It had its beginnings in the Industrial Revolution, and is characterised by seemingly endless over-accumulation, commodity fetishism, expansion and collapse cycles, empire-building and the exploitation of empire, and the destruction of peoples and the natural environment. It is a depressing thought that we in Europe have been responsible for the greatest plundering of mankind and its home that has ever taken place on earth. The good news for Homo Sapiens, however, is that our time is coming to an end. There have always been two forms of economic expansion.
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Three main reasons support this premise. It seems certain that this part will be discussed as an example of a particular theoretical genre not only within the discipline of historical sociology, but also within social science in general. Second, ASB offers new insights into the development of the modern world system, as it revisits the economic and politico-militaristic aspects of world hegemonies with a particular emphasis on the US hegemony.
It develops the historical perspective offered by the previous two volumes of his trilogy. As shown below, by reading the implications of the decline of the US hegemony and the non- hegemonic rise of East Asia together, Arrighi concluded albeit he did not complete his research on the rise and fall of the hegemonies in the more than five hundred years old modern world capitalist system with a declaration of the end of hegemony as we know it.
Almost all reviews of ASB, regardless of whether they give more weight to acclaim or criticism, appreciate the broadness of its historical and geographical scope and depth, and admit the difficulty of dealing with this type of study. This paper consists of five sections. The concluding section summarizes the main arguments of this paper. Arrighi claims that contemporary China is a non-capitalist market economy for two reasons.
In the process, various forms of accumulation by dispossession-including appropriations of public property, embezzlement of state funds, and sales of land-use rights-became the basis of huge fortunes. It nonetheless remains unclear whether this enrichment and empowerment has led to the formation of a capitalist class and, more important, whether such a class, if it has come into existence, has succeeded in seizing control of the commanding heights of Chinese economy and society.
We find both arguments unconvincing. First, the absence of land commodification does not prevent the development of capitalist relations of production. On the contrary, based on their control over land, village administrations transfer large tracts of land to agrarian, industrial and real estate capital relatively easily. Instead of bargaining with each and every rural household holding on to small parcels, companies only deal with village administrations, which are usually able to transfer land in large and consolidated blocks.
Hence, strong government control over land saves the private sector from otherwise significant transaction costs and thereby effectively assists capitalist development in China Trappel, Precisely because peasants have not held a title to their land, but only user rights, it has been easy to dispossess them, asserts David Harvey.
However, Charles Post, a representative of Political Marxism, fundamentally agrees with Amin and Arrighi on this question. Capitalists do not directly dictate their interests to state officials. Politicians and bureaucrats make policies that serve the common interests of the capitalists to the extent possible. However, even the policies with the broadest capitalist support cannot satisfy all fractions of the bourgeoisie.
Moreover, the working class can get sometimes substantial concessions from the state depending on its organizational strength. Hence, a complete capitalist control of the state apparatus is impossible.
Therefore, using such an impossible yardstick to assess the class nature of the Chinese state is problematic. More importantly, and ironically enough, it is easier to draw the connections between the bourgeoisie and state officials in contemporary China. Through the privatization of the substantial portion of the state-owned enterprises in the second half of the s and early s, a wealth of about 5 trillion US dollars was transferred to top Chinese party-state officials.
By , about of people with over 15 million dollars of personal wealth in China were the family members of the top bureaucrats Li, , In , capitalists were allowed to be members of the Chinese Communist Party. In short, Chinese bureaucracy has transformed itself into a bourgeoisie. What he should say, at most, is rather that this race was often an accelerator. Consider the history of nuclear fission Speaking oversimply, the sequence of developments that followed led to the Manhattan Project, from which came the fission bomb, and Hiroshima, and also nuclear power.
Warfare was absent from all but the final phase, where it made a spectacular and horrible entry. What really made dramatically better economic technology possible over the longer run was the rise and intensification of modern science, many of whose results were fed back into improving, or indeed revolutionizing, the production process.
This critique has several problems. McNeill also indicates that armaments production was one of the primary sources of the development of wage labor and market activity among different geographies. In particular, government demand created a precocious iron industry, with a capacity in excess of peacetime needs, as the postwar depression showed. But it also created the condition for future growth by giving British ironmasters extraordinary incentives for finding new uses for the cheaper product their new, large-scale furnaces were able to turn out.
Moreover, as McNeill points out, the connection of military and industrial development intensified especially between and As a result of ongoing vigorous industrial research in relation to arms trade in that period, technical innovations took place in areas such as steel metallurgy, industrial chemistry, electrical machinery, radio communications, turbines, diesels, optics, calculators, and hydraulic machinery.
These innovations changed the course of industrial production and transformed the everyday lives of millions of people all over the world in the 20th century McNeill, Extensive research on military aircraft during the World War I was later put in the service of technological developments witnessed in civil and commercial aircraft Buzan and Sen, Likewise, as notably documented by Flamm , developments in the technology of computers during the World War II, as well as the emergence of a civil computer industry in the United States after the war, were dependent on the research brought about by governmental spending on military defense.
In order to underline this ongoing relationship between military interests and industrial development, Flamm goes as far as suggesting that the existing computer technology would not have developed as fast as it did if military demand for the information-processing technologies had not increased. Civil actors did not possess deployable resources or even interest to initiate this line of research Flamm, Buzan and Sen make a similar point about the initial military research on atomic power that provided the base for a civil industry of nuclear energy, emphasizing that only the reason of war alone could compel the states to invest in such costly research.
Finally, military competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War context indicates the military roots of industrial development. Expenditure on military research triggered by the Cold War paved the way for the emergence of new industries Markusen and Serfati, As indicated by Buzan and Sen , the emergence of space industry, and various scientific and commercial activities associated with it such as surveillance and broadcasting , were dependent on the output of this initially military line of research.
In this sense, the Industrial Revolution in the sectors that really mattered —i. Instead, he merely posits science in its abstract form as a source of all industrial development in Europe.
Almost all changes in industrial technology resulted from the innovations that enabled the efficient and massive use of the existing scientific framework. Referring to the work of historian Joel Mokyr, Kenneth Pomeranz 47 demonstrates that a vast majority of European innovations until did not bring about any radical change in the conditions of production. Moreover, this innovation did not require any scientific background exclusive to Europeans since its underlying principles were also known to the Chinese at the time Pomeranz, Arrighi and McNeill state that innovations in this period, as well as their implementation on a larger scale, were primarily caused by the war-making requirements of the European states at the time.
Even R. The commercial innovations and new capitalist institutions utilized by European states in order to raise revenues, in turn, resulted in the continuation of the mercantilist logic of competition in Europe during the industrialization period Wong, The most likely reason why China at this time did not produce a home-grown modern scientific movement, apart from the multi-generational programme of scholars working on the sideline of historical phonology, is that there was an insufficient density of interest; in other words, too small a number of seriously interested and interacting people to sustain the socio-intellectual networks of cooperation, communication, criticism and transmission that are required.
The influence of the existing scientific community in late-imperial China on the extent of technological development, in addition to the relationship of the latter with the eventual economic results, needs further investigation.
It should also be noted that scientific networks, contrary to what Elvin seems to claim, do not exist in a vacuum. As William H. McNeill and Paul Kennedy 7 underscore, owing to its lead in naval technology and the successful expeditions in the Indian Ocean between and , the Chinese navy was probably the most favorable candidate to start the expeditions to the Americas.
However, the existence of a serious military threat around the Northern borders and the absence of any serious military threat in the seas resulted in the abandonment of overseas expeditions and the efforts to build up a strong navy McNeill, The consequent neglect and underdevelopment of the Chinese navy became one of the main reasons for the Chinese defeat by the British four centuries later.
Thus, with reference to McNeill and Kennedy, Arrighi argues that while the power struggles were extroverted in Europe, they were introverted in China. This is also true for the interstate system where a hegemonic state could establish its hegemony through a combination of military force preferably by the other states or agencies on behalf of the hegemonic state and consent which gives the hegemonic state a capacity to lead the interstate system.
ASB argues that the character of the US power shifted from hegemony to domination without hegemony. Arrighi links the economic crises and the crises of hegemony of subsequent world hegemons through a historical analysis of their signal and terminal crises. In other words, he provides a structural analysis of hegemony and the crisis of hegemony in the world system rather than just making a conjunctural analysis based on the failures and mistakes of the leaders of the powerful states.
My own view is that, unlike most of the other trends discussed in Adam Smith in Beijing, this loss of accepted leadership status was due to stupidity and largely avoidable.
One might argue that this was impossible, given the nature of the beast; but to some extent it was surely a self-inflicted and unnecessary wound. If so, this role might conceivably be won back, with great care and patience, though I would not be overly optimistic. Elvin seems to confuse the two. Other reviewers are similarly confused on the same subject. So falling profits do figure in the model, apparently, and Arrighi says elsewhere…that faced with low profit prospects, corporations will shift their surplus from reinvestment to cash and other financial assets, prompting expansion of the financial sector.
Arrighi repeatedly discusses the connections of the two by underscoring the deadlock in which a crisis of profitability led to a crisis of hegemony, of which the US tried to fix through war-making, whose failures only worsened the crisis of profitability.
Relative autonomy to the end of fostering the global accumulation of capital also operates at the level of the imperial capitalist state. Although there is no reason to deny the importance of the safety of global capital accumulation for the US interests, there is also no reason to dismiss the challenge of Chinese ascent to the US interests. Now that China has shed the trappings of Maoism and embarked on a pragmatic course of economic development and global trade, it appears less threatening but is in fact acquiring the wherewithal to back its global ambitions and interests with real power.
However, this process appears to be unsustainable for both countries for a number of reasons. We should also underscore that the Sino-Soviet animosity after the early s was a major boon for the US in its global competition with the Soviet Union. Second, although China is still the largest holder of US treasury securities, the recent Chinese-led initiatives especially the Belt and Road Initiative and the foundation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank demonstrate that China aims to diversify its investment portfolio so as to undermine the global standing of the US.
The US government openly counters both initiatives and tries to establish a counter-coalition with countries such as Japan and India Chatzky and McBride Finally, the geopolitical tension between the US and China is increasing. Regardless of their disputes, there is a bipartisan consensus among the US political establishment about challenging China by all means possible Hung One of the least understood parts of ASB is its characterization of the Chinese ascent.
There is no such prediction in the book. In fact, one of the central theses of ASB is that the increasing bifurcation of economic and military power as seen in the actual decline of the U. The fact that there are no states larger than the U. Of course a new period of hegemonic rivalry and deglobalization is likely during the decline of U.
But eventual further integrative evolution of global governance will require condominium of existing states, or even a multilateral global state. As Peter Taylor said, the U. First, as some of its critics show, the characterization of contemporary China as a non-capitalist market economy is the most serious shortcoming of the book.
Cape Town: Pambazuka Press. Wong, R.
Adam Smith in Beijing by Giovanni Arrighi
Adam Smith in Beijing is the third instalment in an informal trilogy covering the spread and transformation of Capitalism, particularly focused on the XXth century. Provocative as it may sound, the title actually captures the essence of the book: the author contends throughout the book that China, if it can become the leader and model for the Global South it seems bound to become, will soon replace the U. As Braudel once did, Arrighi, and Smith in his account, in fact defend the markets, as a nationally bound and balanced institution, against the emergence of capitalism proper. This, however, does not make for an easy read: this reader, very much ignorant of economics and largely unschooled in the intricacies of international politics, sometimes found himself convinced he had bit more than he could chew. The economic section of the second part concerned with the downfall of US authority was particularly difficult, and aside from the urgent realisation that I needed to upgrade my understanding of financial and fiscal history, I am not sure I have gotten much out of it. I will have to finish the book, and probably read a little more on the subject before I can decide firmly whether, as Arrighi seems to contend, Smith was indeed defending small ish specialised production units with a high degree of flexibility.
Giovanni Arrighi, David Harvey, and Joel Andreas on Arrighi's Adam Smith in Beijing
Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century