Global Capitalism & American Empire

By Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch  

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The American Empire has usually come in through the back door rather than the front door: its own empire of business was made plausible and attractive by the American state’s insistence that it was not imperialistic.

The USA presented itself as the scourge of the old colonialism, spreading democracy and freedom of opportunity, rather than an old-style Empire of armed conquest. Its informal empire, uniquely combining, as Thomas Jefferson put it, ‘extensive empire with self-government’, has allowed American business to directly invest abroad and produce and sell there, with the American state politically requiring the host states to protect and maintain capitalism.

After the Second World War, the USA integrated the states of Japan and Western Europe into own informal empire, bringing an end to the old inter-imperial rivalries. Through the crisis of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, American hegemony, far from being fundamentally challenged by the other advanced capitalist states, came to be reconstituted in the form of global neoliberalism. Under American-managed globalization all international institutions and individual states are expected to become pliant but active agents in reproducing global capitalism.

“The unconcealed imperial face that the American state is now prepared to show to the world above all pertains to the increasing difficulties of managing a truly global informal empire… The need to try to refashion all the states of the world so that they become at least minimally adequate for the administration of global order-is now the central- problem for the American state.”

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Contents

  • Rethinking Imperialism
  • The American Republic: ‘Extensive Empire and Self-Government’
  • The American Reconstruction of a Capitalist World Order
  • The Reconstitution of American Empire in the Neoliberal Era
  • Beyond Inter-Imperial Rivalry
  • Unconcealed Empire: ‘The Awesome Thing America Is Becoming’
  • Notes

Authors

  • Sam Gindin

    York University

    Sam Gindin is a Canadian academic and intellectual who served as research director of the Canadian region of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and later as chief economist and Assistant to the President of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union after the latter became independent from its American parent organization.

    Gindin is a graduate of the University of Manitoba. He worked as a research officer for the New Democratic Party of Manitoba and later taught at the University of Prince Edward Island. He obtained his MA in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but while working on his PhD dissertation in 1974, he took up the position of first director of research for what was then the Canadian section of the UAW. He rose within the union and served as an assistant to both Bob White and Buzz Hargrove, where he participated in major collective bargaining, the formation of union and social policy, and strategic discussions on the structure and direction of the union. He also wrote a book on the history of the CAW entitled The Canadian Auto Workers: The Birth and Transformation of a Union.

    In 2000, Gindin retired from the CAW. He joined the faculty of York University in the Political Science department as Packer Visitor in Social Justice, where he continues to teach.

  • Leo Panitch

    York University

    Leo Panitch is a Distinguished Research Professor, renowned political economist, Marxist theorist and editor of the Socialist Register. He received a B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Manitoba in 1967 and a M.Sc.(Hons.) and PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1968 and 1974, respectively. He was a Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor at Carleton University between 1972 and 1984. He has been a Professor of Political Science at York University since 1984. He was the Chair of the Department of Political Science at York from 1988-1994. He was the General Co-editor of State and Economic Life series, U. of T. Press, from 1979 to 1995 and is the Co-founder and a Board Member of Studies in Political Economy. He is also the author of numerous articles and books dealing with political science including The End of Parliamentary Socialism (1997). He was a member of the Movement for an Independent and Socialist Canada, 1973-1975, the Ottawa Committee for Labour Action, 1975-1984, the Canadian Political Science Association, the Committee of Socialist Studies, the Marxist Institute and the Royal Society of Canada. He is currently a supporter of the Socialist Project.