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Imperialism

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism

Winner of the 2018 Paul M. Sweezy – Paul A. Baran Memorial Award for original work regarding the political economy of imperialism, Intan Suwandi’s Value Chains examines the exploitation of labor in the Global South. Focusing on the issue of labor within global value chains—vast networks of people, tools, and activities needed to deliver goods and services to the market and controlled by multinationals—Suwandi offers a deft empirical analysis of unit labor costs that is closely related to Marx’s own theory of exploitation. | more…

The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation by Seth Donnelly

The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation

“We’re making headway on global poverty,” trills billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. “Decline of Global Extreme Poverty Continues,” reports the World Bank. And “How did the global poverty rate halve in 20 years?” inquires The Economist magazine. Seth Donnelly answers: “It didn’t!” In fact, according to Donnelly’s The Lie of Global Prosperity, virtually nothing about these glad tidings proclaiming plummeting global poverty rates is true. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 71, Number 3 (July-August 2019)

July-August 2019 (Volume 71, Number 3)

This special issue of Monthly Review is meant both to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Harry Magdoff’s The Age of Imperialism: The Economics of U.S. Foreign Policy, which was devoted to the analysis of imperialism at the height of U.S. hegemony, and to carry this analysis forward to address the present era of late imperialism in the twenty-first century. In bringing together work on the political economy of imperialism in the current era of globalized production, we seek to transcend the now fashionable view within the Western academic left that the concept of imperialism is obsolete. The imperialist world system stands not only for capitalism at its most concrete historical level, but also for the entire dynamic structure of power constituting accumulation on a world scale, which can only be understood in terms of a developing global rift between center and periphery, global North and global South. Failure to attend to this fissure would be fatal for humanity. | more…

Anti-imperialism mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Late Imperialism

Fifty Years After Harry Magdoff's The Age of Imperialism

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, ushering 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.” | more…

The Logic of Neoliberalism

Neoliberal Capitalism at a Dead End

Today, we not only have decades of neoliberalism behind us, but the neoliberal regime itself has reached a dead end. Contemporary imperialism has to be discussed within this setting. There are two main reasons why the regime of neoliberal globalization has run into a dead end. The first is an ex ante tendency toward global overproduction; the second is that the only possible counter to this tendency within the regime is the formation of asset-price bubbles, which cannot be conjured up at will and whose collapse, if they do appear, plunges the economy back into a crisis. In short, there are no “markets on tap,” to use the words of British economic historian Samuel Berrick Saul, for contemporary metropolitan capitalism, such as had been provided by colonialism prior to the First World War and by state expenditure in the post-Second World War period of dirigisme. | more…

The Owner Finally Agreed to the Workers’ Demands by Stephanie McMillan

The New Imperialist Structure

We have reached a level of centralization in capital’s power of domination, such that the bourgeoisie’s forms of existence and organization as known up to now have been completely transformed. Contemporary capitalism has become a capitalism of generalized monopolies. Monopolies no longer form islands in an ocean of corporations that are not monopolies—and consequently are relatively autonomous—but an integrated system, and consequently now tightly control all productive systems. Small and medium-sized companies, and even large ones that are not themselves formally owned by the oligopolies, are enclosed in networks of control established by the monopolies upstream and downstream. Consequently, their margin of autonomy has shrunk considerably. These production units have become subcontractors for the monopolies. This system of generalized monopolies is the result of a new stage in the centralization of capital in the countries of the triad that developed in the 1980s and ’90s. | more…

Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi

Labor-Value Commodity Chains

The Hidden Abode of Global Production

The analysis of global commodity chains creates some crucial questions in relation to the nature of imperialism in the twenty-first century: (1) whether decentralized global commodity chains can be seen as constituting a decentralization of power among the major actors within these chains, and (2) whether the complexities of these chains suggest that the hierarchical, imperialist characteristics of the world economy have been superseded. I argue that the answer to both of these questions is no. Despite the seemingly decentralized networks, and notwithstanding the existing complexities that characterize global commodity chains, the capital-labor relations inherent in these chains are still imperialistic in their configurations. | more…

Planet on Fire

Imperialism in the Anthropocene

Today there can be no doubt about the main force behind our ongoing planetary emergency: the exponential growth of the capitalist world economy, particularly in the decades since the mid–twentieth century. The mere critique of capitalism as an abstract economic system, however, is insufficient in addressing today’s environmental problems. Rather, it is necessary also to examine the structure of accumulation on a world scale, coupled with the division of the world into competing nation-states. Our planetary problems cannot realistically be addressed without tackling the imperialist world system, or globalized capitalism, organized on the basis of classes and nation-states, and divided into center and periphery. Today, this necessarily raises the question of imperialism in the Anthropocene. | more…

A swastika painted on a wall in Sao Paulo, Brazil

The Preemptive Counterrevolution and the Rise of the Far Right in Brazil

During the 2018 Brazilian presidential elections, almost thirty years after the first democratic elections since the military dictatorship, Jair Bolsonaro took on the role of supposed underdog and, in the face of the collapse of the other center and right-wing bourgeois candidates, became the only one capable of countering the risk of the victory of the Workers’ Party. Bolsonaro, or the captain, as he is frequently called by his acolytes, is a sort of Donald Trump of the periphery—a second-rate Trump. Though he appears to be the most radical critic of the system, he is, in fact, the very image of the status quo, in all its brutality and rawness. | more…

Protest against Michel Temer, São Paulo, Brazil (August 2016)

Contemporary Challenges for the Working Class and Peasantry in Brazil

In Brazil, there have been two recent parliamentary coups against the Workers’ Party and in favor of banks and corporations. Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016 and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was prevented from running for president, sequestered, and imprisoned. The electoral coups have resulted in a government without a social base in most of Brazilian society. It does not have a project for the majority or for the nation. It is just a project for international capital, dominated by banks and global corporations. This has led to a government made up of many nuclei of power that, despite internal contradictions, remain in agreement as a unit with regard to the project of capital. | more…

The Communist Manifesto: 150th Anniversary Edition

A Note on the Communist Manifesto

This reprise of Harry Magdoff’s 1969 “A Note on the Communist Manifesto” remains as relevant as ever—perhaps even more so. While capitalism by its very nature lives by accumulation and geographic expansion, it does so in a most unequal fashion. Even though nothing in economics follows strict mathematical rules, there are notable tendencies produced by the inner springs of capitalism. An outstanding example of such a tendency is found in the distinct and marked widening of the gap between a handful of rich nations and the rest of the world. The accelerating globalization of our times demonstrates this polarization in no uncertain terms. | more…

Break the Chains by Stephanie McMillan

Toward the Formation of a Transnational Alliance of Working and Oppressed Peoples

For the last thirty years, the world system has undergone an extreme centralization of power in all its dimensions—local and international, economic and military, social and cultural. Creating a new transnational alliance of workers and oppressed peoples must be the main objective for the genuine militants who are convinced of the odious nature of the world imperialist capitalist system that we have at present. It is a heavy responsibility and the task requires several years before reaping any tangible results. | more…