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Dominant Capital and the New Wars

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  • Bichler, Shimshon
  • Nitzan, Jonathan

Abstract

The recent shift from ‘global villageism’ to the ‘new wars’ revealed a deep crisis in heterodox political economy. The popular belief in neoliberal globalization, peace dividends, fiscal conservatism and sound finance that dominated the 1980s and 1990s suddenly collapsed. The early 2000s brought rising xenophobia, growing military budgets and policy profligacy. Radicals were the first to identify this transition, but their attempts to explain it have been bogged down by two major hurdles: (1) most writers continue to apply nineteenth century theories and concepts to twenty-first century realities; and (2) few seem to bother with empirical analysis. This paper offers a radical alternative that is both theoretically new and empirically grounded. We use the ‘new wars’ as a stepping stone to understand a triple transformation that altered the nature of capital, the accumulation of capital and the unit of capital. Specifically, our argument builds on a power understanding of capital that emphasizes differential accumulation by dominant capital groups. Accumulation, we argue, has little to do with the amassment of material things measured in ‘utils’ or ‘dead labour.’ Instead, accumulation, or ‘capitalization,’ represents a commodification of power by leading groups in society. Over the past century, this power has been re-structured and concentrated through two distinct regimes of differential accumulation – ‘breadth’ and ‘depth.’ A breadth regime relies on proletarianization, on green-field investment and, particularly, on mergers and acquisitions. A depth regime builds on redistribution through stagflation – that is, on differential inflation in the midst of stagnation. In contrast to breadth which presupposes some measure of growth and stability, depth thrives on ‘accumulation through crisis.’ The past twenty years were dominated by breadth, buttressed by neoliberal rhetoric, globalization and capital mobility. This regime started to run into mounting difficulties in the late 1990s, and eventually collapsed in 2000. For differential accumulation to continue, dominant capital now needs inflation, and inflation requires instability and social crisis. It is within this broader dynamics of power accumulation that the new wars need to be understood.

Suggested Citation

  • Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2004. "Dominant Capital and the New Wars," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 254-327.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:espost:157769
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Baines, Joseph, 2014. "Food Price Inflation as Redistribution: Towards a New Analysis of Corporate Power in the World Food System (Preprint)," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 79-112.
    2. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2012. "Capital as Power: Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 65-84.
    3. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2020. "Manuscripts Don't Burn," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2020/03, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.
    4. Brennan, Jordan, 2013. "The Power Underpinnings, and Some Distributional Consequences, of Trade and Investment Liberalisation in Canada (Preprint)," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 715-747.
    5. Di Muzio, Tim, 2016. "Energy, Capital as Power and World Order," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 267-287.
    6. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2019. "CasP's 'Differential Accumulation' versus Veblen's 'Differential Advantage' (Revised and Expanded)," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2019/01, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.
    7. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2018. "Arms and Oil in the Middle East: A Biography of Research," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 418-440.
    8. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2015. "Still About Oil?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 49-79.
    9. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2006. "New Imperialism or New Capitalism?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1-86.
    10. Baines, Joseph, 2015. "Price and Income Dynamics in the Agri-Food System: A Disaggregate Perspective," EconStor Theses, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157992, November.
    11. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2014. "Energy Conflicts and Differential Profits: An Update," EconStor Preprints 157857, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    12. Quinn DuPont, 2017. "The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-wing Extremism, by David Golumbia," Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(5), pages 474-476, September.
    13. Nitzan, Jonathan & Bichler, Shimshon, 2018. "The CasP Project: Past, Present, Future," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(3), pages 1-39.
    14. Cochrane, David Troy, 2015. "What’s Love Got to Do with It? Diamonds and the Accumulation of De Beers, 1935-55," EconStor Theses, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157995, November.
    15. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2020. "The Capital as Power Aproach: An Invited-then-Rejected Interview with Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2020/02, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.
    16. Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 2017. "Oil and Blood in the Orient, Redux," EconStor Preprints 172198, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.

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