Imperialism today - Alex de Jong

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Outline Part 1:

Classical theories – determined by historical moment – end 19th/early 20th century competition between advanced capitalist powers – a non-capitalists and non-nation state outside

Hilferding, Finance Capital: centralization of capital, monopoly capital Imperialism is a policy.

Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital: capital needs a 'non-capitalist outside' Iimperialism is a capitalist necessity.

Lenin and Bukharin (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism and Imperialism and World Economy) – analysis of the most advanced capitalist countries. Imperialism is a necessity of these powers and characterizes a new phase.

Definition of Lenin: (1) concentration of production and capital (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital (3) the export of capital (4) international monopolist capitalist associations (5) territorial division of the whole world

“Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”

Competition and uneveness between capitalist powers – inevitability of war vs. Kautsky's theory of ultra-imperialism

Problems with Lenin's theory:

1. relative importance of the export of capital – capital investments in developed countries, not the colonies

2. The theory of the labour aristocracy


1. The tendency towards 'state-capitalism'

2. This process of 'national organization' takes place in the context of the growing internationalization of capitalism.

Capital can only exist as capitals: competition among capitalists. Vertical contradictions: labour – capital, horizontal: capital – capital

capitalist imperialism is constituted by the intersection of two forms of competition: economic and geopolitical. Territorial logic of states and molecular process of capital.

capitalist imperialism takes form when geopolitical competition becomes integrated into the process of capital accumulation. This a non-reductionist approach to the question.

Degree of indeterminacy: capitalist class not unified and not always sure about its best interests.

Post 1945: 'ostracizing imperialism' – relationship core and periphery – debt as imperialist tool

Part 2: Permanent Revolution vs. Campism

Strategy or Analysis?

Lenin: "uneven development":

1. disparities of levels of economic development in the world of his day (David Harvey, spatial-temporal fix) – entrenched uneveness – benefits of scale

2. competition among powers.

Extension of nation state system

Part 3: US imperialism

classical imperialism: 1884 – 1945

American hegemony in the advanced capitalist world: 1945 – 2000?

US domination or US leadership? US leadership: US a defender interests international capital

Specific characteristics US imperialism.

Stages US imperialism, 1898, Monroe Doctrine, WWI, WWII, implosion Soviet Union 'unipolar moment'

WW I US already a major power.

From debtor to creditor – isolationist interregnum –

WW II decisive turning point,

Gilbert Achcar: 'feudal paradigm', world hegemony (US need to be percieved as in universal interest of capital)

military / political alliances (NATO, US-Japan security treaty)

US dollar global currency

Cold War, Permanent War economy

Imperial overstretch – Vietnamwar – Breakdown Bretton-Woodssystem.

Beginning of decline US empire, military and economical

military Keynseianism - global hegemon – resource wars - Gulf Crisis 1991 – New World Order

Post 9/11 – a new phase of overstretch?

problems US imperialism, pressure on US military, economic crisis

Defeat in Iraq – reorientation under Obama – 'Asian pivot' – dying Empire?

PDF [1]

Reading Materials

Additional reading: