefits, such as an educated civil service and expanded capital markets which served the needs of the economy.
An important part of Ferguson's argument is that economic philosophies have produced two deterministic views of history--one Marxist and the other liberal capitalist. While one opposes capitalism and the other celebrates it, both see history as being essentially economic history. The modern variety of economic determinism (neoclassical economics) has produced three ideas that Ferguson criticizes: economic growth promotes democratization; economic success leads to re-election; and economic growth is the key to international power. While Ferguson's criticisms are interesting, there are a few shortcomings.
One is that he makes the mistake of equating wealth with money when discussing liberal economics.
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