Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century

Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century

Giovanni Arrighi

Language: English

Pages: 422


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Acclaimed exploration of China’s emergence as the most dynamic center of current economic expansion.
In the late eighteenth century, the political economist Adam Smith predicted an eventual equalization of power between the conquering West and the conquered non-West. In this magisterial new work, Giovanni Arrighi shows how China's extraordinary rise invites us to read The Wealth of Nations in a radically different way than is usually done. He examines how the recent US attempt to bring into existence the first truly global empire in world history was conceived in order to counter China's spectacular economic success of the 1990s, and how the US's disastrous failure in Iraq has made the People’s Republic of China the true winner of the US War on Terror. In the 21st century, China may well become again the kind of noncapitalist market economy that Smith described, under totally different domestic and world-historical conditions.

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of nations, but the enrichment and empow­ erment of the possessors of capital vis-a.-vis the possessors of labor­ power. His research strategy does not privilege competition in the marketplace but class conflict and technical change in the workplace. This shift in the nature and topic of the conversation has been the source of great confusion concerning Marx's implicit theory of national development. I say implicit because, explicitly, Marx has no such theory. What he has is a theory of the

does not refer to this earlier experience of world capitalism with depression, revival, and crisis, but his central argument con­ tinually invites a comparison between the two . 8 I shall, therefore, take it as the starting point of a comparative analysis of two long periods of global turbulence, one century apart from each other, aimed at determining what is truly novel and anomalous in the global turbu­ lence of our days. In this chapter, I reconstruct Brenner's argument focusing on its most

labor-capital) re­ lations in bringing about a long-term and generalized squeeze on profits. In support of Brenner's argument, it could be pointed out that intense l abor-capital conflicts-either in the form of sustained strike activity, as in Britain and the United States, or in the form of working­ cl ass party formation, as in Germany and elsewhere-followed rather than preceded the onset of the long downturn in profitability. There can be little doubt that intense inter-capitalist competition,

futile, neither the origins, nor the trajectory, nor the consequences of the latest long downturn can be accurately deciphered except in the light of the fundamental change in North-South relations that occurred in the preceding half century. To illustrate the point, I shall focus once again on the monetary aspects of the two long downturns . In the preceding section we traced the inflationary character of the latest long downturn to the social and political impossibility of sub­ j ecting

unintended consequence of the Iraqi adventure has been the consolidation of the tendency towards the recentering of the global economy on East Asia and, wit hin East Asia, on China. The Persistence of the Vietnam Syndrome Within six months of the official declaration of the end of hostilities, many commentators were observing that, although Iraq is not Viet­ nam, the ever more frequent use of images like "quagmire," " attri­ tion," "credibility gap," "Iraqification" made the current debate seem

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