Author suggests imperialism in new phase

September 6, 2014

Global Imperialism & the Great Crisis: the Uncertain Future of Capitalism
Ernesto Screpanti
Monthly Review Press, 2014
New York, 256 pages

The goal of Ernesto Screpanti’s new book is to theoretically elaborate a model of a new phase of imperialism.

Screpanti’s argument is that the kind of imperialism written about by the likes of Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin belongs more and more to the past. Although the work of people like Lenin retain relevance, Screpanti argues a new kind of imperialism has been taking shape over the past two decades.

This imperialism, which Screpanti calls “global imperialism”, is not headed up by the United States alone. Rather it has multiple heads, including the US but also major international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund. This imperialism, though, is not of US capital but of multinational capital.

Screpanti argues that huge multinational corporations that have the dimensions of states are really the core of this new kind of imperialism and globalisation has been a project of multinational capital to establish its rule throughout the world.

Screpanti provides a compelling argument for his case and links many of the major events of the past two decades to the emergence of global imperialism.

The current economic crisis, the invasion of Iraq, the dominance of neoliberalism and the decline of US hegemonic power and much more is discussed. The most discussed event, however, is the economic crisis.

Screpanti argues that this crisis is a “crisis of transition”, that is, that it is a symptom of the decline of the kind of imperialism we’re much more familiar with and the rise of global imperialism.

He argues that the Great Depression was the same kind of thing, a symptom of the decline of one imperial system and the rise of another.

Screpanti argues that global imperialism, as he outlines in this book, is not yet fully developed but is emerging. So this book is more of an outline of processes that are going to shape the world more fully in the future. Provided capitalism is allowed to continue to exist that long, that is. The implications global imperialism has for class struggle are particularly interesting.

It exacerbates contradictions and problems in the developing countries such as China and India. It intensifies class struggle while also worsening the conditions of workers in developed countries such as the US and so there is a greater union of fundamental interests of workers around the world.

Screpanti’s book can be a little difficult to read. The structure of the book could have been better and Screpanti uses a lot of economic terminology I had to refresh my memory on. Nonetheless, it is definitely worth the effort.

This book is highly original and contains a great wealth of information. Many of the basic observations and arguments help to explain much of what has been going on in the world in the past two decades or so.

It is a must-read for people interested in imperialism and the possible future course of capitalism.

[A counter view, on the ongoing dominant world role of the United States as the major imperialist power, can be found in a lecture by left-wing author, historian and activist Tariq Ali “The US global empire”.]

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