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Imperialism and Global Political Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4046-4
288 pages
July 2009, Polity
Imperialism and Global Political Economy (074564046X) cover image
In Imperialism and Global Political Economy Alex Callinicos intervenes in one of the main political and intellectual debates of the day. The global policies of the United States in the past decade have encouraged the widespread belief that we live in a new era of imperialism. But is this belief true, and what does ‘imperialism’ mean?

Callinicos explores these questions in this wide-ranging book. In the first part, he critically assesses the classical theories of imperialism developed in the era of the First World War by Marxists such as Lenin, Luxemburg, and Bukharin and by the Liberal economist J.A. Hobson. He then outlines a theory of the relationship between capitalism as an economic system and the international state system, carving out a distinctive position compared to other contemporary theorists of empire and imperialism such as Antonio Negri, David Harvey, Giovanni Arrighi, and Ellen Wood.

In the second half of Imperialism and Global Political Economy Callinicos traces the history of capitalist imperialism from the Dutch East India Company to the specific patterns of economic and geopolitical competition in the contemporary era of American decline and Chinese expansion. Imperialism, he concludes, is far from dead.

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List of Tables vii

Preface and Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: Empire of Theory, Theories of Empire 1

0.1 Marxism and imperialism 3

0.2 The need for theory 6

0.3 Imperialism and global political economy today 14

Part I: Theory 23

1 The Classical Legacy 25

1.1 Continuing Marx’s Capital 25

1.2 Luxemburg’s fertile diversion 36

1.3 The Lenin-Bukharin synthesis 41

1.4 Organized capitalism and economic crises 53

1.5 Spectres of ultra-imperialism 62

2 Capitalism and the State System 67

2.1 Rethinking the theory of imperialism 67

2.2 Conceptualizing the state system 73

2.3 Interests and ideologies 93

Part II: History 101

3 Capitalism and La Longue Durée 103

3.1 What is capitalism? 103

3.2 Markets and empires 115

3.3 The sinews of capitalist power 123

4 Ages of Imperialism 137

4.1 Periodizing imperialism 137

4.2 Classical imperialism (1870–1945) 144

4.3 Superpower imperialism (1945–1991) 165

5 Imperialism and Global Political Economy Today 188

5.1 The specificity of American imperialism 188

5.2 Global capitalism at the Pillars of Hercules? 197

Notes and References 228

Index 281

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Alex Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at King's College, London.
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  • This is a wide-ranging study of the classical theories of imperialism and its meaning in the contemporary world
  • The author is one of the leading radical thinkers in the world today and has a large following
  • Callinicos outlines a distinctive theory of the relationship between capitalism as an economic system and the international state system, in contrast to existing thought on the subject
  • This fascinating new title will appeal those studying politics, political theory and the history of politics and philosophy
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"Highly recommended - should be read by anyone looking for a sophisticated Marxist analysis of imperialism."
International Affairs

"One of the most outstanding works in Alex Callinicos's impressive list of publications ... packed with food for thought."
International Socialism

"These is a considerable disagreement as to what empire really means. Alex Callinicos' new book, is a crucial intervention into these arguments ... Imperialism and Global Political Economy is an invaluable guide as well as a unique and persuasive argument by itself."
Socialist Worker

"As Alex Calinicos argues in this important and impressive study, it is not enough to have a generalised understanding of "empire" and "imperialism". Its strengths are, firstly, that it is historically open, in allowing for the exploration of different types of imperialism. Secondly, it is non-reductionist, since it involves a concrete analysis of the relative influence of each of these dimensions in each specific situation. Thirdly, and very importantly, it places competition at the heart of our understanding of imperialism. This book is both a valuable contribution to our understanding of modern imperialism and a powerful weapon in the struggle to end it."
Socialist Review

"While Donald Rumsfeld famously declared that the US does not do empire, Callinicos does it very well. He draws on his immense breadth of theoretical and historical knowledge to put 'empire' and 'imperialism' in their place in the development of liberal, mainstream, radical, and Marxist thought and to situate the practices of empire and imperialism in the long durée of historical struggles and conflicts around capital accumulation on a world scale. This accessible book provides an important introduction to a complex field and explores the significance of contemporary as well as classical forms of imperialism. It is an important addition to the revival of interest in the critique of empire."
Bob Jessop, Lancaster University

"This is a welcome intervention in the contemporary debates on imperialism. No one is better qualified for this task than Alex Callinicos. His compelling historical narrative, clear theoretical exposition and politically engaged adjudication make this essential reading not only for students of Marxism or International Relations, but also for anyone who wonders why, at the start of the twenty-first century, the Lenin-Bukharin thesis has not, will not, and should not go away."
Justin Rosenberg, University of Sussex

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