New Left Review 20, March-April 2003 In a landmark engagement with Robert Brenner’s account of the long downturn of the world economy since the 70s, Giovanni Arrighi lays out a social and political economy of the roles of labour unrest

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[62] As previously noted, real wages rose throughout the great depression of 1873–96. Although by the 1880s and 1890s the increase could be attributed to workers’ resistance against cuts in nominal wages, initially it was entirely due to inter-capitalist competition driving prices down more quickly than wages.

[63] Silver, Forces of Labour, especially chapters 2 and 3. Brenner and Silver both make use of Raymond Vernon’s product-cycle model: ‘International Investment and International Trade in the Product Cycle’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 80, no. 2 (1966), pp. 190–207. Brenner (GT, p. 18) uses it to buttress on a priori grounds the assumptions of his own model, whereas Silver ( Forces of Labour, pp. 77–97) uses it to show empirically the limits of industrial relocation in outflanking labour resistance.

[64] This greater capacity is reflected in the fact that, proportionately speaking, migratory flows in the late 19th century were larger than today’s, despite the technological advances in transportation since then. See David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton, Global Transformations, Stanford, CA 1999, chapter 6. Moreover, immigrant workers were the protagonists in some of the most militant and successful labour struggles in the US in the 1990s, for example, the Justice for Janitors campaigns; see Roger Waldinger, Chris Erickson et al., ‘Helots No More: A Case Study of the Justice for Janitors Campaign in Los Angeles’, in Kate Bronfenbrenner et al., eds, Organizing to Win, Ithaca 1998, pp. 102–19.

[65] See my Long Twentieth Century, and Arrighi and Silver, Chaos and Governance.

[66] GT, p. 23; emphasis in original.

[67] GT, p. 9.

[68] Using the more inclusive data sets of the World Bank, their combined share of ‘world’ GNP appears to have remained virtually constant, rising insignificantly from 53.1 per cent in 1960 to 53.6 per cent in 1999 (calculated from World Tables, vols 1 and 2, Washington, DC 1984 and World Development Indicators, CD ROM, Washington, DC 2001). ‘World’ GNP excludes the former communist countries of the USSR and Eastern Europe and other countries for which there are no comparable data for both 1960 and 1999. However, all the available evidence suggests that the exclusion has the effect of raising the above figures by one or two percentage points at most.

[69] Alice Amsden, The Rise of ‘The Rest’, New York 2001. In a more recent article, Amsden provides data showing that the share of manufacturing value added produced in ‘developing’ countries (our South) excluding China rose from 10.7 per cent in 1975 to 17.0 per cent in 1998: Amsden, ‘Good-bye Dependency Theory, Hello Dependency Theory’, Studies in Comparative International Development, vol. 38, no. 1, Spring 2003, Table 1. By recalculating her percentages to include China, I obtain an increase in the Southern share from 11.9 per cent in 1975 to 21.8 per cent in 1998. As shown elsewhere, this increase in the Southern share of manufacturing value added reflects a strong North–South convergence in degree of industrialization—accompanied, however, by a complete lack of income convergence. See Arrighi, Beverly Silver and Benjamin Brewer, ‘Industrial Convergence and the Persistence of the North–South Divide’, Studies in Comparative International Development, vol. 38, no. 1, Spring 2003; and Arrighi, Silver and Brewer, ‘A Reply to Alice Amsden’, Studies in Comparative International Development, vol. 38, no. 1, Spring 2003.

[70] Amsden, ‘Good-bye Dependency Theory’, Table 2.

[71] GT, p. 97; BB, pp. 102, 119.

[72] Long Twentieth Century, pp. 300–8, 320–21.

[73] Riccardo Parboni, The Dollar and its Rivals, London 1981, pp. 47, 89–90.

[74] Long Twentieth Century, pp. 310–14, 317–20. As we shall see, the so-called first ‘oil shock’ of 1973–74 was a crucial intervening variable in the worldwide inflationary spiral that connects the crisis of US hegemony of the late 1960s and early 1970s to the devastating run on the US dollar of the late 1970s.

[75] Cited in Michael Moffitt, The World’s Money: International Banking from Bretton Woods to the Brink of Insolvency, New York 1983, p. 178.

[76] On waves of colonization and decolonization, see Albert Bergesen and Ronald Schoenberg, ‘Long Waves of Colonial Expansion and Contraction, 1415–1969’, in Bergesen, ed., Studies of the Modern World-System, New York 1980.

[77] Geoffrey Barraclough, An Introduction to Contemporary History, Harmondsworth 1967, pp. 153–54.

[78] B. R. Tomlinson, ‘India and the British Empire, 1880–1935’, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, vol. 12, no. 4 (1975), p. 341.

[79] If we take Asia and Africa together, there were as many as 72 separate British military campaigns between 1837 and 1900: Brian Bond, ed., Victorian Military Campaigns, London 1967, pp. 309–11. By a different count, between 1803 and 1901 Britain fought 50 major colonial wars: Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence, Berkeley 1987, p. 223.

[80] David Washbrook, ‘South Asia, the World System, and World Capitalism’, Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 49, no. 3 (1990), p. 481.

[81] Marcello de Cecco, The International Gold Standard: Money and Empire, 2nd ed. New York 1984, pp. 62–3.

[82] On Britain’s persistent trade deficits see, among others, Andre Gunder Frank, ‘Multilateral Merchandise Trade Imbalances and Uneven Economic Development’, Journal of European Economic History, vol. 5, no. 2 (1978), pp. 407–38; and de Cecco, International Gold Standard.

[83] Arrighi, Long Twentieth Century, pp. 323–4.

[84] The percentages have been calculated from World Bank, World Tables (1984), and World Development Indicators (2001). The figures for the world include all the countries for which data are available for 1960, 1980 and 1998. Value added is GDP.

[85] BB, p. 79.

[86] BB, pp. 68–70; emphasis in original.

[87] Greta Krippner, ‘What is Financialization?’ Paper presented at the American Sociological Association Meeting, Chicago, 16–19 August 2002. Krippner’s analysis is based on data provided by the Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts; the Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts; the IRS Corporation Income Tax Returns; Balance of Payments data; and the IRS Corporate Foreign Tax Credit data.

[88] Anwar Shaikh, ‘Explaining the Global Economic Crisis’, Historical Materialism, no. 5, Winter 1999, pp. 140–41. A major problem in using these two indicators, or indeed any other indicator, to gauge Brenner’s ‘over-capacity’ is that, as previously noted, he always uses this term together with the term ‘over-production’, and never tells us how to disentangle the two concepts. This conflation makes it impossible to know what would be a valid indicator for either over-capacity or over-production. But unless the use of the term overcapacity is completely redundant and has no meaning of its own, it is reasonable to suppose that increases in Brenner’s over-capacity are reflected in decreases in capacity utilization and vice versa.

[89] This aspect of inter-capitalist competition has been the clearest sign of continuity among the various organizational forms that historical capitalism has assumed before and after the industrial revolution. See my Long Twentieth Century, pp. 220–38.

[90] Joseph Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development, New York 1961, p. 126.

[91] Quoted in Peter Hugill, World Trade since 1431: Geography, Technology and Capitalism, Baltimore 1993, p. 305.

[92] Alec Cairncross, Home and Foreign Investment, 1870–1913, Cambridge 1953, pp. 3, 23. As Peter Mathias noted, British foreign investment ‘was not just “blind capital” but the “blind capital” of rentiers organized by financiers and businessmen very much with a view to the trade that would be flowing when the enterprise was under way’. British railway building in the US, and a fortiori in countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa and Argentina ‘was instrumental in opening up these vast land masses and developing export sectors in primary produce . . . for Britain’. Mathias, The First Industrial Nation: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1914, London 1969, p. 329; see also Stanley Chapman, Merchant Enterprise in Britain: From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, New York 1992, pp. 233ff. The abundant liquidity that accumulated in, or passed through, British hands was a powerful instrument in the competitive struggle, not just in commodity markets but in the armament race as well. From the mid-1840s until the 1860s most technological breakthroughs in the design of warships were pioneered by France. And yet, each French breakthrough called forth naval appropriations in Britain that France could not match, so that it was ‘relatively easy for the Royal Navy to catch up technically and surpass numerically each time the French changed the basis of the competition’: William McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since AD 1000, Chicago 1982, pp. 227–28. There is a little-noticed resemblance between this pattern of the 19th century armament race and that between the US and USSR during the Cold War. The key technological breakthrough was the Soviet Sputnik in October 1957. But once the US launched their own space programme in 1961, it overtook Soviet achievements within a few years.

[93] US corporations became multinational almost as soon as they had completed their continental integration: Stephen Hymer, ‘The Multinational Corporation and the Law of Uneven Development’, in Jagdish Bhagwati, ed., Economics and World Order, New York 1972, p. 121. By 1902 Europeans were already speaking of an ‘American invasion’, and by 1914 US direct investment abroad amounted to 7 per cent of US GNP—the same percentage as in 1966, when Europeans once again felt threatened by an ‘American challenge’; see Mira Wilkins, The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise, Cambridge 1970, pp. 71, 201.

[94] This difference was underscored by a Study Group established in the early 1950s under the sponsorship of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the National Planning Association. In challenging the assumption ‘that a sufficiently integrated world economic system could be again achieved by means essentially similar to those employed in the 19th century’, it pointed out that the US—although a ‘mature creditor’ like 19th-century Britain—had an altogether different relationship to the world. The latter was ‘fully integrated into the world economic system and in large measure making possible its successful functioning owing to [its] dependence on foreign trade, the pervasive influence of its commercial and financial institutions, and the basic consistency between its national economic policies and those required for world economic integration’ The US, in contrast, is ‘only partially integrated into the world economic system, with which it is also partly competitive, and whose accustomed mode and pace of functioning it tends periodically to disturb. No network of American commercial and financial institutions exists to bind together and to manage the day-to-day operations of the world trading system’: William Elliott, ed., The Political Economy of American Foreign Policy: Its Concepts, Strategy, and Limits, New York 1955, p. 43. As argued elsewhere, this difference is important in explaining why, even at the height of its liberal crusade of the 1980s and 1990s, the US did not adhere unilaterally to the precepts of the liberal creed, as Britain did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. See Beverly Silver and Arrighi, ‘Polanyi’s “Double Movement”: The Belle Époques of British and US Hegemony Compared’, Politics and Society, vol. 31, no. 2, June 2003.

[95] The extent of this rerouting can be gauged from the change in the current account of the US balance of payments. In the five-year period 1965–69 the account still had a surplus of $12 billion, which constituted almost half (46%) of the total surplus of G7 countries. In 1970–74, the surplus contracted to $4.1 billion and to 21% of the total surplus of G7 countries. In 1975–79, the surplus turned into a deficit of $7.4 billion. After that the deficit escalated to previously unimaginable levels: $146.5 billion in 1980–84; $660.6 billion in 1985–89; falling back to $324.4 billion in 1990–94 before swelling to $912.4 billion in 1995–99 (calculated from International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics Yearbook, Washington, DC, various years).

[96] See footnote 92 for a parallel with the role that superior financial resources played in determining the outcome of the mid-19th century arms race between France and Britain.

[97] For a preliminary analysis of the comparative advantages of East Asia and disadvantages of Sub-Saharan Africa in the new global environment of the 1980s and 1990s, see my ‘The African Crisis: World Systemic and Regional Aspects’, NLR 15, May–June 2002.

[98] Robert Wade, ‘East Asian Economic Success: Conflicting Perspectives, Partial Insights, Shaky Evidence’, World Politics, 44 (1992), p. 312.

[99] Franz Schurmann, The Logic of World Power: An Inquiry into the Origins, Currents and Contradictions of World Politics, New York 1974, pp. 44, 68.

[100] Ann-Marie Burley, ‘Regulating the World: Multilateralism, International Law, and the Projection of the New Deal Regulatory State’, in John Ruggie, ed., Multilateralism Matters: The Theory and Praxis of an Institutional Form, New York 1993, pp. 125–6, 129–32.

[101] Schurmann, Logic of World Power, pp. 5, 67, 77.

[102] To borrow James O’Connor’s expression; see O’Connor, The Fiscal Crisis of the State, New York 1973.

[103] On the critical role of military Keynesianism in launching the expansion see, among others, Fred Block, The Origins of International Economic Disorder: A Study of the United States International Monetary Policy from World War II to the Present, Berkeley 1977, pp. 103–4; Thomas McCormick, America’s Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War, Baltimore 1989, pp. 77–8; Arrighi, Long Twentieth Century, pp. 295–98. On the Northern and Southern variants of social Keynesianism, see Arrighi and Silver, Chaos and Governance, pp. 202–11; and Silver, Forces of Labour, pp. 149–61.

[104] Bruce Cumings, ‘The Origins and Development of the Northeast Asian Political Economy: Industrial Sectors, Product Cycles, and Political Consequences’, in Frederic Deyo, ed., The Political Economy of the New Asian Industrialism, Ithaca 1987, p. 60. And Cumings, ‘The Political Economy of the Pacific Rim’, in Ravi Palat, ed., Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System, Westport, CT 1993, p. 31. See also Jerome Cohen, Japan’s Postwar Economy, Bloomington, IN 1958, pp. 85–91; Takafusa Nakamura, The Postwar Japanese Economy, Tokyo 1981, p. 42; and Itoh, World Economic Crisis, p. 142. US promotion of the reconstruction and upgrading of the German industrial apparatus occurred through different but equally effective channels. Germany was of course among the main beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan and US military expenditure abroad. Nevertheless, the most important contribution was US sponsorship of Western European economic union. As John Foster Dulles declared in 1948, ‘a healthy Europe’ could not be ‘divided into small compartments’. It had to be organized into a market ‘big enough to justify modern methods of cheap production for mass consumption’ A reindustrialized Germany was an essential component of this new Europe (quoted in McCormick, America’s Half-Century, pp. 79–80).

[105] Robert McNamara, ‘The True Dimension of the Task’, International Development Review, vol. 1 (1970), pp. 5–6.

[106] Eugène Versluysen, The Political Economy of International Finance, New York 1981, pp. 16–22; Marcello de Cecco, ‘Inflation and Structural Change in the Euro-dollar Market’, European University Institute Working Papers, 23 (1982), p. 11; Andrew Walter, World Power and World Money, New York 1991, p. 182.

[107] Alfred Chandler, Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism, Cambridge, MA 1990, pp. 615–16.

[108] See, among others, Susan Strange, Casino Capitalism, Oxford 1986, pp. 11–13.

[109] Itoh, World Economic Crisis, pp. 53–54, 60–68, 116; de Cecco, ‘Inflation and Structural Change’, p. 12; Strange, Casino Capitalism, p. 18.

[110] David Calleo, The Imperious Economy, Cambridge, MA 1982, pp. 137–38.

[111] See, among others, Karl Marx, Capital, vol. III, Moscow 1962, pp. 245–6.

[112] Long Twentieth Century, p. 324.

[113] Arrighi and Silver, Chaos and Governance, chapter 1 and Conclusion.

[114] Arrighi and Silver, Chaos and Governance, chapters 1, 3 and Conclusion.

[115] In response to a critique by James Crotty, Brenner acknowledges that tight monetary policies exacerbated realization problems in 1969–70; see Crotty, ‘Review of Turbulence in the World Economy by Robert Brenner’, Challenge, vol. 42, no. 3, May–June 1999, pp. 108–18, and Brenner’s reply, pp. 119–130. Curiously, however, Brenner hardly mentions the much more serious realization problems that have been created by the far more persistent, widespread and tight monetary policies of the 1980s and 1990s.

[116] Quoted in Charles Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600–1800, New York 1965, p. 291.

[117] David Calleo, Beyond American Hegemony: The Future of the Western Alliance, New York 1987, p. 142.


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