Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rethinking Imperialist Theory

James Petras, Dec 3, 2010
The ‘fluidity’ of US power relations with Latin America is a product of the continuities and changes in Latin America. Past hegemony continues to weigh heavy, but the future augurs a continued decline. The current balance of power will however be determined by shifts in world markets, in which the US is destined to play a lesser role. Hence the greater probability of more divergences in policy, barring major breakdowns within Latin America.
Social Basis of Imperial Politics
Almost all theories of contemporary imperialism lack any but the crudest sociological analyses of the classes and political character of the governing groups which direct the imperial state and its polices. The same is true about the theorizing of the imperial state which is largely devoid of institutional analyses.

Most theorists resort to a form of economic reductionism in which ‘investments’, ‘trade’, ‘markets’ are presented as ahistorical disembodied entities comparable across space and time. The changing nature of the leading classes are accounted for by general categories such as “finance”, “manufacturing”, “banking”, “service” without any specific analysis of the variable nature and sources of financial wealth (illegal drug trade, money laundering, real estate speculation, etc.).

The shifts in the political and economic orientation of governing capitalist politicians, resulting in linkages with different capitalist/imperialist centers, which have major consequences in the configuration of world power, are glossed over in favor of abstract accounts of statistical shifts of economic indicators measuring capital flows.

Imperial theorizing totally ignores the role of non-economic socio-political power configurations in shaping imperial policy, over and against major economic institutions like MNC, up to and including major military commitments. The role of zionist power configurations and militarist ideologues in shaping US Middle East policy (2000-2010) is a crucial consideration in discussing contemporary imperialism in theory and practice.

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