In this wide-ranging study Peter Custers seeks to highlight the importance of the production and consumption of arms as a form of social waste within the capitalist world order. The study encompasses critical economic theory, historical studies of the rise of capitalism, conceptualizations of international trade, and analyses of the inequities spawned by globalized militarism. Drawing especially on Volume 2 of Marx's Capital, Custers creatively develops some of Marx's classical themes. The individual circuit of capital outlined in that work is utilized by Custers to demonstrate the generation of various types of waste at each step in the military-nuclear and civilian-nuclear production chains. He also proposes the new concept of negative use-value to highlight the adverse consequences, for human beings and the environment, of products that are churned out by the military-nuclear complex.
In opposition to the view that the capitalist system in its earlier phases operated as a market system governed by 'internal' exchanges, Custers produces historical evidence to demonstrate that this system always incorporated a vital 'external' agent, namely, the capitalist state, which has played a significant role in capitalism's evolution at crucial junctures.