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Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis

Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis: The Uncertain Future of Capitalism

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis
    Book Description:

    In this provocative study, economist Ernesto Screpanti argues that imperialism - far from disappearing or mutating into a benign globalization - has in fact entered a new phase, which he terms global imperialism. This is a phase defined by multinational firms cut loose from the nation-state framework and free to chase profits over the entire surface of the globe. No longer dependent on nation-states for building a political consensus that accommodates capital accumulation, these firms seek to bend governments to their will and destroy barriers to the free movement of capital. And while military force continues to play an important role in imperial strategy, it is the discipline of the global market that keeps workers in check by pitting them against each other no matter what their national origin. This is a world in which the so-called labor aristocracies of the rich nations are demolished, the power of states to enforce checks on capital is sapped, and global firms are free to pursue their monomaniacal quest for profits unfettered by national allegiance. Screpanti delves into the inner workings of global imperialism, explaining how it is different from past forms of imperialism, how the global distribution of wages is changing, and why multinational firms have strained to break free of national markets. He sees global imperialism as a developing process, one with no certain outcome. But one thing is clear: when economic crises become opportunities to discipline workers, and when economic policies are imposed through increasingly authoritarian measures, the vision of a democratic and humane world is what is ultimately at stake.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-460-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 9-14)

    The main thesis of this book is that contemporary globalization is bringing about a type of imperialism that differs fundamentally from those of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    The most significant difference is that the great capitalist firms, by becoming multinationals, have broken out of the confines within which they operated and that they exploited in the era of colonial empires. Nowadays capital accumulates in a global market. One of its dominant interests is therefore to dismantle all the barriers, obstacles, and political pressures that states can place in its way. Whereas in the past every nation’s monopoly capital took...

  4. 1. Mythologies in the New Millennium
    (pp. 15-38)

    The ideology of globalization is based on a series of clichés responsible for many grand narratives of contemporary capitalism. At the most abstract core of this ideology is a pure theory of international trade that seeks to demonstrate the positive effects of free trade on global welfare. In the present chapter, I criticize this doctrine¹ using a deconstructive method that has proven particularly effective in the field of pure economic theory. I will show that according to neoclassical economics, upon whose methodology the theory of comparative advantages is founded, the most conventional propositions on the beneficial effects of free trade...

  5. 2. A New Form of Imperialism
    (pp. 39-68)

    If the neoliberal ideology of globalization is unable to account for the transformation of present-day capitalism, we must look elsewhere. The theories of imperialism, with their critical incisiveness, would seem to be the best analytical alternative, except for the fact that the core of these theories was developed in the early twentieth century and reflects a reality that has, in many ways, been superseded by contemporary globalization. Current imperialism theorists are forced to perform speculative contortions in their attempts to explain today’s capitalism while remaining faithful to conventional doctrine. This frequently leads to misrepresentations that hamper rather than improve understanding...

  6. 3. Governing the Global Empire
    (pp. 69-96)

    In this chapter I seek to substantiate the idea that the global empire governs the world without the need for a sovereign political authority. Accumulation entails the capitalist mode of production penetrating all geographic areas. It also triggers certain disciplinary mechanisms, which result in the Peripheral countries and the world’s proletariat being subjugated to and exploited by multinational capital. I will describe four of these mechanisms and discuss commercial, financial, terroristic, and ideological discipline. The key idea is that these mechanisms are organic. They seem to be governed by a “blind law of nature.”

    Marx grasped capital’s drive to globalize...

  7. 4. Multinational Corporations and Nation-States
    (pp. 97-124)

    Together, the multinational firms represent the Hydra of the global empire. Like the mythical creature’s multiple heads, their numbers grow at an exponential rate. In 1976, there were 11,000 of them, with 82,600 foreign affiliates. By 2010, the heads were 103,788 and the foreign affiliates 892,114 (UNCTAD, 2011). Many of them are relatively small organizations, “pocket” multinationals operating in no more than two or three countries. But others have the dimensions of full-blown states.

    When I said that theimperiumis sovereignless, and that it works through the market and autonomous decision-making centers, I did not mean that all the...

  8. 5. The Great Crisis
    (pp. 125-146)

    Several observers have compared the crisis that blew up in 2007 to that of 1929, and pointed out various similarities between them. In reality, if we look back through the history of capitalism, we can see that other great crises have occurred. One, for instance, took place in 1857–61, another in 1836–38.⁶⁹

    Four great crises are sufficient to justify the elaboration of a notion and a theory to explain the phenomenon in its typicality and without resorting to the hypothesis of exceptional shocks. The notion might simply be that of a “great crisis,” an event not attributable to...

  9. 6. The Basic Causes of the Crisis
    (pp. 147-172)

    Opinions that ascribe ultimate responsibility for the crisis to financial market inefficiency and monetary policy errors are hardly convincing.⁹¹ In reality, “an assessment of the fundamental causes of the crisis must go beyond the regulatory problems of the financial system” (Fornasari, 2009, 89). Since the measures responsible for the great crisis adhere to certain specific political schemes, we cannot hope to understand the nature of the crisis unless we grasp the sense of these schemes.

    The form of imperialism emerging from the liberalization of global markets is based on an implicit pact between the big capital of advanced countries and...

  10. 7. A Crisis of Transition
    (pp. 173-202)

    In this chapter I deal with various outdated forms of imperialism produced by the great states, showing the way in which these made resistance to the effects of globalization. The United States tried to perpetuate the post-colonial hegemonic system its leaders built in the second half of the twentieth century. Meanwhile China, Germany, and Japan have resorted to a neo-mercantilist type of imperialism, although the former country seems to be converting to a more advanced form rather similar to the American. The United States, on the other hand, is sliding toward mercantilism. I will interpret the present crisis as a...

  11. Conclusion: Whither Global Imperialism?
    (pp. 203-208)

    The global empire is a system, globalization a process. The theory of imperialism I have developed in this book describes a framework of international relations in which the dominant actors are the big multinational firms, and the laws that regulate the “social balance” are those of the market. State policies are bent to serve the fundamental interests of multinational capital.

    The global empire is still far from being fully realized in the pure form described by the theory. This is due, above all, to the fact that some big advanced countries have sought either to counter certain economic effects of...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-229)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 230-250)
  14. Index
    (pp. 251-256)