Empire and imperialism
Lucia Pradella: Empire, State and Accumulation on a World Scale in Marx's ''Capital'' / John Rees: Patterns of Imperial Economy / Radikha Desai: The Short ‘American Century’
Empire, State and Accumulation on a World Scale in Marx's ''Capital''by Lucia Pradella
The intention of the paper is to explore Marx’s analysis of the Empire and the State in his early political writings, in his notebooks on German, French and English political economy and in his last notebooks on pre-capitalistic societies (the so-called ‘ethnological notebooks’). An investigation of these manifold sources of Marx’s analysis is fundamental to comprehend the content of the passages on the State’s intervention in ''Capital'' volume 1, in particular in the chapter on the so-called ‘primitive accumulation’, which does not describe only ‘incidental’ processes, but the fundamental role played by the State in generating and reproducing capitalist relation both nationally and internationally. The paper aims to identify and deepen Marx’s analysis of the State as integral factor of capital accumulation on a world scale. This kind of investigation permits, moreover, to understand if and how different sources and institutional contests (the German and the Russian ones, in particular) have influenced the later interpretations of his work on this subject by the Marxist tradition.
Patterns of Imperial Economyby John Rees
This paper will discuss the theoretical issues involved in the debate between Luxemburg and Bukharin about the drives and limits of imperialism at an economic level. In a critical debate during the First World War and its aftermath Marxists discussed the nature of modern imperialism. The discussion between Rosa Luxemburg and Nikolai Bukharin is of especial interest because it raises the issue of whether capitalism always needs to expand beyond itself into ‘third markets’.
Some modern writers, like Ankie Hoogvelt, see an opposite tendency in the system today an ‘implosion of capitalism’ into its core centres leaving many parts of the world outside its effective operations. This issue is of contemporary interest in the light of the collapse of the command economies of Eastern Europe and the opening-up of China to the world market.
A critical theoretical issue will be to examine the contention that capitalism doesn’t only meet its expansive drive by colonising areas that have historically been outside the system~ that is by incorporating pre-capitalist or underdeveloped areas of the globe.
It also ‘re-conquers’ sites of capital accumulation that have, at previous moments of crisis, been taken out of the direct path of private capital accumulation or failed to keep pace with the modes of capital accumulation developing in the most advanced centres: the nationalised industries and state dominated economies of the post-war period, the inclusion, partial expulsion and re-inclusion of women’s labour in the system between 1940 and the present.
This introduces an element of non-linearity into our analysis and allows us to take fully into account the contestation of the capital accumulation logic by forces hostile to its priorities.
The Short ‘American Century’by Radikha Desai
The current crisis has engendered considerable debate about whether US hegemony is unravelling. This paper argues that US hegemony was far more problematic than most theories of hegemony, critical and mainstream, allowed. The US was national entity and the world in the latter 20th century, inter-national. Neither was imperial. Theories of hegemony extended imperial assumptions farther into the future than the end of formal imperialism would permit and extended ideas about hegemony farther back into a past which never thought in such terms. This conjoint effort ignored the emergence of nation-states as critical anchors of the uneven and combined development of capitalism. Ideas about US hegemony were only plausible because the sheer magnitude of the effort of defeating imperialism and fascism so greatly boosted the US economy and so devastated its capitalist rivals. The current conjuncture marks not the fading of a once-strong hegemony but, more likely, the final abandonment of any attempt to realise it in a world which is now undeniably international.