Re: [OPE] Britain--parasitic and decaying capitalism: A comment

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Sun Jan 17 2010 - 07:09:39 EST

On 2010-01-15 15:57, GERALD LEVY wrote:
> You ask a lot of questions. A downside to that is that you can't expect lengthy or complete replies since that would be demanding too much time of those you are communicating with. So - of necessity - my replies will be brief.
That is fine by me. I prefer concise answers over several posts. I can't
find the time to read long posts anyway.

> One nation doesn't have to (directly) dominate the economy of another
> nation for it to be imperialist. It can be a relatively minor imperialist nation which has a share in the benefits of imperialism. When there are imperialist blocs not all of the members of the bloc have the same strength - one or two usually dominate but often others are important players. I thought I already made that clear in a previous message.
Ok, so dominating a country is not a necessary condition for
imperialism. But it is sufficient to belong to an 'imperialist bloc'. I
take it to be necessary for the bloc to dominate countries. The concept
of an imperialist bloc with the structure of the European Union is an
anomaly in the orthodox model which either predicts or postulates
inter-imperialist rivalry that could not explain the formation of such a
union to begin with.

> Nations within the Indian sub-continent that are considered by the Indian state to be part of India. Note that I did not claim that India is an imperialist nation (perhaps it could be in time - I'm doubtful - but that's another question.)
I might have put the question wrongly. I meant to ask:

1. Can you list the key countries that dominate India?
2. Which of these are imperialist?

> Ah, well that gets to the question of the capital/state relation under imperialism.
> The resources typically are owned by individuals and corporations but the state generally has an important role in control.

Yes, I think this question is a fundamental problem for the orthodox
theory of imperialism. It seems to be rooted in an 'instrumentalist'
theory of the state that might have seemed plausible up to the early
20th century. But since then it simply doesn't hold up. I think Ralph
Miliband and especially Fred Block made some very significant advances
in the Marxist theory of the state. Block's theory has been advocated by
Vivek Chibber recently.

> One has to look at the overall character of development in the nation, its relationship to other nations and international institutions, and the scale of ownership of resources abroad (among other questions). Whether there is direct foreign investment *alone* does not determine whether a nation is imperialist.
Yes, I'm trying to narrow down the list of necessary conditions and
understand their present-day relevance. Foreign investment is clearly
not a sufficient condition, to which I agree.

>> 5. which sets of economic agents are the recipients of the so-called
>> 'bribe'? The concept implies a reward that persuades the agents to act
>> differently from their normal interests.
> To begin with, I was referring to social agents rather than just economic agents. State policy-makers are a prime example.
Ok, here is a plausible candidate. I have little doubt that some of them
are the recipients of bribes proper. But you'd have a pretty weak
instrumentalist theory of the state if it relied on such an unstable
mechanism to explain imperialism.

> There can (and often are) larger social entities (class fragments) which are bought off by imperialism (the US is quite adept at this: examples include CIA payments to the contras in Nicaragua in the 80's,
Yes, I agree that this would be an apt application of the term. Putting
political groups and militias under your payroll.

3. Can you identify which sections of the working class in the advanced
countries are bought off like this in order to support imperialism?

> Sweden - the nation. I guess I should have written 'it' but I thought my meaning was clear.
Ok, so the entire population of Sweden is said to 'share the benefits of
imperialism'. It would seem reasonable if you meant (i) the specific
firms or rentiers that have assets in the (indirectly?) 'dominated'
countries, (ii) specific firms that export to those countries and (iii)
the state apparatus that can tax these agents.

4. In what sense and by what mechanism are the nurses, railway workers,
and unemployed of Sweden the beneficiaries of the supposed 'imperialism'?

It is about as useful as saying that they share the benefits of capitalism.

>> 7. What are the benefits that you are referring to? Profits from
>> investments abroad?
> Partially. Also the benefits (profit-sharing - or some might say - super-profit sharing) that come from being part of an imperialist bloc).
5. What is the source of profit-sharing if it is not from investments

>> 7. Which role does Britain --- arguably the leading imperialist state in
>> Europe today --- play in this 'imperialist bloc'?
> A major role, but they are not the leading nation in that bloc.
6. Which is the leading nation of this bloc?
7. Why would the strongest imperialist state in Europe, i.e. Britain,
join or stay in such a bloc?

>> This is about as theoretically useful as saying that capitalism and
>> feudalism are merely different forms of surplus extraction.
> I think Paul B addressed that issue in a reply to Paul C.
Saying that there are different 'forms of imperialism' requires that one
can account for the invariant properties underlying them (in this case
fundamentally different forms during the period 1870 to present). When
we speak of different forms of capitalism in time and space we have an
underlying theory of its laws of motion.

But I remain unconvinced by the orthodox theory here. For instance, Paul
B that imperialism is rooted in 'the dominance of finance capital'. But
this has some serious anomalies:

//Dave Z
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Received on Sun Jan 17 07:11:33 2010

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