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Stagnation

An Age of Transition: The United States, China, Peak Oil, and the Demise of Neoliberalism

Until recently, the global capitalist economy has enjoyed a period of comparative tranquility and grown at a relatively rapid pace since the global economic crisis of 2001–02. During this period of global economic expansion there have been several important economic and political developments. First, the United States—the declining hegemonic power but still the leading driving force of the global capitalist economy—has been characterized by growing internal and external financial imbalances. The U.S. economy has experienced a period of debt-financed, consumption-led “expansion” with stagnant wages and employment, and has been running large and rising current account deficits (the current account deficit is a broad measure of the trade deficit). Second, China has become a major player in the global capitalist economy and has been playing an increasingly important role in sustaining global economic growth. Third, global capitalist accumulation is imposing growing pressure on the world’s natural resources and environment. There is increasingly convincing evidence that the global oil production will reach its peak and start to decline in a few years. Fourth, the U.S. imperialist adventure in the Middle East has suffered devastating setbacks and there has been growing resistance to neoliberalism and U.S. imperialism throughout the world.… | more…

The War for Control of the Periphery

Steven Hiatt, ed., with introduction by John Perkins, A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption (San Francisco: BK Currents, 2007), 310 pages, paper $24.95.

Just before John Perkins, author of the bestselling Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, decided it was no longer possible to remain silent about his intimate involvement in the economic warfare waged against the Global South, he sat despondently before the ruins of Ground Zero, totally incapable of visualizing the tragedy: all he could see was a U.S. contractor delivering millions of dollars of weapons to the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Perkins understood himself—a former economic advisor for a multinational utilities contractor, similar to Bechtel—and others like him, to be products of a “system that promotes the most subtle and effective form of imperialism the world has ever witnessed.” Mainstream commentators addressing Perkins’s book ignored the vivid recounting of his own personal involvement as an economic hit man. This is undoubtedly because Perkins used this experience to emphasize the substantial connections between U.S. intelligence agencies, multinational corporations, and political elites of the Global South, laying bare the true motives of “development.” As an “economic hit man,” Perkins fabricated nearly every economic forecast he was asked to produce—as his bosses clearly expected him to do. This led him to repeatedly attack U.S. economic dogma in Confessions… | more…

September 2007 (Volume 59, Number 4)

Notes from the Editors

» Notes from the Editors

We have been arguing in these pagesfor more than three decades that the dominant economic reality of advanced capitalism is a tendency toward stagnation of production accompanied by financial explosion. In an article on “The Centrality of Finance,” in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of World-System Research, MR and MR Press author William K. Tabb writes:
Real global growth averaged 4.9 percent a year during the Golden Age of national Keynesianism (1950–1973). It was 3.4 percent between 1974 and 1979; 3.3 percent in the 1980s; and only 2.3 percent in the 1990s, the decade with the slowest growth since World War II. The slowing of the real economy led investors to seek higher returns in financial speculation…. [I]increased liquidity and lower costs of borrowing encouraged in turn further expansion of finance. The coincident trends of growing inequality and insecurity…and the spreading power of rapid financialization do not suggest a smooth continued expansion path for a society based on increased debt and growing leverage.… | more…

Mexico after the Elections: The Crisis of Legitimacy and the Exhaustion of Predatory Neoliberalism

The Mexican general elections of July 2006 produced an official result that some felt was “very typical of advanced democracies.” But this result defied Mexican political experience, resulting in a major legitimacy crisis. With over forty million voters turning out this time, the proclaimed winner of the presidency was Felipe Calderón, the rightwing National Action Party (PAN) candidate, who in the official count beat the center-left candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Andrés Manuel López Obrador, by 0.58 percent. Calderón took 35.89 percent of the vote while Obrador took 35.31 percent… | more…

June 2007 (Volume 59, Number 2)

Notes from the Editors

In January 2007 the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre of the UK Ministry of Defence published a ninety-page report, entitled Global Strategic Trends, 2007–2036, highlighting a wide array of potential dangers to the prevailing order over the next thirty years. The report is organized around three “Ring Road Issues”: (1) climate change, (2) globalization, and (3) global inequality (p. xiii). Global warming and the possibility of abrupt climate change, together with the end of “the golden age of cheap energy,” are seen as placing increasing strains on populations throughout the planet (p. 31). The globalization of the world economy, embodying “particularly ruthless laws of supply and demand,” is viewed as creating new interdependencies, contradictions, and conflicts. Expanding global inequality, the UK Ministry of Defence insists, could lead to “a resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies . . . but also to populism and the revival of Marxism” (p. 3)… | more…

Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities

egrettably, there are all too many candidates that qualify as imminent and very serious crises. Several should be high on everyone’s agenda of concern, because they pose literal threats to human survival: the increasing likelihood of a terminal nuclear war, and environmental disaster, which may not be too far removed. However, I would like to focus on narrower issues, those that are of greatest concern in the West right now. I will be speaking primarily of the United States, which I know best, and it is the most important case because of its enormous power. But as far as I can ascertain, Europe is not very different… | more…

Wage Stagnation, Growing Insecurity, and the Future of the U.S. Working Class

The most important promises used to justify capitalism are that your children will have a better life than you do, and in President Kennedy’s famous words, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” meaning everyone benefits from the accumulation of capital. These promises ring hollow in a period in which the relative position of the working people of the United States is declining and its ruling class is able to appropriate an increasing share of the national income. This pattern of accumulation and appropriation has become evident to many Americans and this awareness is beginning to affect political consciousness… | more…

From Military Keynesianism to Global-Neoliberal Militarism

In mid-summer of 2006 a Harris Opinion poll revealed that roughly 50 percent of the U.S. public believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been found in Iraq by U.S. forces and nearly two-thirds of those polled thought that the Iraqi regime had been collaborating with al-Qaeda forces prior to the Washington invasion in the spring of 2003. All this, of course, stood in stark contrast to the facts as they were then known and grudgingly acknowledged by U.S. policymakers. At the same time, a large majority of the population believed that the invasion had been a mistake and favored significant troop withdrawals in the near future… | more…

The Imperialist World System

Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years

The concept of the imperialist world system in today predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries, was largely absent from the classical Marxist critique of capitalism. Rather this view had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth. Baran’s work helped inspire Marxist dependency and world system theories. But it was the new way of looking at imperialism that was the core of Baran’s contribution. A half-century later it is important to ask: What was this new approach and how did it differ from then prevailing notions? What further changes in our understanding of imperialism are now necessary in response to changed historical conditions since the mid-twentieth century?… | more…

China, Capitalist Accumulation, and Labor

Most economists continue to celebrate China as one of the most successful developing countries in modern times. We, however, are highly critical of the Chinese growth experience. China’s growth has been driven by the intensified exploitation of the country’s farmers and workers, who have been systematically dispossessed through the break-up of the communes, the resultant collapse of health and education services, and massive state-enterprise layoffs, to name just the most important “reforms.” With resources increasingly being restructured in and by transnational corporations largely for the purpose of satisfying external market demands, China’s foreign-driven, export-led growth strategy has undermined the state’s capacity to plan and direct economic activity. Moreover, in a world of competitive struggle among countries for both foreign direct investment and export markets, China’s gains have been organically linked to development setbacks in other countries. Finally, China’s growth has become increasingly dependent not only on foreign capital but also on the unsustainable trade deficits of the United States. In short, the accumulation dynamics underlying China’s growth are generating serious national and international imbalances that are bound to require correction at considerable social cost for working people in China and the rest of the world.… | more…

April 2007 (Volume 58, Number 11)

Notes from the Editors

The U.S. economy in early March 2007 appears to be rapidly decelerating. Orders for durable goods in manufacturing dropped 8 percent in January and the manufacturing sector as a whole shrank during two of the last three months for which data is currently available (November–January), representing what is being called a “recession” in manufacturing, and raising the possibility of a more general economic downturn (New York Times, February 28, 2007)… | more…

The Financialization of Capitalism

Changes in capitalism over the last three decades have been commonly characterized using a trio of terms: neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization. Although a lot has been written on the first two of these, much less attention has been given to the third. Yet, financialization is now increasingly seen as the dominant force in this triad. The financialization of capitalism-the shift in gravity of economic activity from production (and even from much of the growing service sector) to finance—is thus one of the key issues of our time. More than any other phenomenon it raises the question: has capitalism entered a new stage?… | more…

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