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Late Imperialism

Fifty Years After Harry Magdoff's The Age of Imperialism

Anti-imperialism mural in Caracas, Venezuela

The single most influential work on imperialism remains V. I. Lenin’s classic study of a century ago, Imperialism: The Latest Stage of Capitalism (better known by the title given to it following its first publication, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism).1 Lenin employed the term modern imperialism or simply imperialism to refer to the age of concentrated capital, during which the entire world was being carved up by the leading states and their corporations, distinguishing the imperialist stage from the colonialism/imperialism of the mercantilist and freely competitive stages of capitalism that preceded it. “Colonial policy and imperialism,” Lenin insisted, “existed before this latest [imperialist] stage of capitalism, and even before capitalism.”2

The new imperialist stage, beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and extending into the twentieth century, was seen as a product of the growth of giant capitalist firms with monopoly power, the close connection forged between these corporations and the nation-states in which they arose, and the resulting struggle for control of the world’s populations and resources—leading to intercapitalist competition and war. “If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism [as a “special stage”],” Lenin wrote, “we would have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.”3

Lenin’s general analysis of imperialism belonged to a group of largely complementary theories in the Marxian tradition that included such works as Rudolf Hilferding’s Finance Capital (1910), Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913), and Nikolai Bukharin’s Imperialism and the World Economy (1915).4 Yet, Lenin’s own analysis was unrivaled in its ability to capture the dominant world conditions up through the Second World War, including accounting for the world wars themselves. A strong point in his analysis was its concrete, historical character, divorced from rigid theoretical formulae. It encompassed such varied phenomena as the growth of monopoly and financial capital, “division of the world among the international trusts,” capital export, the race for energy and raw materials, class struggle, geopolitical rivalry in the struggle for economic territory and spheres of influence, the emergence of a labor aristocracy in the capitalist core, and the contest for global and regional hegemony.5

While emphasizing intercapitalist competition, Lenin also pointed to the hierarchy of nation-states, which served to divide the core powers from the poorer nations of the periphery that fell within their imperial orbits. His analysis went beyond colonialism to discuss neocolonialism in relation to Latin America. In the 1920s, alert to the revolutionary struggles occurring in Mexico, Turkey, Persia, China, and India, Lenin pioneered in extending his analysis to the consideration of all “imperialist-oppressed colonies and countries” and all “dependent countries,” giving rise to revolution in the periphery against “international imperialism.”6

However, history in the Marxian conception is a dialectic of continuity and change. By the 1960s, Lenin’s analysis, despite its comprehensiveness, needed updating. In the post-Second World War era, the United States emerged with near absolute hegemony over the capitalist world economy. At the same time, the world saw the greatest revolutionary wave in history associated with the break with colonialism, the rise of neocolonialism, and the emergence of a rival sphere of post-revolutionary society, including states with socialist aspirations.7 In this changed atmosphere, corresponding with the Cold War, the United States and its allies presented a new ideology of economic growth, development, aid, and modernization within the capitalist ideological framework. An army of liberal and social democratic intellectuals, including such figures as Mark Blaug, Benjamin J. Cohen, Robert W. Tucker, and Barrington Moore Jr., were enlisted in the 1960s and ’70s to deny the existence of economic imperialism, if not imperialism more generally, aiming their analysis at various figures on the left and in the United States in particular, including Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, William Appleman Williams, and Harry Magdoff.8

At the very center of the intense debate on U.S. imperialism in the 1960s and ’70s in the context of the Vietnam War was Magdoff’s The Age of Imperialism: The Economics of U.S. Foreign Policy (1969), written just over fifty years after Lenin’s great work. Taken together with Magdoff’s collection of historical and theoretical essays from the late 1960s and ’70s—Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present (1978)—The Age of Imperialism stands as the single most integrated economic, historical, and theoretical analysis of U.S. imperialism at its peak, in the so-called golden age of monopoly capitalism.9

Magdoff, more than any other figure at the time, modeled the dialectic of continuity and change in the Marxian analysis of imperialism, linking his work to Lenin’s earlier analysis. Like other major Marxian theorists of imperialism from the mid–twentieth century to today, such as Baran, Sweezy, and Samir Amin, he continued to lay stress on the concentration and centralization of capital, along with the rise of monopolistic corporations, as the key to understanding late twentieth- and emerging twenty-first-century imperialism. In addition, Magdoff built on the complexity and multifaceted nature of Lenin’s original approach, attempting to replicate this for a later era. Magdoff had designed the statistical productivity measures (still used today by the U.S. Department of Labor) for the Works Progress Administration’s National Research Project on Re-employment Opportunities and Technological Development during the New Deal in the 1930s. He was a pivotal figure in the organization of U.S. war industry in the Second World War as chief of the Civilian Requirements Division of the National Defense Advisory Commission and in his role in the War Production Board, where he was put in charge of planning and controls in the machinery industries. He subsequently headed the Current Business Analysis Division of the Department of Commerce where he supervised the U.S. government’s Survey of Current Business and then served as economic adviser to U.S. Secretary of Commerce (and former U.S. Vice President) Henry Wallace. This extraordinary background in the construction and analysis of U.S. economic statistics and in wartime planning meant that Magdoff was well equipped to provide definitive empirical demonstrations of economic imperialism on the part of U.S. corporations and the U.S. state, along with its relation to the wider dimensions of world imperialism.10

In Magdoff’s treatment, imperialism could not be viewed at the high level of abstraction sometimes used for the analysis of the logic of capital. Rather, a reasonable approach to imperialism required attention to the inner workings of global capitalism, informed by theoretical abstraction, but ultimately confirmed and made meaningful at a concrete, historical level.11 This conformed to the method of Karl Marx himself, who developed his critique of political economy by means of successive approximations moving from the abstract to the concrete. Marx thus began his critique with Capital (originally slated as volume 1 in a six-volume work), representing the most abstract level of analysis, and intended to complete it with volume 5 on International Trade and volume 6 on The World Economy and Crises—that is, in terms of the concrete analysis of what today would be called the imperialist world system. However, he never got beyond volume 1 of the original plan, which turned into the three volumes of Capital.12

Imperialism, Magdoff argued, was inherently complex and changing in its configurations, reflecting both the centripetal and centrifugal forces governing the system. Where U.S. imperialism was concerned, it had to be interpreted in such a way that the “essential one-ness” between economic, political, and military-strategic objectives/tendencies was revealed. The role of multinational corporations abroad could not be separated from the role of U.S. military bases spread across the planet or the need to control oil and other strategic resources. Magdoff was at his best in refuting those who attempted to claim: (1) that foreign direct investment and trade were of little economic significance to the United States (he demonstrated that foreign direct investment had risen from around 10 percent of U.S. after-tax nonfinancial corporate profits in 1950 to about 22 percent by 1964); (2) that the U.S. economy was not dependent on oil or other raw materials located abroad and had no inherent geopolitical interests; and (3) that U.S. profits were only marginally affected by surplus extracted from the periphery of the world system.13 The fact that the other major capitalist countries all acceded to U.S. hegemony did not mean that intercapitalist competition had entirely disappeared or would not resurface in the future. Responding to those who questioned whether “imperialism was really necessary” to the United States, Magdoff explained that “imperialism is the way of life of capitalism.”14

For Magdoff, writing in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the main changes in the structure of imperialism since Lenin’s time—beyond decolonization and the rise of U.S. hegemony—were all related to the further development of monopoly capital: (1) the emergence of the military-industrial complex; (2) the rise of multinational corporations (including multinational banking) and their growing penetration of the periphery; and (3) “the priority of the interests of military-multinational industry on the affairs of state.” This description, he noted, applied first and foremost to the United States itself, but reflected relations also materializing among rival imperial powers. In essence, he was pointing to a tendency within the system toward the formation of a more generalized monopoly capitalism, beginning in the United States, but lording itself over the entire globe. A key element in Magdoff’s Age of Imperialism was his chapter on the growth of “The Financial Network,” investigating the whole phenomenon of multinational banking and finance in general—a treatment that he was to carry forward in the early 1990s in Globalization: To What End?, which included his analysis of “The Globalization of Finance.”15

It will be argued here that the globalization of production (and finance)—which emerged along with neoliberalism out of the economic stagnation of the mid–1970s and then accelerated with the demise of Soviet-type societies and China’s reintegration into the capitalist world system—has generated a more generalized monopoly capitalism, theorized by thinkers such as Magdoff, Baran, Sweezy, and Amin. This ushered in what can be called late imperialism.

Late imperialism refers to the present period of monopoly-finance capital and stagnation, declining U.S. hegemony and rising world conflict, accompanied by growing threats to the ecological bases of civilization and life itself. It stands at its core for the extreme, hierarchical relations governing the capitalist world economy in the twenty-first century, which is increasingly dominated by mega-multinational corporations and a handful of states at the center of the world system. Just as it is now common to refer to late capitalism in recognition of the end times brought on by simultaneous economic and ecological dislocations, so it is necessary today to speak of late imperialism, reflecting the global dimensions and contradictions of that system, cutting across all other divisions, and posing a “global rift” in human historical development: an epochal crisis posing the question of “ruin or revolution.”16

The persistent failure of many on the left, particularly in the advanced capitalist states, to acknowledge these developments is largely the result of a growing abandonment of the theory of imperialism, substituting more reified conceptions related to globalization, seen as dissolving former imperial hierarchies. This is so much the case that a host of alternative frameworks are now offered suggesting: (1) the progressive and self-annihilating role of imperialism; (2) shifting hegemonies within the world system conceived as a substitute for the theory of imperialism; (3) “deterritorialized” (stateless, borderless) Empire; (4) abstract political imperialism led by the United States or rule by supranational organizations removed from economic forces; (5) the rise of transnationalism as an entity in itself largely independent of states and geography; and (6) the supposed reversal of imperialist dominance. Hence, before examining the historical phenomenon of late imperialism it is necessary to view some of these prevalent misconceptions on the left in the imperial countries themselves, resulting from a refusal to come to terms with the complex, many-sided structural realities of late imperialism in the twenty-first century.

The Western Left and the Denial of Imperialism

The issue of the abandonment of the critique of imperialism within much of the Western left was dramatically raised by Prabhat Patnaik in his November 1990 Monthly Review article entitled “Whatever Happened to Imperialism?” Writing two decades after Magdoff’s The Age of Imperialism and a little more than a decade after Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present, Patnaik, an economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, observed:

An outsider cannot help noticing a remarkable transformation that has taken place in the Marxist discourse in the United States over the last decade: hardly anybody talks about imperialism any more. In 1974, I left Cambridge, England, where I was teaching economics, and have now returned to the West, this time to the United States, after 15 years. When I left, imperialism occupied perhaps the most prominent place in any Marxist discussion, and nowhere was more being written about and talked about on this subject than in the United States—so much so that many European Marxists accused American Marxism of being tainted with “third worldism.”… Marxists everywhere looked to the United States for literature on imperialism.…

This is obviously not the case today. Younger Marxists [in the United States] look bemused when the term is mentioned. Burning issues of the day…are discussed, but without any reference to imperialism. Radical indignation over the invasion of Panama or military intervention in Nicaragua and El Salvador does not jell into theoretical propositions about imperialism. And the topic has virtually disappeared from the pages of Marxist journals, especially those of a later vintage.

Curiously, this is not because any one has theorized against the concept. The silence over imperialism is not the aftermath of some intense debate where the scales tilted decisively in favor of one side; it is not a theoretically self-conscious silence. Nor can it be held that the world has so changed in the last decade and a half that to talk of imperialism has become an obvious anachronism.17

At the time, Patnaik attributed the change in left perspectives in the United States to absence of a major war, such as the Vietnam War, in the 1975–90 period. But of equal importance in the 1980s and early ’90s, governing the mood in radical circles, was the evolving economic situation, with the U.S. economy, along with that of the other advanced capitalist countries, experiencing deepening economic stagnation in contrast to faster growth in some parts of Asia. On this shaky basis, the dependency thesis of the “development of underdevelopment,” made famous especially by Andre Gunder Frank, writing in Monthly Review, was designated as erroneous even by many on the left—in spite of the fact that the gap in national income between the leading imperial countries and the developing world as a whole continued to widen, with the share of world income received by the top 20 percent of the world’s population (divided into nation-states) rising from 66 percent in 1965 to 83 percent in 1990.18

Marxist theorist Bill Warren argued as early as 1973 in “Imperialism and Capitalist Industrialization” in New Left Review that dependency in poor countries was in “irreversible decline” due to “a major upsurge” in capitalist development in the third world. According to Warren, Marx, in articles such as “The British Rule in India,” had seen colonialism/imperialism as playing a constructive role in underdeveloped countries. This was later mistakenly “reversed” by Lenin in his Imperialism, which represented an “about-turn” in Marxist theory, giving rise to dependency theory. The problems of development facing the poorer countries, Warren argued, were not primarily external, as depicted by dependistas, but could be traced to “internal contradictions.” This outlook, though not widespread in the 1970s when Warren first introduced it, was to gain considerable influence within the Western left by 1980, when his posthumous Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism was published.19

A quite different departure from classical theories of imperialism appeared in the afterword to the 1983 edition of Giovanni Arrighi’s The Geometry of Imperialism. A leading Marxian-inspired world-systems theorist, Arrighi ended up abandoning the theory of imperialism, which he no longer considered relevant, replacing it with a more limited conception of struggles over world hegemony. The model of the capitalist world-system with its shifting hegemonies was seen by Arrighi as an adequate substitute for the more complex notion of imperialism. The decline of the nation-state in the wake of globalization meant that the old theories of imperialism had become “obsolete,” and the theory of monopoly capitalism was likewise seen as dated. What remained was a world-system and the jostling for hegemony.20

However, the most far-reaching left rejections of the Marxian critique of imperialism were to await the present century. In 2000, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri published Empire, arguing that imperialism was now a thing of the past—with the Vietnam War representing “the final moment of the imperialist tendency”—only to be replaced by a new deterritorialized global constitutional order and world market modeled on U.S. political-economic relations, in a left version of Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history.” The hierarchical imperialism of old, Hardt and Negri argued, had been succeeded by the “smooth space of the capitalist world market”—a view that anticipated by five years neoliberal globalization pundit Thomas L. Friedman’s claim that “the world is flat.” Hence, it was “no longer possible,” they wrote, “to demarcate large geographical zones as center and periphery, North and South.” This transcendence of imperialism in favor of the stateless, borderless sovereignty of Empire, based in a world market consisting of mere network relations without a center and periphery, was seen as emerging out of the inner logic of capitalism itself. “Imperialism,” Hardt and Negri stated, “actually creates a straitjacket for capital,” the inner logic of which ultimately requires a “smooth space” or flat world in which to operate.21

Such ideas were hardly novel, except within Marxian circles. What was innovative was the use of Marxian and postmodern terminology to boost views long promoted within establishment U.S. foreign policy, which resulted in Hardt and Negri’s work being highly praised by the New York Times, Time magazine, Foreign Affairs, and other mainstream publications. It was this that led Ellen Meiksins Wood to refer to Hardt and Negri’s Empire as, in effect, “a manifesto on behalf of global capital.”22

Hardt and Negri’s rejection of any continuity with classical Marxian theories of imperialism opened the way to various sometimes insightful, but one-dimensional, approaches on the left, converging with mainstream ideology. In The Making of Global Capitalism in 2013, Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin stressed the ability of the U.S. state, primarily through actions of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board, to create a “world after its own image,” subordinating European capital to its influence. The argument, which was inspired in part by Peter Gowan’s critique of the “Dollar-Wall Street Regime,” while informative, was an almost exclusively political one, systematically downplaying the economic dimension of imperialism, including finance capital, multinational corporations, continuing international rivalry, and the deteriorating conditions of the underdeveloped world. Panitch and Gindin thus provided an analysis of U.S. empire, much more conversant with received views, as opposed to the classical conceptions of imperialism with their numerous critical dimensions. In The Making of Global Capitalism, the older structure of imperialist countries in the center and the dependent countries in the periphery gave way to smooth “networks of transnational production as well as finance” revolving around “American capitalism’s central place in global capitalism.” What was conveyed was a stable U.S. world hegemonic order, rooted in a Washington-Wall Street consensus and seemingly destined to continue indefinitely—a mirror image of the view prevailing within U.S. foreign policy circles but now emanating from the left. In this interpretation, global capitalism arising out of “American Empire” and managed by the U.S. state entirely subsumed the more complex and multifaceted, and at the same time more concrete analysis of imperialism offered by thinkers such as Lenin, Luxemburg, Magdoff, and Amin.23

If Panitch and Gindin emphasized the rise of political empire, largely dispensing with what John Hobson had called the “economic taproot of imperialism,” transnationalization theorist William I. Robinson went in the opposite direction, arguing that capital in the age of globalization has completely swallowed up nation-states and created a new transnational order dominated by free-floating transnational corporations, giving rise to a “transnational capitalist class” and the “transnational state.” Writing in A Theory of Global Capitalism in 2004, Robinson declared that “globalization involves a supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism.”24

In 2018, in “Beyond the Theory of Imperialism” (a chapter in his Into the Tempest), Robinson made a clean break with classical theories of imperialism: “The class relations of global capitalism are now so deeply internalized within every nation-state that the classical image of imperialism as a relation of external domination is outdated” and must be abandoned, together with notions such as center, periphery, and surplus extraction. “The end of the extensive enlargement of capitalism is the end of the imperialist era of world capitalism.… It is not imperialism in the old sense either of rival national capitals” or the domination “by core states of precapitalist regions” that is needed, but “a theory of capitalist expansion” as a specifically transnational and supranational process characterized by shifting “spatial dynamics.”25

Meanwhile, Marxist geographer David Harvey leaped beyond all of these perspectives, claiming in 2017 that the flows of capital have so changed direction that “the historical draining of wealth from East to West for more than two centuries has…been largely reversed over the last thirty years” (emphasis added). He admitted: “I don’t find the category of imperialism that compelling.” Imperialism was a concept not to be found in Marx, but mainly attributable to Lenin. The whole notion of global “peripheries” was said to be unclear as to its boundaries, and Arrighi’s notion of “shifting hegemonies” could be seen as displacing earlier Marxian theories of imperialism.26

In his 2003 New Imperialism—a work he now says was not meant to promote the concept of imperialism so much as to combat neoconservative attempts to adopt the term as their own—Harvey praised Hardt and Negri’s depiction of “a decentered configuration of empire that had many new, postmodern, qualities.” His book ended by advocating a new “‘New Deal’ Imperialism,” viewed as a more progressive imperialism under a more enlightened Washington Consensus, replacing the current neoliberal/neoconservative global order. For Harvey, the left was to be chastised for its “icy reception” to Warren’s notion of the progressive character of imperialism.27

If Harvey’s position on imperialism over the years has been somewhat incoherent, his current rejection of the notion of an imperialist world system in the name of a supposedly more dynamic view focusing on constantly shifting spatial configurations, which have “reversed” traditional center-periphery relations, could not be clearer in its implications. Referring to contemporary globalization tendencies, he explains that “it didn’t even make sense to try to cram all of this into some universal concept of imperialism.” The entire Marxian analysis of imperialism has become a theoretical “straitjacket.”28 In conformity with Arrighi, he discards the “rigid geography of core and periphery…in favor of a more open and fluid analysis.”29 In the process, however, it becomes necessary to break with the entire historical-materialist critique of imperialism. In his 2014 The Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism, imperialism does not even warrant inclusion amongst his list of capitalism’s double-digit contradictions. His chapter on “Uneven Geographical Developments and the Production of Space” does not once mention imperialism, nor center and periphery. The only direct reference to Lenin’s Imperialism is aimed at downplaying the structural role of monopoly capital, which Lenin had associated with imperialism.30

Late Imperialism

There is no question that world capitalism has changed in the century since the First World War, when Lenin developed his critique of the imperialist stage. Yet, this has to be seen in the context of a historical dialectic that embraces continuity as well as change. Imperialism is a historical as much as a theoretical category. If half a century ago it was still possible to refer, as Magdoff did, to “the age of imperialism,” even to the point of seeing this as imperialism’s “golden age,” today we are clearly in an era of late imperialism associated with: generalized monopoly-finance capital; the globalization of production; new forms of surplus extraction from the periphery to center; and epochal economic, military, and environmental challenges. The crises facing the system and human society as a whole are now so severe that they are creating new fissures in the state in both the advanced capitalist and emerging economies, with a rapid growth of protofascist and neofascist tendencies, on the one hand, and a revival of socialism, on the other.

Recognizing the continuity with earlier phases of imperialism is as crucial to our understanding of the present as our awareness of the distinguishing characteristics of the current phase. Each historical phase of imperialism relies on different means of exploitation and expropriation to feed accumulation on a world scale. Imperialist countries at the core of the system invariably attempt to restructure labor in the capitalist periphery (or in the precapitalist external areas) to reinforce power and accumulation at the center of the system. At the same time, the core imperial nations are often in competition with each other for global spheres of influence. The early colonial era in the mercantilist stage of capitalism during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries centered not on free exchange but on “profit upon expropriation,” along with the “extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population” of the Americas and much of Africa and Asia.31

In the later, mid–nineteenth-century colonial era or stage of free competition under British hegemony, free trade operated in the core of the world economy, but this went hand in hand with colonialism in much of the world, where unequal exchange and outright robbery and plunder predominated. In 1875, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, then secretary of state for British India, declared: “As India must be bled, the bleeding should be done judiciously.”32 Bled it was, but not “judiciously.” As Utsa Patnaik has demonstrated in detail, the present value of the “drain” of surplus from India to Britain from 1765 to 1938 amounts “on a highly underestimated basis” to £9.2 trillion, compared to a £2.1 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) for the United Kingdom in 2018.33

Nineteenth-century colonial capitalism evolved by the end of the century into what Lenin called the imperialist stage, characterized by the rise of monopoly capital in all the great powers, the decline of British hegemony, and rising tension over the division of the entire world among the core capitalist powers. These conditions led to two world wars among the rival claimants to hegemony over economic territory. Following the Second World War, the United States emerged as the world hegemon within the capitalist world, in a context that also included a Cold War with the rival socialist-oriented world. While promoting an ideology of free trade and development, the U.S. hegemon nonetheless put in place a system of neocolonialism enforced by multinational corporations, dollar hegemony, and a globe-spanning string of military bases—from which numerous military interventions and regional wars were to be launched. This was accompanied by the siphoning off of much of the economic surplus of the global South.

With the rise of monopoly-finance capital, the world has entered a new phase of imperialism, late imperialism, rather than a superseding of imperial relations. Late imperialism, as we have seen, represents an epoch in which the global contradictions of the system are revealed in ever starker forms and in which the entire planet as a place of human habitation is now at risk—with the catastrophic effects falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable of the world population. All of this is bound to generate greater geopolitical conflict as capitalism’s failure as a society becomes evident.

None of this was a complete surprise for the more astute analysts of globalization. In 1992, Magdoff wrote that,

contrary to widespread expectations, sources of tension among the leading capitalist powers have increased side by side with their growing interdependence. Nor has the geographic spread of capital reduced the contradictions between the rich and poor nations. Although a handful of third world countries, benefiting from the globalization process, have made noteworthy progress in industrialization and trade, the overall gap between core and periphery nations has kept on widening.… The process of globalization has produced much that is new in the world’s economy and politics, but it has not changed the basic ways capitalism operates. Nor has it aided the cause of either peace or prosperity.34

Indeed, there is something deeply ironic about the growing rejection of the theoretical critique of imperialism in the present global context. As Argentinian Marxist Atilio Borón observed in 2003 in “Empire” and Imperialism, imperialism today reflects those “fundamental features” with respect to the concentration and centralization of capital on a global scale portrayed by the classical Marxist theorists of imperialism, but in more developed forms:

This new stage [of imperialism in Lenin’s sense] is characterized, now even more than in the past, by the concentration of capital, the overwhelming predominance of monopolies, the increasingly important role played by financial capital, the export of capital and the division of the world into “spheres of influence.” The acceleration of globalization that took place in the final quarter of the last century, instead of weakening or dissolving the imperialist structures of the world economy, magnified the structural asymmetries that define the insertion of the different countries in it. While a handful of developed capitalist nations increased their capacity to control, at least partially, the productive processes at a global level, the financialization of the international economy and the growing circulation of goods and services, the great majority of countries witnessed the growth of their external dependency and the widening of the gap that separated them from the centre. Globalization, in short, consolidated the imperialist domination and deepened the submission of peripheral capitalisms, which became more and more incapable of controlling their domestic economic processes even marginally.35

The new phase of imperialism that arose at the very end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century has been described by Amin and various authors associated with Monthly Review as a system of global monopoly-finance capital or a capitalism of “generalized monopolies.”36 In this more integrated imperialist system, five hundred corporations account for nearly 40 percent of world revenue while most other firms in the world economy are entangled in the webs of these giant firms and exist as mere subcontractors.37 Production and circulation are now organized in the form of global commodity chains, serving to highlight the different roles of center and periphery within these commodity chains. This is in line with the global labor arbitrage, which serves to promote the intensified exploitation/expropriation of labor in the global South, leading to the capture of much of this extra value by the North. The heightened imperialist controls of global finance and communications are inherent parts of this process without which the globalization of production would not be possible.38

The late 1970s and ’80s saw the growth of neoliberal globalization, which sought with considerable success to subordinate states, particularly in the global South, to the rules of a world market where, by definition, the financial center rules. Late imperialism can thus also be seen as the period in which economic stagnation, financialization, and the planetary ecological crisis all emerged as widening, irreversible fissures, inseparable from the system of monopoly-capitalist accumulation itself and finding its ideological justification in neoliberalism.

A distinguishing feature of globalized production and finance in the current century is the systematic exploitation of low unit labor costs in the South, a product of the fact that wages are kept at levels far below those of the North due to: (1) the enormous global reserve army located primarily in the South; (2) restrictions on the movement of labor between countries, and particularly from poor to rich countries; and (3) the force of imperialist pressures past and present.39 As economist Tony Norfield, former executive director and global head of foreign exchange strategy in a major European bank, explained in 2015 in “T-Shirt Economics: Labour in the Imperialist World Economy,”

everybody knows that workers in developed capitalist countries are paid more than those in poorer countries. However, the divergence in average wages can nevertheless be surprising: not just 20 percent or 50 percent, but more like a factor of 2, 5, 10 or 20 between the richer countries and the poorer countries. Mainstream economic theory explains this—and justifies it—by arguing that workers in richer countries are more productive than in poorer ones, because the former are more educated and skilled, working with higher levels of technology. Yet this explanation does not sit well with the reality that many manufacturing employees in poor countries are employed, directly or indirectly, by major corporations, and working with technology that is often comparable to that in the richer country.40

Production by (or contracted out by) foreign multinationals in poor countries relies on the same or near to the same technology utilized in the rich economies, leading to comparable levels of productivity. The result, combined with extremely low wages, is that unit labor costs in manufacturing in the so-called emerging economies of China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico in 2014 were only 46, 37, 62, and 43 percent, respectively, of U.S. levels.41 This generates vastly inflated gross profit margins for multinationals located in the North. The total production cost (reflected in the export price) for a T-shirt produced in 2010 through a subcontractor in Bangladesh working for the Swedish firm Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) was 27 percent of the final sales price in Europe, with the workers in Bangladesh receiving a mere pittance for their labor. One worker at the factory received €1.36 for a ten to twelve hour day.42 The price markup (or gross profit margin) on an iPhone assembled in China in 2009 was over 64 percent.43 The widening gross profit margins associated with the global labor arbitrage have led to a rapid globalization of production, with the world share of industrial employment located in developing (including emerging) economies rising from 52 percent in 1980 to 83 percent in 2012.44

Today, a large and rapidly growing portion of production is outsourced to the periphery in the form of arms-length contracting or what is known as the non-equity modes of production (such as leasing, licensing, franchising, and management-service contracts), constituting a kind of middle ground between foreign direct investment by multinationals and actual trade. In 2010, the non-equity modes of production generated over $2 trillion in sales.45

Still, not all value-chain production exploiting low unit labor costs in the global South takes the form of subcontracting or the non-equity modes of production. Much of it occurs in the form of more traditional foreign direct investment by multinationals. In 2013 alone, U.S. receipts from investments abroad in foreign companies, equities, bonds, etc., amounted to $773.4 billion, while U.S. payments on its liabilities from investments that foreigners made in the United States added up to only $564.9 billion, resulting in a net gain of some $209 billion (equal to about 35 percent of total U.S. net private domestic investment for that year). This only accelerated problems of surplus capital absorption.46 As Baran and Sweezy wrote in 1966 in Monopoly Capital, “foreign investment, far from being an outlet for domestically generated surplus, is a most efficient device for transferring surplus generated abroad to the investing country. Under these circumstances it is, of course, obvious that foreign investment aggravates rather than helps to solve the surplus absorption problem.”47

Other factors as well enter into the transfer of value from developing countries, including capital flight from the global South estimated at more than a $1.7 trillion dollars in 2012.48 Indeed, every single form of financial transaction between the global North and South includes an element of what Marx called “profit upon expropriation” or simple robbery, reflecting the uneven power relations.49 As Norfield writes, finance “is a way for rich countries to draw income from the rest of the world economy.”50 A 2015 report by the Centre for Applied Economics of the Norwegian School of Economics and the United States-based Global Financial Integrity estimates that net resource transfers, many of them illicit, from developing countries (independent of the hidden transfers associated with unequal exchange) amounted to $2 trillion in 2012 alone—rising to $3 trillion if estimates of same-invoice faking are included.51

A number of studies have been carried out to estimate the extent of the hidden value transfers due to unequal exchange relations between global South and North, whereby the latter gets “more labour in exchange for less.”52 One approach, pioneered by Canadian economist Gernot Köhler, utilized purchasing power parity (PPP) data to show how labor incorporated into export products from the global South—given the difference between nominal and real exchange rates—failed to reflect what that labor would be worth in terms of local purchasing power in the emerging economy. In the words of Jason Hickel in The Divide:

Köhler’s method is to calculate the difference between nominal exchange rates and real exchange rates (i.e. corrected for purchasing power) for goods traded. For example, imagine a nominal exchange rate between the US dollar and the Indian rupee of 1:50. Now imagine that India sends R1,000 worth of goods to the US, and receives $20 in return. That would be a perfectly equal exchange. Or at least so it would appear. The problem is that the nominal exchange rate isn’t exactly accurate. In India, R50 can buy much more than the equivalent of $1 worth of goods. For instance, perhaps it can buy closer to $2 worth. So the real exchange rate, in terms of purchasing power, is 1:25. This means that when India sent R1,000 worth of goods to the US, it was really the equivalent of sending $40 worth, in terms of the value that R1,000 could buy in India. And yet India received only $20 in return, which in real terms is worth only R500. In other words, because of the distortion between real and nominal exchange rates, India sent $20 (R500) more than it received. One way to think of this is that India’s export goods are worth more than the price they receive on the world market. Another way is that India’s labour is underpaid relative to the value that it produces.53

Köhler’s empirical results, relying on PPP, could thus be seen as a rough measure of the transfer of value generated in the South (non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]) countries, but credited to the North (OECD) countries, via what economists call unequal exchange. In this way, he was able to estimate that such value transfers in 1995 alone amounted to $1.75 trillion, representing losses equivalent to almost a quarter of total non-OECD GDP.54 Although such empirical estimates are open to question in a number of respects, there can be little doubt about the underlying reality or the order of magnitude of the “imperialist rent.”55

As John Smith argues, “the vast S-N flows of value” associated with unequal exchange are “rendered invisible in statistics on GDP, trade, and financial flows” precisely because the value generated in the South is “captured” in the North. All sources of income, whether wages, profits, rent, or interest, arising from the enormous gross profit margins on Southern production are simply booked as value-added in the global North, contributing to Northern GDP.56

The huge profits from outsourcing and other means of global value capture further exacerbate problems of surplus capital absorption. Much of this imperialist rent ends up in tax havens and becomes a means of amassing financial wealth concentrated in a small number of corporations and wealthy individuals, while largely disconnected from the ongoing and increasingly problematic process of production, investment, and growth in the United States and other imperialist nations.57 This then worsens the overall problem of stagnation, characterized by excess capacity, underemployment, slow growth, rising inequality, and periodic financial bubbles and crises.

Amin argued that imperialist rent had two distinct components. The first was the rent derived from the imperialist exploitation of Southern labor. The second was the draining of natural resources from the South and violations of its sovereignty in this respect by multinational corporations and imperialist states. Although the first form of imperialist rent was, at least in principle, measurable in value terms, the second form of rent, since it concerned use values (and capital’s appropriation of free gifts of nature), rather than exchange values, was not.58 Nevertheless, Marx, he insisted, had provided ways of perceiving ecological contradictions and ecological imperialism.

Imperialism engages in an enormous struggle for the control of strategic resources. It has been estimated that the U.S. military spends approximately 16 percent of its base budget on directly safeguarding global oil supplies alone.59 It is difficult to exaggerate, as Magdoff emphasized, the extent to which military and natural resource interests are interrelated. Military hegemony plays a key role in all issues of securing economic territory and strategic resources.

Multinational corporations are inextricably tied to the financial and political-military power of the particular states in which they are based, without which they could not exist for a moment, and on which their ability to engage effectively in international competition depends. In the case of the top hundred nonfinancial corporations in the world, three quarters have their home in just six countries: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland. According to Norfield,

what distinguishes an imperialist company is not its size or competitive success, or even its global importance as a major producer of goods or services, although it will often be a big company given the advantages it enjoys. What distinguishes it is the backing it receives from a powerful nation-state in the world economy, and any advantages it gets because it is located in and identified with that imperialist state. Likewise, what in economic terms distinguishes an imperialist state is its ability to exert power in the world economy on behalf of its “national” capitalist companies.”60

End Times

Imperialism today is more aggressive and boundless in its objectives than ever.61 In the present period of declining U.S. hegemony, as well as economic and ecological decline, the dollar-oil-Pentagon regime, backed by the entire triad of the United States/Canada, Europe, and Japan, is exerting all of its military and financial power to gain geopolitical and geoeconomic advantages.62 The goal is to subordinate still further those countries at the bottom of the world hierarchy, while putting obstacles in the way of emerging economies, and overthrowing all states that violate the rules of the dominant order. Intercore conflicts within the triad continue to exist but are currently suppressed, not only due to the overwhelming force of U.S. power, but also as a result of the perceived need in the core to contain China and Russia, which are seen as constituting grave threats to the prevailing imperial order. In China and in Russia, for different but related historical reasons, global monopoly-finance capital lacks the dominant combination with the national capitalists within their political economies that is present in the other BRICS countries. Meanwhile, the European Union is in disarray, experiencing centrifugal, as opposed to centripetal tendencies, arising out of economic stagnation and the instability generated by imperial blowback emanating from adjacent regions, particularly the Middle East and North Africa.

Under these circumstances, global value/supply chains, along with energy, resources, and finance, are more and more viewed in military-strategic terms. At the center of this interlocked, globalized world order is the unstable hegemony exercised by Fortress America over both Europe and Japan. The United States today is pursuing a strategy of full-spectrum dominance, aimed at not only military, but also technological, financial, and even global “energy dominance”—against a backdrop of impending planetary catastrophe and economic and political disarray.63

In these deteriorating conditions, neofascist tendencies have reemerged once again, constituting monopoly-finance capital’s final class-based recourse—an alliance between big capital and a newly mobilized reactionary lower-middle class.64 More and more, neoliberalism is merging into neofascism, unleashing racism and revanchist nationalism. Anti-imperialist peace movements have waned in most of the capitalist core, even in the context of a revival of the left, raising once again the question of social imperialism.65

There is a sense, of course, in which much of this is familiar. As Magdoff noted,

centrifugal and centripetal forces have always coexisted at the core of the capitalist process, with sometimes one and sometimes the other predominating. As a result, periods of peace and harmony have alternated with periods of discord and violence. Generally the mechanism of this alternation involves both economic and military forms of struggle, with the strongest power emerging victorious and enforcing acquiescence on the losers. But uneven development soon takes over, and a period of renewed struggle for hegemony emerges.66

Late imperialism, however, represents a historical end point for the capitalist world order, presaging either planetary catastrophe or a new revolutionary beginning. Today’s Earth System emergency gives new urgency to the age-old collective struggle for “freedom in general.”67 The wider human struggle must build on the continuing revolutionary resistance of the workers and peoples in the global South, aimed first and foremost at overthrowing imperialism, as the global manifestation of capitalism. Labor in core nations cannot be free until labor in periphery nations is free and imperialism is abolished.68 What Marx called socialism, a society of sustainable human development, can only be constructed on a universal basis. All narrow, invidious, exploitative relations must go, and humanity must at last confront with sober senses its relations with its kind and its unity with the earth.69

Notes

  1. I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International, 1939). When published in 1917, the title of Lenin’s pamphlet was Imperialism: The Latest Stage of Capitalism. See V. I. Lenin, Selected Works in Three Volumes (Moscow: Progress, 1977), 640–41, 801. Emphasizing this fact, Witold Kula, a Polish historian, wrote in 1963: “The methodological differences between these formulations are fundamental. The determination ‘the newest [latest] stage’ refers to the past…whereas the determination ‘the highest stage’ says something more, also about the future; that in the future there will be no ‘higher stage’ than this one.” Kula quoted in John Bellamy Foster and Henryk Szlajfer, introduction to The Faltering Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984), 21. Consistent with this, Lenin generally refers in the actual text of his pamphlet to imperialism as the “latest phase” or “latest stage” of capitalism, in conformity with the subtitle to Rudolf Hilferding’s Finance Capital: The Latest Phase of Capitalism.
  2. Lenin, Imperialism, 78, 81–82, 88, 92. It was in his October 1916 article “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism” that Lenin for the first time placed primary emphasis on the conception of imperialism as the highest stage, as opposed to the newest or latest stage, based on what he viewed as the “moribund” character of capitalism in the early twentieth century. This helps explain the later change in the title of his pamphlet, after its first publication in 1917. V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 23 (Moscow: Progress, 1964), 105–20. In response to Lenin, Samir Amin has written that “imperialism is not a stage, not even the highest stage of capitalism: from the beginning it is inherent in capitalism’s expansion.” Samir Amin, “Imperialism and Globalization,” Monthly Review 53, no. 2 (June 2001): 6. Lenin, however, used the term in a double sense, to refer both to imperialism in general, going back to the beginning of capitalism, and also (in a more focused way) to refer to what was called in his time the “new imperialism” or imperialist (monopoly) stage of capitalism.
  3. Lenin, Imperialism, 13–14, 85, 88, 91. For those who think Lenin’s Imperialism was the work of a moment, it is useful to look at the more than 700 pages of notes, containing extracts from 148 books and 232 articles in English, French, and German, that he took in preparation for writing it. See V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 39 (Moscow: Progress, 1968), 20.
  4. Rudolf Hilferding, Finance Capital (London: Routledge, 1981); Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1951), Nikolai Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1929). Although in many ways complementary to Lenin’s later analysis, Luxemburg’s emphasis on imperialism as primarily destruction and assimilation of precapitalist external areas enormously weakens her theory, Utsa and Prabhat Patnaik note, “as an abiding relationship under capitalism.” Utsa and Prabhat Patnaik, A Theory of Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 87.
  5. Lenin, Imperialism, 89. With respect to the labor aristocracy, Lenin insisted that “a privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist countries lives partly at the expense of hundreds of millions in the [so-called] uncivilized nations” (Collected Works, vol. 23, 107). (Note: While distinguishing between civilized and uncivilized nations, Lenin put scare quotes around the former and treated it, as in the socialist tradition, as a euphemism for capitalism.) For the historical basis of Lenin’s treatment of the labor aristocracy, see Eric Hobsbawm, “Lenin and the ‘Aristocracy of Labor,'” in Lenin Today, ed. Paul M. Sweezy and Harry Magdoff (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), 47–56.
  6. I. Lenin, Selected Works in Three Volumes, vol. 3 (Moscow: Progress, 1975), 246, 372–78. Lenin’s analysis of imperialism has often been converted into a simplistic theory of excess surplus in the advanced capitalist states and capital export, rooted in underconsumption. This excessively crude interpretation of Lenin is exemplified by Bill Warren’s influential Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism (London: Verso, 1980), 50–83. For a strong critique of this simplistic view, see Prabhat Patnaik, Whatever Happened to Imperialism and Other Essays (New Delhi: Tulika, 1995), 80–101.
  7. S. Stavrianos, Global Rift (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1981), 623–24.
  8. Mark Blaug, “The Economics of Imperialism,” in Economic Imperialism, ed. Kenneth E. Boulding and Tapan Mukerjee (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972), 142–55; Benjamin J. Cohen, The Question of Imperialism (New York: Basic, 1973), 99–141; Barrington Moore, Jr., The Causes of Human Misery (Boston: Beacon, 1972), 117–32; Robert W. Tucker, The Radical Left and American Foreign Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971).
  9. Harry Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969); Harry Magdoff, Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978).
  10. For an indication of how much more adept Magdoff was in the use of economic statistics than his critics, see “A Technical Note,” in Imperialism, 11–14.
  11. Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism, 18–19.
  12. Ernest Mandel, introduction to his planned Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1, Karl Marx (London: Penguin, 1976), 27–28; John Bellamy Foster, “The Imperialist World System,” Monthly Review 59, no. 1 (May 2007): 1–16. Samir Amin saw his work as addressing the range of questions that Marx intended for volumes 5 and 6 of Capital, but not as Marx would have approached it in the mid–nineteenth century but rather in relation to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. See Samir Amin, Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018), 131–35.
  13. Magdoff, Imperialism, 239; Bernard Baruch, foreword to The Revolution in World Trade and American Economic Policy, Samuel Lubell (New York: Harper, 1955), xi; Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism, 182.
  14. Magdoff, Imperialism, 260–61.
  15. Magdoff, Imperialism, 110–11; Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism, 67–113; Harry Magdoff, Globalization: To What End? (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1992), 17–25.
  16. Stavrianos, Global Rift. On “ruin or revolution,” see Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Marx and Engels and the Irish Question (Moscow; Progress, 1971), 142.
  17. Prabhat Patnaik, “Whatever Happened to Imperialism?,” Monthly Review 42, no. 6 (November 1990): 1–14.
  18. Andre Gunder Frank, “The Development of Underdevelopment,” Monthly Review 18, no. 4 (September 1966): 17–31; Harry Magdoff, “A Note on the Communist Manifesto,” Monthly Review 50, no. 1 (May 1998): 11–13, reprinted in this issue.
  19. Bill Warren, “Imperialism and Capitalist Industrialization,” New Left Review 181 (1973): 4, 43, 48, 82; Warren, Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism, 48. Warren, unlike many later Marxist theorists, was aware of Lenin’s role in the rise of dependency theory in the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1919. See Warren, Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism, 97–98; Research Unit for Political Economy, “On the History of Imperialism Theory,” Monthly Review 59, no. 7 (December 2007): 42–50. Warren’s claim that Marx saw imperialism as playing a constructive role with respect to industrialization was refuted in Kenzo Mohri, “Marx and ‘Underdevelopment,'”Monthly Review 30, no. 11 (April 1979): 32–42; and Suniti Kumar Ghosh, “Marx on India,” Monthly Review 35, no. 8 (January 1984): 39–53. A more recent refutation, relying on some new materials, is Kevin Anderson, Marx at the Margins (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).
  20. Giovanni Arrighi, The Geometry of Imperialism (London: Verso, 1983), 171–73; Giovanni Arrighi, “Lineages of Empire,” in Debating Empire, ed. Gopal Balakrishnan (London: Verso, 2003), 35. In The Long Twentieth Century, Arrighi dispensed entirely with the analysis of monopoly capital and monopoly power in the evolution of the modern giant corporate enterprise—thereby abandoning the monopoly stage of capitalism that Lenin had identified with imperialism—choosing rather to substitute neoclassical transaction-costs analysis as an adequate explanation for the growth of multinational corporations. Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century (London: Verso, 1994), 218–19, 239–43.
  21. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 178, 234, 332–35; Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2005); Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: The Free Press, 1992).
  22. Ellen Meiksins Wood, “A Manifesto for Global Capitalism?,” in Debating Empire, 61–82; John Bellamy Foster, “Imperialism and ‘Empire,'” Monthly Review 53, no. 7 (December 2001): 1-9.
  23. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism (London: Verso, 2013), 12, 26, 275; Tony Norfield, The City (London: Verso, 2017), 14–17; Peter Gowan, The Global Gamble (London: Verso, 1999), 19–38.
  24. William I. Robinson, A Theory of Global Capital (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 44–49; John A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (London: James Nisbet and Company, 1902).
  25. William I. Robinson, Into the Tempest (Chicago: Haymarket, 2018), 99–121. On the empirical weaknesses of the transnational capital thesis, see “Transnational Capitalism or Collective Imperialism,” Pambazuka News, March 23, 2011; Ha-Joon Chang, Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), 74–87; Ernesto Screpanti,Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2014), 57–58.
  26. David Harvey, “A Commentary on A Theory of Imperialism,” in A Theory of Imperialism, Patnaik and Patnaik, 169, 171; David Harvey, “Realities on the Ground: David Harvey Replies to John Smith,” Review of African Political Economy blog, February 5, 2018; David Harvey, “Imperialism: Is It Still a Relevant Concept?,” (contribution to discussion on this topic presented at Center for Public Scholarship, New School for Social Research, New York, May 1, 2017), available on YouTube. In his earlier works, Harvey was quite sympathetic to the notion of imperialism, as in his 1975 article on “The Geography of Capital Accumulation,” reprinted in David Harvey, Spaces of Capital (New York: Routledge, 2001), 260–61. See also David Harvey, The Limits to Capital (1982; repr., London: Verso, 2006), 439–42.
  27. David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 7, 27, 163, 209–11; Harvey, “Imperialism: Is It Still a Relevant Concept?”
  28. Harvey, “Imperialism: Is It Still a Relevant Concept?”; Harvey, “A Commentary on A Theory of Imperialism,” 169.
  29. Harvey, “Realities on the Ground.”
  30. David Harvey, Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 135. Harvey says that “rent seeking,” as used by Joseph Stiglitz to refer to the taking of wealth rather than its creation, “is nothing more than a polite and rather neutral-sounding way of referring to what I call ‘accumulation by dispossession'” (Harvey, Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism, 133). One might say, in turn, that “accumulation by dispossession” is merely a polite and rather neutral-sounding way of referring to what Marx called expropriation (or profit upon expropriation).
  31. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), 915. On Marx’s concept of “profit upon expropriation” (or profit upon alienation), see John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, “The Expropriation of Nature,” Monthly Review 69, no. 10 (March 2018): 1–27.
  32. Marquess of Salisbury quoted in Paul A. Baran, The PoliticalEconomy of Growth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1957), 145.
  33. Utsa Patnaik, “Revisiting the ‘Drain,’ or Transfers from India to Britain in the Context of Global Diffusion of Capitalism,” in Agrarian and Other Histories, ed. Shubhra Chakrabarti and Utsa Patnaik (New Delhi: Tulika, 2017), 311.
  34. Magdoff, Globalization, 4, 41.
  35. Atilio Borón, “Empire” and Imperialism (London: Zed, 2005), 3.
  36. Amin, Modern Imperialism, 162, 193–95.
  37. John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, The Endless Crisis (New York: Monthly Review, 2012), 76–77.
  38. Intan Suwandi, R. Jamil Jonna, and John Bellamy Foster, “Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism,” Monthly Review 70, no. 10 (March 2019): 1–24.
  39. On the global reserve army, see Foster and McChesney, The Endless Crisis, 125-54.
  40. Tony Norfield, “T-Shirt Economics: Labour in the Imperialist World Economy,” in Struggle in a Time of Crisis, ed. Nicolas Pons-Vignon and Mbuso Nkosi (London: Pluto, 2015), 23–28; John Smith, Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016), 13–16.
  41. Suwandi, Jonna, and Foster, “Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism,” 14–15.
  42. Norfield, “T-Shirt Economics,” 25–26.
  43. Foster and McChesney, The Endless Crisis, 140–41.
  44. International Labour Organization, Table 4a. Employment by Aggregate Sector (by Sex), in Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM), 8th ed. (Geneva: International Labour Office, 2014); “Economic Groups and Composition,” United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, http://unctadstat.unctad.org.
  45. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, “Non-Equity Modes of International Production and Development,” in World Investment Report, 2011 (Geneva: United Nations, 2011), 123, 132.
  46. Norfield, The City, 9, 169; Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Economic Research, FRED,Net Domestic Investment: Private: Domestic Business, accessed May 18, 2019; Stephanie E. Curcuru and Charles P. Thomas, “The Return on U.S. Direct Investment at Home and Abroad,” International Finance Discussion Papers, no. 1057, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, October 2012.
  47. Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966), 107–08.
  48. Dev Kar and Guttorm Schjelderup, Financial Flows and Tax Havens (London: Global Financial Integrity, Norwegian School of Economics, 2015), 19; Jason Hickel, The Divide (New York: W. W. Norton, 2017), 27.
  49. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 30 (New York: International, 1975), 59.
  50. Norfield, The City, 76.
  51. Kar and Schjelderup, Financial Flows and Tax Havens, 15–17.
  52. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 3 (London: Penguin, 1981), 345.
  53. Hickel, The Divide, 290–91.
  54. Gernot Köhler, “The Structure of Global Money and World Tables of Unequal Exchange,” Journal of World-System Research 4 (1998): 145–68; Gernot Köhler, Global Keynesianism: Unequal Exchange and Global Exploitation (New York: Nova Science, 2002), 43–100; Gernot Köhler, “Unequal Exchange 1965–1995,” November 1988; Hickel, The Divide, 290–91. Zak Cope, relying on a number of different ways of calculating the transfer of value via unequal exchange, came up with figures for 2009 of $2.6–4.9 trillion depending on the method used. Zak Cope, Divided World Divided Class (Montreal: Kersplebedeb, 2012), 262.
  55. Amin, Modern Imperialism, 223–25.
  56. John Smith, “Marx’s Capital and the Global Crisis,” in The Changing Face of Imperialism, ed. Sunanda Sen and Maria Cristina Marcuzzo (London: Routledge, 2018), 43-45; Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century, 252; Tony Norfield, “Imperialism, a Marxist Understanding,” Socialist Economist, March 22, 2019. On the wider issues of value capture, see Mariana Mazzucato, The Value of Everything (New York: PublicAffairs, 2018).
  57. The role of “treasure islands,” primarily in the Caribbean, highlights the enormous offshore capital in tax havens. See Nicholas Shaxson, Treasure Islands (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011). Thomas Piketty has also highlighted the growing gap between investment/growth (the traditional role of capital) and the amassing of wealth. Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).
  58. Amin, Modern Imperialism, 110–11.
  59. “The Military Cost of Defending the Global Oil Supply,” Securing America’s Future Energy, September 21, 2018.
  60. Norfield, The City, 123, 126.
  61. On the shift toward a more aggressive imperialism following the demise of the Soviet Union, see John Bellamy Foster, Naked Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2006).
  62. Geoeconomics stands for the revival of economic warfare. For the grand strategy in this respect emanating from the Council on Foreign Relations, see Robert D. Blackwill and Jennifer M. Harris, War by Other Means (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).
  63. Donald Trump, “President Trump Vows to Usher in Golden Era of American Energy Dominance,” June 30, 2017, http://whitehouse.gov.
  64. See John Bellamy Foster, Trump in the White House (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2017).
  65. On the history of social imperialism, see Bernard Semmel, Imperialism and Social Reform (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1960).
  66. Magdoff, Globalization, 4–5.
  67. Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. 1, 180.
  68. “A radical labor movement [in the North] cannot become a reality unless it is adamantly opposed to imperial wars, arms production and sales, the infiltration of the military into local economies and daily life, the patriotism of flags and national anthems, the mantra that we must all support the troops. In the Global North nationalism is a disease that impedes the global working-class solidarity essential for human liberation.” Michael D. Yates, Can the Working Class Change the World? (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018), 160.
  69. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1964), 7.
2019, Volume 71, Issue 3 (July-August 2019)
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