Magazine article Monthly Review

The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital: An Introduction

Magazine article Monthly Review

The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital: An Introduction

Article excerpt

It is now a universal belief on the left that the world has entered a new imperialist phase.1 That imperialism should evolve and take on novel forms is of course not surprising from a historical materialist perspective. Imperialism, like capitalism itself, is characterized by a constant process of change, passing through more or less concretely defined epochs. Already in the 1890s, when an intense debate over imperialism was taking place in England, the contemporary historical reality was commonly referred to as "the new imperialism," to distinguish it from the earlier colonialist phase of the British Empire.2 It was the attempt to account for this new imperialism of 1875-1914 that inspired the early Marxian contributions to imperialism theory in the work of V.I. Lenin, Nikolai Bukharin, and Rosa Luxemburg (and, less successfully, Rudolf Hilferding and Karl Kautsky), introducing a set of propositions that were later modified by the dependency tradition.

In the current phase of capitalism-imperialism, it is clear that these classical theories are no longer directly applicable. Nevertheless, it is the morphology of imperialism as depicted in these early pioneering accounts that provides the indispensable key to present-day evolutionary forms. As Atilio Boron put it in 2005 in Empire and Imperialism, "the fundamental parameters of imperialism" delineated in the classical works remain central, even though the "phenomenology" of imperialism has changed.3

The challenge for Marxian theories of the imperialist world system in our times is to capture the full depth and breadth of the classical accounts, while also addressing the historical specificity of the current global economy. It will be argued in this introduction (in line with the present issue as a whole) that what is widely referred to as neoliberal globalization in the twenty-first century is in fact a historical product of the shift to global monopoly-finance capital or what Samir Amin calls the imperialism of "generalized-monopoly capitalism."4 In the twenty-first century imperialism is thus taking on a new, more developed phase related to the globalization of production and finance. All of this, moreover, is occurring in the context of what top U.S. foreign policy strategists are calling a "New Thirty Years' War" unleashed by Washington for strategic control of the Middle East and the surrounding regions: a new naked imperialism.5

The Classical Marxian Analyses of Imperialism and Dependency

Raising the question of today's imperialist world system requires that we briefly examine the legacy in this area of such Marxian theorists as Lenin, Bukharin, and Luxemburg-along with the later dependency/world-system tradition.6 The classical analyses of the "new imperialism" of 1875-1914 were all deeply historical in character, concerned with what they saw as the distinguishing features of capitalism in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth century. A sense of the dialectical complexity of the interpretations of imperialism advanced by Lenin, Bukharin, and Luxemburg can be seen by looking at the constellation of categories they employed (allowing for considerable variation among these thinkers), including: (1) monopoly capital/flnance capital; (2) surplus monopoly profits; (3) the international division of labor and internationalization of capital; (4) the division of the world among the great powers; (5) nation-states as promoters of the global interests of their monopolistic firms; (6) inter-capitalist competition; (7) currency and trade wars; (8) colonies, neo-colonies, and dependencies; (9) economic crisis and imperialist expansion; (10) export of capital; (11) the search for new markets; (12) the struggle to control key raw materials; (13) integration of non-capitalist areas; (14) international wage inequality; (15) labor aristocracy in the imperialist core; (16) militarism and war; and (17) international hegemony. …

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