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Norman Angell

Norman Angell, 1933

Sir Norman Angell, born Ralph Norman Angell Lane, (26 December 18727 October 1967) was a British economist, lecturer, writer, Member of Parliament for the Labour Party, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933

QuotesEdit

  • God has made Canada one of those nations which cannot be conquered and cannot be destroyed, except by itself.
    • "Canada's Best Service for British Ideals" (1913)
  • The Council of the Union of Democratic Control re-affirms its unshaken conviction that a lasting settlement cannot be secured by a peace based upon the right of conquest and followed by commercial war, but only by a peace which gives just consideration to the claims of nationality, and which lays the foundation of a real European partnership.
    • The Union of Democratic Control (10 October 1916)
Our evils are due mainly to the failure to apply to our international relationships knowledge which is of practically universal possession, often self-evident in the facts of daily life and experience.
  • I joined the Labour Party not because it was Left Wing, but because it was definitely internationalists and would seem to be the group in the Labour Party which would serve my purpose best for propaganda along internationalist lines.
    • After All (1951)
This book endeavors to clear away the mists which prevent so many from seeing the road.

The Great Illusion (1910)Edit

Initially an essay published at Angell's expense as Europe's Optical Illusion (1909), all subsequent editions were titled The Great Illusion.
  • This book endeavors to clear away the mists which prevent so many from seeing the road.
  • The elaborate financial interdependence of the modern world has grown up in spite of ourselves. Men are fundamentally just as disposed as they were at any time to take wealth that does not belong to them. But their relative interest in the matter has changed.
    In very primitive conditions robbery is a moderately profitable enterprise. Where the rewards of labor are small and uncertain, and where all wealth is portable, the size of a man’s wealth depends a good deal on the size of his club and the agility with which he wields it. But to the man whose wealth so largely depends upon his credit, dishonesty has become as precarious and profitless as honest toil was in more primitive times.
    The instincts of the City man may at bottom be just as predatory as those of the robber baron, but taking property by force has been rendered impossible by the force of commercial events.
  • The prosperity of a people depends upon such facts as the natural wealth of the country in which they live, their social discipline and industrial character, the result of generations, of centuries, it may be, of tradition. In addition it depends upon a special technical capacity for such-and-such a manufacture, a special aptitude for meeting the peculiarities of such-and-such a market, the efficient equipment of elaborately constructed workshops, and the existence of a population trained to given trades.
  • One cannot take up a leading article in even the foremost papers dealing with foreign relations, without finding it assumed that European governments have the instincts of savages and the foresight of cattle-lifters. Are we to assume that the governments of the world, which presumably are directed by men as farsighted as bankers, are permanently to fall below the banker in their conception of enlightened self-interest?
  • The more our commercial system gains in complication, the more does the common prosperity of us all come to depend upon the due performance of all contracts. Commercial development is broadly illustrating one profound truth: that the real basis of social morality is self-interest. If the subject of rivalry between nations is business, the code which has come to dominate business must necessarily come to dominate the conduct of governments.
  • What are the fundamental motives that explain the present rivalry of armaments in Europe, notably the Anglo-German ? Each nation pleads the need for defence; but this implies that someone is likely to attack, and has therefore a presumed interest in so doing. What are the motives which each State thus fears its neighbors may obey?
    They are based on the universal assumption that a nation, in order to find outlets for expanding population and increasing industry, or simply to ensure the best conditions possible for its people, is necessarily pushed to territorial expansion and the exercise of political force against others.... It is assumed that a nation's relative prosperity is broadly determined by its political power; that nations being competing units, advantage in the last resort goes to the possessor of preponderant military force, the weaker goes to the wall, as in the other forms of the struggle for life.
    The author challenges this whole doctrine. He attempts to show that it belongs to a stage of development out of which we have passed that the commerce and industry of a people no longer depend upon the expansion of its political frontiers; that a nation's political and economic frontiers do not now necessarily coincide; that military power is socially and economically futile, and can have no relation to the prosperity of the people exercising it; that it is impossible for one nation to seize by force the wealth or trade of another — to enrich itself by subjugating, or imposing its will by force on another; that in short, war, even when victorious, can no longer achieve those aims for which people strive....
  • The fight for ideals can no longer take the form of fight between nations, because the lines of division on moral questions are within the nations themselves and intersect the political frontiers. There is no modern State which is completely Catholic or Protestant, or liberal or autocratic, or aristocratic or democratic, or socialist or individualist; the moral and spiritual struggles of the modern world go on between citizens of the same State in unconscious intellectual cooperation with corresponding groups in other states, not between the public powers of rival States.
  • War has no longer the justification that it makes for the survival of the fittest; it involves the survival of the less fit. The idea that the struggle between nations is a part of the evolutionary law of man's advance involves a profound misreading of the biological analogy.
    The warlike nations do not inherit the earth; they represent the decaying human element....
  • Are we, in blind obedience to primitive instincts and old prejudices, enslaved by the old catchwords and that curious indolence which makes the revision of old ideas unpleasant, to duplicate indefinitely on the political and economic side a condition from which we have liberated ourselves on the religious side? Are we to continue to struggle, as so many good men struggled in the first dozen centuries of Christendom — spilling oceans of blood, wasting mountains of treasure — to achieve what is at bottom a logical absurdity, to accomplish something which, when accomplished, can avail us nothing, and which, if it could avail us anything, would condemn the nations of the world to never-ending bloodshed and the constant defeat of all those aims which men, in their sober hours, know to be alone worthy of sustained endeavor?

Peace and the Public Mind (1935)Edit

The force which makes for war does not derive its strength from the interested motives of evil men; it derives its strength from the disinterested motives of good men.
Nobel lecture (12 June 1935)
  • It is, of course, merely a truism to say that war, like other social or political evils, is the outcome of the bad management of human society, which is, in its turn, due to certain errors or deficiencies. But our task is to discern the sort of error or deficiency.
  • The force which makes for war does not derive its strength from the interested motives of evil men; it derives its strength from the disinterested motives of good men. Pacifists have sometimes evaded that truth as making too great a concession to Mars, as seeming to imply (which it does not in fact) that in order to abolish war, men must cease to be noble.
    Base motives are, of course, among those which make up the forces that produce war. Base motives are among those which get great cathedrals built and hospitals constructed-contractors' profit-seeking, the vested interests of doctors and clergy. But Europe has not been covered by cathedrals because contractors wanted to make money, or priests wanted jobs.
War is the outcome, not mainly of evil intentions, but on the whole, of good intentions which miscarry or are frustrated. It is made, not usually by evil men knowing themselves to be wrong, but is the outcome of policies pursued by good men usually passionately convinced that they are right.
  • Let us face squarely the paradox that the world which goes to war is a world, usually, genuinely desiring peace. War is the outcome, not mainly of evil intentions, but on the whole, of good intentions which miscarry or are frustrated. It is made, not usually by evil men knowing themselves to be wrong, but is the outcome of policies pursued by good men usually passionately convinced that they are right.
  • We seem to assume that if only someone could find the cure for our disease, some new plan, we should at once see that it was the cure and apply it. We ask for leaders and leadership. But if the right course, which the leader indicates, is regarded by the multitudes sincerely as the wrong one, they will declare that he is no leader but a misleader. Inevitably in a democracy the leader is he who expresses existing convictions in the most vivid way, who possesses, as someone puts it, "the common mind to an uncommon degree".
  • The convictions of the multitudes — and on certain points like the desirability of organizing the world on a nationalist basis there is overwhelming agreement — are sincere convictions. They are, as we know, sometimes disastrously erroneous; but they are also disastrously honest. The Nationalisms, the Protectionisms, the Mercantilisms and all the other fallacies which rack Europe and create the chaos are sincerely held fallacies. They are, to these multitudes, the truth, and the prophet who denies them shall be stoned.
  • Our daily life is no longer cursed by fear of those pestilences, plagues, black deaths, which used to devastate Europe. The layman has abolished those plagues by using the medical expert's knowledge. The medical expert has said in effect, "There are not many things that we are agreed upon, but at least we are agreed upon this: that though we cannot cure bubonic plague or cholera, we can prevent them, for we know that they are caused by microorganisms transmitted through water and vermin. Keep sewage from your drinking water and vermin from your homes, and you will prevent these plagues." The layman has seen the point, applied appropriate measures, and these dreadful pestilences have disappeared.
    Now, if our publics these last twenty years could have grasped certain social truths, not inherently more difficult to understand than the microbic theory of disease, a large part at least of the economic and political pestilences which have come upon us in our generation would not have arisen.
  • Our evils are due mainly to the failure to apply to our international relationships knowledge which is of practically universal possession, often self-evident in the facts of daily life and experience.
  • There are many who say in effect that public opinion has little to do with war, that it is explained by the influence of the vested interests who profit by it — armament makers or groups of capitalists. But even when we have admitted that those interests do exert great influence, it only pushes the question further back. Why are the mass of men, millions, powerless in this matter as against a tiny minority, a few dozen or a few score or a few hundred who profit by the general disaster? There are undoubtedly some who say to the millions in effect: "We should like you to go to war because it would expand our profits." But why do the millions obey?
  • Why is it relatively easy for a few armament makers to persuade 'men to go to war, to give their lives; and quite impossible for the much larger group who would benefit by another form of general destruction to persuade men to destroy their property? It is broadly, of course, because the folly of burning down houses is plain; the folly of the policies which lead to war is not so plain.
  • Before war can be fought, a long series of necessary steps, which quite obviously are not and cannot be enforced steps, must be taken by the mass of men. Naval and military budgets must be voted in parliaments and congresses, not just once or twice in a generation but year after year; not secretly, but accompanied by long and public discussion, the budgets being supported by members of parliament, or deputies or congressmen who are still in many states continuously reelected in free and secret franchises, often by great majorities.
  • To shut our eyes to the part that John Smith plays in the perpetuation of unworkable policies, in building up the forces of which he becomes the victim, is to perpetuate his victimization. The only means by which he can be liberated from the evil power of organized minorities is by making him aware of the nature of the impulses and motives to which the exploiters so successfully appeal. If such phenomena as nationalism, for instance, can assume forms that are gravely dangerous, it is because the nationalist appeal finds response in deep human impulses, instincts, in psychological facts which we must face.
  • One speaks of dictators ruling by "force". But what has enabled dictatorial governments to possess force? The only means by which a man can become a dictator is by getting at the public mind. The politician does not become dictator by the strength of his own muscles. He must persuade others, millions of others, to use their muscles in a certain way.
    The German National Socialists began as a party of ten persons. And it would have remained a party of ten persons had not its promoters been able to persuade — not force — others. Ten persons had no force as against the power of the German nation. The potential power of that party of ten persons consisted simply in its potential power to reach the public mind. Without that popular appeal it could never have come into being. And if, and when, it loses that popular appeal, it will cease to be.
  • The parties, Fascist, or other, which bring about dictatorship want dictatorship. But John Smith who insists on certain policies which produce war does not want war. The first is the result of conscious intention duly carried into effect. The second is the result of an intention which miscarries, miscarries because of certain current errors and fallacies.
  • As an Englishman, particularly as an Englishman standing upon foreign soil, I am, of course, prepared to argue that every war we have ever fought was a purely defensive war. But I am obliged to take cognizance of the quite simple historical fact that for about one thousand years, since the time indeed when Norwegians ravaged our coasts and a certain Scandinavian landed at Hastings in 1066, every war we have fought happens to have been fought in other people's countries.
    Now if defense means merely keeping burglars out of the house, what were we doing on all those occasions in other people's houses?
    Our history in this respect is not peculiar. The United States is proud of her remoteness from the old world, her freedom from entanglement in its quarrels, her isolation. Yet in her relatively very short history as an independent state she has fought at least six foreign wars while her troops have landed on foreign soil on nearly a hundred occasions. Not one of those wars was for the purpose of defending American soil.
The normal purpose of police — to prevent the litigant taking the law into his own hands, being his own judge — is the precise contrary of the normal purpose in the past of armies and navies, which has been to enable the litigant to be his own judge of his own rights when in conflict about them with another.
  • Now, please don't misunderstand me. When I point out that all our wars for a thousand years have been fought in other people's countries, I do not mean that any of these wars was necessarily aggressive. They may well have been, everyone of them, defensive. But plainly they were not defensive of soil, territory. Of what then were they defensive? They were defensive of the nation's interests, rights; interests which may well collide with the interests of other nations in any part of the world ... Nations do so differ as to what their respective rights are and differ sincerely. And often the question, which of the two is right, is extremely difficult, as anyone who has attempted to disentangle rival territorial claims in the Balkans or elsewhere knows only too well.
  • One great state says to others, as each in effect has been saying during the ten years of armament debate: "It is true that we ask for considerable power. Perhaps, all things considered, greater power than you. But it need not disturb you in the least, for we give you our most positive assurance that that power will be used purely for defense. And by defense we mean this: that when we get into a dispute with you as to our respective rights, when, that is, the question is whether you are right or we are right, what we mean by defense is that we shall always be in a position to be sole judge of the question. And so much stronger than you, that you will have to accept our verdict without any possibility of appeal. Could anything be fairer?"
  • We use power, of course, in the international fields in a way which is the exact contrary to the way in which we use it within the state. In the international field, force is the instrument of the rival litigants, each attempting to impose his judgment upon the other. Within the state, force is the instrument of the community, the law, primarily used to prevent either of the litigants imposing by force his view upon the other. The normal purpose of police — to prevent the litigant taking the law into his own hands, being his own judge — is the precise contrary of the normal purpose in the past of armies and navies, which has been to enable the litigant to be his own judge of his own rights when in conflict about them with another.
  • Within the state we have made defense of the individual the obligation of the whole community, and by that fact have established such preponderance of power on the side of the law that it could never be good business to challenge it. And that fact has, in large measure, swept highwaymen from the roads and pirates from the seas.
  • So long as an individual, whether person or state, has only his own arms to depend upon in order to defend his rights by arms, then he must be stronger than anyone likely to challenge those rights. Which means that that other is deprived of similar defense. Within the frontiers man long ago made the discovery that the only way out of that dilemma is for the community, by putting its combined power behind a protective law, to assume the defense of the individual. Defense must be a communal, a collective function, or it cannot exist effectively at all.
  • The conception that we can only protect ourselves if we are prepared to protect others surely ought to belong to the nursery stage of social education.
    But such things as the mechanism of security through law, the place of force in society, are things not, it would seem, included usually in the common education of our peoples.
  • The economic difficulty of the modern world is not shortage of materials but the organization of their exchange and distribution; distress arises, not from scarcity but from dislocation and maladjustment.
  • I doubt whether the public has fully grasped the change which has come over the nature of modern wealth. If the nature of that change were grasped by our publics, we should be much nearer to accepting the international organizations necessary for the defense of welfare and of civilization than we are. As it is, we are in danger of being diverted to the discussion of schemes for a vast rearrangement of frontiers in defiance of national feeling — for the boundaries of the national and the economic unit do not conveniently coincide — before which the difficulties of a Disarmament Conference would pale into insignificance.
  • In the modern world, material is only wealth if you can get rid of it. The British miner cannot eat his coal, nor clothe his children with it, nor build his house with it. If coal is to mean for the British miner food and shelter and clothing, he must get rid of it. Get rid of it, that is, to someone who has money, sell it. But how is that someone to get money? He can only get it by one means: By getting rid of his material to someone who has money, who can only get money by getting rid of his material — round the world.
  • The fact that men are naturally quarrelsome is presumed to be an argument against such institutions as the League. But it is precisely the fact of the natural pugnacity of man that makes such institutions necessary. If men were naturally and easily capable of being their own judges, always able to see the other's case, never got into panics, never lost their heads, never lost their tempers and called it patriotism — why, then we should not want a League. But neither should we want in that case most of our national apparatus of government either — parliaments, congresses, courts, police, ten commandments. These are all means by which we deal with the unruly element in human nature.


  • I would not hesitate to say that nine out of ten of the critics of the peace movement get the argument turned upside down. "You cannot change human nature" has become a sort of incantation with those critics. Perhaps you cannot "change human nature" — I don't indeed know what the phrase means. But you can certainly change human behavior, which is what matters, as the whole panorama of history shows.
  • Not more knowledge but better use of the knowledge which we now have, is perhaps the main educational need and the main educational problem which confronts us.
  • Man's greatest advances these last few generations have been made by the application of human intelligence to the management of matter. Now we are confronted by a more difficult problem, the application of intelligence to the management of human relations. Unless we can advance in that field also, the very instruments that man's intelligence has created may be the instruments of his destruction.
  • The obstacles to peace are not obstacles in matter, in inanimate nature, in the mountains which we pierce, in the seas across which we fly. The obstacles to peace are in the minds and hearts of men.
    In the study of matter we can be honest, impartial, true. That is why we succeed in dealing with it. But about the things we care for — which are ourselves, our desires and lusts, our patriotisms and hates — we find a harder test of thinking straight and truly. Yet there is the greater need. Only by intellectual rectitude and in that field shall we be saved.
    There is no refuge but in truth, in human intelligence, in the unconquerable mind of man.

Quotes about AngellEdit

It is not the facts which guide the conduct of men, but their opinions about facts; which may be entirely wrong. We can only make them right by discussion.
  • Angell argued that in a modern economy no economic benefit could be generated even by successful wars of conquest... Angell’s argument showed, beyond reasonable doubt, that war and territorial expansion are not, in general sensible policies. His views have often been derided on the basis that they were falsified by the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, which was pursued to the bitter end even though it destroyed the global market economy that had formed the backdrop to his analysis. But in reality the outcome proved him right. Of course, Germany, the power most influenced by the arguments of Clausewitz and his successors, reaped nothing but grief from the war. But the attempts of the victorious allies to exact reparations, extend their colonial influence and so on were also entirely futile, exactly as Angell had predicted.

The Nobel Presentation SpeechEdit

Speech by Christian Lous Lange (10 December 1934)
  • In 1909, he published a little book of some hundred pages, Europe's Optical Illusion, and he awoke one morning to find himself famous.
  • What is the "Great Illusion" which Norman Angell wishes to explode? In few — and therefore insufficient — words, it is this: war is a quite inadequate method for solving international disputes; war does not carry any advantage, not even to the victors, least of all any economic advantage.
  • The Great Illusion in its turn created certain illusions in those who read the book superficially (or who only heard about it). Because Norman Angell had proved war to be foolish, to be a bad business proposition, many believed that he had said there would be no more war in Europe. Against this misinterpretation Norman Angell at once protested with the greatest heat. He asked: "Why then do I pursue my fight against war?" Indeed, why should pacifists continue their frequently thankless and unpopular work if they believe that war will never occur any more? Rational people do not try to break down an open door.
  • The final chapter of The Great Illusion presents a convincing plea for a change in foreign policy from that of a war policy to one of international cooperation and peace. If this is not made, war, he says, will be inevitable. The fact that we are living in a world of international interdependence makes it imperative that we organize the international community of nations accordingly, basing the community on the common interests which bind nations together, relinquishing the principle of isolated national defence, providing collective security through common effort by erecting an international authority which can replace the prevailing international anarchy.
  • Norman Angell speaks to the intellect. He is cool and clear. He has a profound belief in reason and in rationalism. He is convinced that at long last reason will prevail when we succeed in sweeping away the mists of illusion and intellectual error.
  • He has a profound and warm belief in what he calls in one of his books "the potential rationalism of mankind". Let us hope that his optimism may be vindicated.

External linksEdit

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