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Beyond the Theory of Imperialism: Global Capitalism and the Transnational State

Beyond the Theory of Imperialism: Global Capitalism and the Transnational State

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Published by Mert Karakuzu

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Published by: Mert Karakuzu on Oct 01, 2011
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Societies Without Borders 2 (2007) 5–26 
Beyond the Theory o Imperialism:Global Capitalism and the Transnational State
 William I. Robinson
Uniersity o Caliornia, Santa Barbara, Caliornia, US
Received 24 May 2006; accepted 17 June 2006
heories o a “new imperialism” assume that world capitalism in the 21st century is still madeup o “domestic capitals” and that distinct national economies and world political dynamicsare driven by US eforts to ofset the decline in hegemony amidst heightened inter-imperialistrivalry. hese theories ignore empirical evidence on the transnationalization o capital and theincreasingly salient role o transnational state apparatuses in imposing capitalist dominationbeyond the logic o the inter-state system. I argue here that US interventionism is
a depar-ture rom capitalist globalization but a
response to its crisis
. he class relations o global capital-ism are now so deeply internalized
every nation-state that the classical image o imperialism as a relation o external domination is outdated. he end o the extensive enlarge-ment o capitalism is the end o the imperialist era o world capitalism. he implacable logico global accumulation is now largely internal to the complex o ractious political institutionsthrough which ruling groups attempt to manage those relations. We need a
theory o capitalist expansion
– o the political processes and the institutions through which such expansion takes place, the class relations and spatial dynamics it involves.
Mas all de la teoría del imperialismo: capitalismo global y estado transnacional
Las teorías del nuevo imperialismo asumen que el capitalismo mundial del siglo 21 se com- pone aún de capitales nacionales” y economías nacionales distintas y que la dinámica políticainternacional están dirigidas por el esuerzo de US para contrarrestar su declive hegemónicocomo consecuencia de la rivalidad internacional. Estas teorías ignoran la evidencia empíricaacerca de la transnacionalización del capital y el papel crecientemente preponderante de losmecanismos del Estado transnacional para imponer una dominación capitalista más allá de lalógica del sistema Interestatal. Aquí argumento que el intervencionismo americano no es unadesviación de la globalización capitalista sino una respuesta a su crisis. Las relaciones de clasedel capitalismo global están hoy tan proundamente internalizadas dentro de cada Estadonación que la imagen clásica del imperialismo como una relación de dominación externa está pasada de moda. El n de la ampliación extensiva del capitalismo es el n de la era imperialista delcapitalismo mundial. La lógica implacable de la acumulación global es ahora principalmente
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/187188607X163176
W. I. Robinson / Societies Without Borders 2 (2007) 5–26 
interna al complejo de instituciones políticas ragmentadas a través de las que los grupos de poder tratan de gestionar esas relaciones. Necesitamos una teoría de la expansión capitalista-de los procesos políticos y las instituciones a cuyo través se produce esa expansión, de las nue- vas relaciones entre clase y dinámicas espaciales.
 A travers la rontière de la théorie de l’impérialisme: le capitalisme global et l’étattransnational
Les théories d’un ‘nouvel impérialisme’ supposent que le capitalisme mondial au 21
siècle secompose toujours des capitaux domestiques et des économies nationaux distinctes. Ils sup- posent aussi que la dynamique politique mondiale est mené par l’efort américain pour recon-stituer sa proper hégémonie dans la rivalité intensiée interimpérialiste. Ces théories ignorentl’évidence empirique sur la mondialisation du capital et le rôle de plus en plus saillant desappareillages transnationaux d’état d’imposer la domination capitaliste au-delà de la logiquedu système transnational. Je constate du ait ici que l’interventionnisme des Etats-Unis n’est pas un départ de la mondialisation capitaliste mais, contrairement, elle est une réponse à sacrise. Les relations de classe du capitalisme mondial sont maintenant si proondément inter-nalisées dans chaque Ètat-nation que l’image classique de l’impérialisme comme relation de ladomination externe est démodée. La n de l’agrandissement étendu du capitalisme est la n del’ère impérialiste du capitalisme du monde. La logique implacable de l’accumulation globaleest maintenant en grande partie interne au complexe des corps politiques grincheux parlesquels les groupes puissants essaient de contrôler ces relations. Nous avons besoin d’unethéorie d’expansion capitaliste – des processus politiques et des institutions par lesquels unetelle expansion a lieu, des relations de classe et de la dynamique spatiale qu’elle implique.
globalization, imperialism, capitalism, transnational state, David Harvey
heories o a “new imperialism” that have prolierated in the years ollowing the events o September 2001 assume that the United States has set about toextend global empire and ofset the decline in its hegemony amidst height-ened inter-imperialist rivalry. Some argue that unilateral US intervention-ism belies earlier claims that we are moving towards a globalized world orderand reute misguided theories o globalization.
hese theories rest on acrustaceous bed o assumptions that need to be peeled back i we are to get atthe root o 21st century global social and political dynamics. Grounded in theclassical statements o Lenin and Hilerding, they are based on the assump-tion o a world o rival national capitals and economies, conict among core
See, e.g., Pozo 2006; Henwood 2003.
W. I. Robinson / Societies Without Borders 2 (2007) 5–26 
capitalist powers, the exploitation by these powers o peripheral regions, anda nation-state centered ramework or analyzing global dynamics. Hilerd-ing, in his classic study on imperialism,
 Finance Capital 
, argued that nationalcapitalist monopolies turn to the state or assistance in acquiring interna-tional markets and that this state intervention inevitably leads to intense political-economy rivalries among nation-states.
Lenin, in his 1917 pamphlet
 Imperialism: he Latest Stage o Capitalism
, stressed the rise o 
 nancial-industrial combines that struggle to divide and redivide the worldamongst themselves through their respective nation-states. he rivalryamong these competing national capitals led to inter-state competition, mil-itary conict and war among the main capitalist countries.Hilerding, Lenin, and others analyzing the world o the early 20th cen-tury established this Marxist analytical ramework o rival national capitalsthat was carried by subsequent political economists into the latter 20th cen-tury via theories o dependency and the world system, radical internationalrelations theory, studies o US intervention, and so on. his outdated rame- work o competing national capitals continues to inorm observers o worlddynamics in the early 21st century. he ollowing assertion by Klare is typi-cal: “By geopolitics or geopolitical competition, I mean the contentionbetween great powers and aspiring great powers or control over territory,resources, and important geographical positions, such as ports and harbors,canals, river systems, oases, and other sources o wealth and inuence. oday we are seeing a resurgence o unabashed geopolitical ideology among theleadership cadres o the major powers . . . the best way to see what’s happening today in Iraq and elsewhere is through a geopolitical prism.”
Such thinking  provides the scafolding or a torrent o “new imperialism” literature that hasappeared since 2001.
But capitalism has changed undamentally since the days o Lenin, Hiler-ding, and Bukharin. We have entered a qualitatively new transnational stagein the ongoing evolution o world capitalism, which is marked by a numbero undamental shis in the capitalist system, among them: the rise o trulytransnational capital and the integration o every country into a new global production and nancial system; the appearance o a new transnational
Hilderding 1910, p. 322.
Klare 2003, pp. 51–52.
See, inter-alia, Foster 2003, 2006; Wood 2003; Harvey 2005; Pozo 2006; Kiely 2006;Henwood 2003; Brenner 2002; Arrighi 2005; Gowan 1999; Klare 2003; Bello 2005;Monthly Review 2003).

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