In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Political Economy of National Security

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Surveys
  • Early Works Understanding Economic Bases of Power
  • The National Interest, Foreign Economic Policy, and Grand Strategy
  • Interdependence and Economic Statecraft
  • Economic Sanctions
  • Military Spending and Defense Budgets
  • The Defense Industry and Arms Exports
  • Economic Mobilization for War
  • Economic Consequences of War
  • Effects of War on the State
  • The Capitalist and Commercial Peace
  • The Political Economy of Peacemaking

International Relations Political Economy of National Security
Rosella Cappella Zielinski
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0184


The domain of political economy of national security encompasses those studies that link political economy and security studies. The unifying ethos is that to understand security one must include political economy. This intersection of study has its roots in liberal economic thought and the relationship between wealth and the pursuit of power. The study of political economy of security has waxed and waned. During the Cold War the intersection of these two areas appeared to be dwindling as two distinct spheres of scholarly pursuit arose—international political economy and security studies. In recent decades, this distinction has faded and the subfield has grown to constitute a major research agenda spanning all intellectual traditions in international relations. The subfield includes numerous distinct topics, such as mobilization for war, the defense industrial base and defense spending, the rise and fall of major powers, the capitalist and commercial peace, peacemaking, and various forms of statecraft—the most notable being economic sanctions. The subfield has also expanded to incorporate many works in which security variables are used to understand the realm of political economics, such as state-building, tax structure the distribution of wealth, and financial crises. In an era when many states face ballooning deficits, austerity measures, and increased financial globalization, understanding the relationship between political economy and international security is more important than ever.

General Overviews and Surveys

The intersection between economic and security studies has been present in Western thought for centuries, as Viner 1948 shows, yet its conception as a unified subfield has been slow in coming. Consequently, political scientists have made various calls for action to unite the study of economics and security, the earliest of many being Strange 1970, which outlines the academic and policy dangers for treating them separately. With the military buildup during the Reagan administration and the end of the Cold War, political scientists began to both reintroduce and survey the subfield. Kapstein 1992 provides an early primer of the study, and Kirshner 1998 takes a broad review of the field, outlining what the author terms classical issues, modern issues, and new classical issues. At the same time, Mastanduno 1998, emphasizing economic statecraft, explores how the structure of the international system affects theory and practice. The call for integration between economic and security studies continues with Ripsman 2000.

  • Kapstein, Ethan. The Political Economy of National Security: A Global Perspective. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.

    Kapstein provides an overview of topics covered within the subfield that is excellent for undergraduates.

  • Kirshner, Jonathan. “Political Economy in Security Studies after the Cold War.” Review of International Political Economy 5.1 (Spring 1998): 64–91.

    DOI: 10.1080/096922998347651

    An excellent review of the subfield with the goal of drawing attention to the false distinction that political economy and security studies have existed separately.

  • Mastanduno, Michael. “Economics and Security in Statecraft and Scholarship.” International Organization 52.4 (Autumn 1998): 825–854.

    DOI: 10.1162/002081898550761

    The author explores why security studies and international political economy progressed as separate activities in both theory and foreign policy practice during the Cold War and their reunification in the post–Cold War era.

  • Ripsman, Norrin M. “The Political Economy of Security: A Research and Teaching Agenda.” Journal of Military and Strategic Studies 3.1 (2000): 1–14.

    Ripsman reiterates the notion that security studies literature has not been and should not be isolated from political economy. The article identifies a set of political economic issues that have a direct bearing on national security calculations.

  • Strange, Susan. “International Economics and International Relations: A Case of Mutual Neglect.” International Affairs 46.2 (April 1970): 304–315.

    DOI: 10.2307/2613829

    An important piece discussing the failings of economists and international relations scholars, due to their separated spheres of study, to adequately address changes in the international system. Calls for changes in political science education to bridge the gap between the two fields.

  • Viner, Jacob. “Power versus Plenty as Objectives of Foreign Policy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” World Politics 1.1 (October 1948): 1–29.

    DOI: 10.2307/2009156

    Viner provides an overview of mercantilist thought and investigates the relationship between mercantilist doctrine, particularly the notion that power is the sole objective of national policy, and foreign policy in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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