Has the empire struck back? ‘new paradigm’ globalisation or return to classical imperialism?
This article is a prepublication transcript of ‘Has the Empire Struck Back?’ in Albritton, R, Makoto Itoh, Richard Westra and Alan Zuege (eds) Phases of Capitalist Development: Booms, Crises, and Globalization, pp195-215. London: McMillan. ISBN 0 33375 316 X The paper conducts an empirical examination of the current state of the world market with a view to assessing (and establishing the relative strengths and weaknesses of) two contrasting views: the first, that it is the outcome of a process of globalisation, in some sense, and the second, that it is explicable through the classical accounts of imperialism dating from the turn of the last century. It considers also the empirical relevance of Kondratieff’s and Schumpeter’s conception of ‘long waves’ of growth and accumulation. It develops the distinction between endogenous and exogenous causes of decline and accumulation in the market and argues that they are connected to a prolonged secular trend towards income polarisation between blocs of nations characteristic of the operation of the market. It argues that whereas the declining phase of a long wave is endogenous and lawlike, recovery is exogenous and contingent, depending on the outcome of conscious political intervention. The key to the economic outcome of the present phase of capitalism is therefore the political relation between the main players It argues that history has seen two quite distinct patterns of exogenously-constituted recovery from generalised crisis. The industrial revolution, and the post-WWII boom were ‘hegemonically-ordered’ yielding high global profit rates under a single hegemonic power (the UK in 1845, the US in 1945) which fuelled a general expansion even of its rivals, and yielding rising (if unequal) prosperity, relative peace, and political stability. 1890-1914 was different. The profit rate did not recover to previous levels, there was no clear hegemon, growing misery and barbarity over the immiserated parts of the world, and intense great power rivalry leading to the wars and revolutions that bestrode the twentieth century. I argue that the evidence suggests the only possible basis of a new wave of economic expansion is a recovery more comparable with 1890-1914 than 1945-1965. The present period is one dominated by the steady but inexorable loss of US economic hegemony but with no clear alternative hegemon. This leads to an essentially unstable, warlike, and intractable period of competition for domination over sources of surplus profit. I call this a return to ‘classical imperialism’.
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- Freeman, Alan, 2008. "The Poverty of Statistics," MPRA Paper 16827, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Aug 2009.
- Pritchett, Lant, 1995.
"Divergence, big time,"
Policy Research Working Paper Series
1522, The World Bank.
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