Rethinking theory and history in the Cold War : the state, military power and social revolution
This thesis provides a critique of existing understandings of the Cold War in International Relations theory, and offers an alternative position. It rejects the conventional conceptual and temporal understanding of the Cold War, which assumes that the Cold War was, essentially, a political-military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union that originated in the collapse of the wartime alliance after 1945. Using a method derived from historical materialism, in particular the parcellization of political power into the spheres of 'politics' and 'economics' that characterises capitalist modernity, the thesis develops an alternative understanding of the Cold War through an emphasis on the historical and thus conceptual uniqueness of it. After the literature survey, Part One interrogates the conceptual areas of the state, military power and social revolution and offers alternative conceptualisations. This is followed in Part Two with a more historically orientated argument that analyses Soviet and American responses to the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions. The main conclusions of the thesis consist of the following. First, the thesis suggests that the form of politics in the USSR (and other 'revolutionary' states) was qualitatively different to that of capitalist states. This derived from the relationship between the form of political rule and the social relations of material production. Secondly, this conflict was not reducible to the 'superpowers' but rather, was conditioned by a dynamic associated with the expansion and penetration of capitalist social relations, and the contestation of those political forms that evolved from them. Finally, the relationship between capitalist expansion and the 'superpowers' rested on the distinctive forms of international relations of each superpower over how each related to the international system and responded to revolution.