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Defying Convergence: Globalisation and Varieties of Defence-Industrial Capitalism

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Globalisation is transforming the production of armaments in ways poorly understood, yet critical to states' security. Most analysts contend that this process forces states to converge upon laissez-faire policies that systematically disadvantage smaller states. However, broader research in comparative political economy suggests that domestic institutions drive states to adapt in distinct ways independently of their size. Indeed, the Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) approach argues that national institutions shape both how states develop adjustment strategies and their firms' comparative advantages. This article examines two small states – Israel and Sweden – to ascertain whether defence-industrial transformation drives them to converge upon common laissez-faire policies or, contrarily, whether distinct VoC shaped their adaptation strategies along different lines. To preview the conclusions, institutions impel states to respond to defence-industrial transformation in divergent ways. Liberal market states, such as Israel, respond by introducing greater competition for contracts and liberalising their import/export policies. In coordinated market states, such as Sweden, government cooperates with business groups to selectively open industries to foreign capital and position them to compete globally. Although they adapt differently to transformation's common challenge, these cases demonstrate that even small states can retain robust defence-industrial bases, albeit ones with increasingly distinct comparative advantages and disadvantages.
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Keywords: Israel; Sweden; armaments; arms exports; defense industries; national security; varieties of capitalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews, Arts Building, The Scores, KY16 9AL St. Andrews, United Kingdom.

Publication date: July 4, 2015

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