This is Part 3 of a four-part article by Jayati Ghosh, published in the March/April 2017 special “Costs of Empire” issue of Dollars & Sense magazine. Parts 1 and 2 are available here and here, respectively. The final part will appear on Triple Crisis next week. In this section, Prof. Ghosh focuses on the current structure of globalized production and its implications for the distribution of income within and between countries.
Structures of Global Production and Trade
It is often argued that the rise of new powers—especially China, but also India, Brazil and others—means that the concept of “imperialism” is no longer valid. Yet the imperialist phase of capitalism has always been characterised by the emergence of “new kids on the block,” some of which have gone on to become neighborhood bullies. At the time when Lenin wrote his famous pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, a century ago, the emergence of the United States as the dominant global power was far from evident. Lenin’s claim that, during the imperialist phase of capitalism, “the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed” is the weakest link in his argument, and one which was belied almost immediately. The United States, which was then only a minor player compared to the major European powers, emerged to dominate the world scene from the second half of the 20th century on. The rise of Japan in the second half of the 20th century by no means signified a weakening of imperialist power generally; it merely necessitated a more complicated assessment of such power.