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War by Other Means?

The positive effects of globalisation are regularly touted by the popular Western media.

The positive effects of globalisation are regularly touted by the popular Western media. Whether this be faster and more reliable access to goods, food and medicines, more fluid and often free (at the point of service) access to telecommunications, or increasingly fast transport, the material benefits of globalisation seem apparent.

So too are the benefits associated with the spread of ideas: whilst it is crucial to critically analyse both the existence and benefits of the spread of ideas around the world, it is not difficult to find outlets who tout these as uncontroversially beneficial.

One of the key virtues of academia however is the keen ability to hold seemingly-obvious ideas to account, and so it falls to students of politics to investigate the downsides of globalisation where others might simply adopt the practices without second thought.

John Pilger has been doing just this for decades, and he has developed a well-deserved reputation for producing illuminating and thought provoking videos.

For this step, I would like you to watch his documentary ‘War by Other Means (1985),’ which exposes some of the lesser known aspects of globalisation.

In particular, the documentary focuses upon the activities of the World Bank, one of the Bretton Woods institutions set up after the end of World War II in order to bring countries in (what was known as) the First World out of their post-war economic slumps.

The title of the documentary takes from its inspiration a quote from the French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault (2003), who reversed the German-Prussian soldier and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz’s dictum ‘war is a mere continuation of politics by other means,’ to state that ‘politics is war by other means’. Whilst watching it, look out for the portrayal of the financial and political elites governing both the United States and the Philippines acting in spite of, or even against the interests of, the civilian population of the latter. As Pilger and world system theorists argue, this is not simply a one off event, but the post war period has been characterised by the domination of financial institutions over civil society writ large.


Foucault, M. (2003) “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976. Vol. 1. Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Pilger, J. (1985) War by Other Means. [film] Directed by M. David. London: Viewpoint 92, Central Independent Television.

Reid, J. (2003) Foucault on Clausewitz: Conceptualizing the Relationship Between War and Power. Alternatives, 28(1), 1-28.

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