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Re: NYTimes.com Article: All Roads Lead to D.C.
by Elson Boles
07 April 2002 15:46 UTC
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu [mailto:wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu]On
> Behalf Of Albert Bergesen
> Sent: Saturday, April 06, 2002 3:10 PM
> Subject: Re: NYTimes.com Article: All Roads Lead to D.C.
> "Empire" or late hegemony?
> It seems ironic:  economic decline leads to military assertion.  But it is
> military assertion by default.  No one believes that the US will be the
> next economic hegemon during the next sustained upswing of the world
> economy, but like Britain at the end of the 19th/early 20th, so today at
> the end of the 20th/early 21st, it is the extant hegemon that intervenes
> around the world while the hegemon-in-waiting concentrates on economic
> expansion, not military overhead.  Britain was certainly all over
> the globe
> at the turn of the 19th/20th but that "empire" didn't guarantee that they
> would be the next economic hegemon.  That, as history shows, was the US.
> So now, at the turn of the 20th/21st century who is militarily
> all over the
> globe?  The US.  And will that guarantee, provide for, help, etc.
> the US to
> move back to economic hegemony?  Doubtful.  It didn't for the British and
> it seems doubtful that it will for the US.
> Empire is a manifestation of decline.  It isn't a stragegy of ascent or
> mature hegemonic dominance. Those who sing the praise of American Empire
> are whistling in the dark, except they don't know that the lights
> are going
> out.
> ab

The problem with this analysis and the comparison of the US and Great
Britain -- is that it overlooks the fundamental structural changes in the
interim -- changes that point to the initiation in 1945 of transition to
world-empire .  There is much confusion these days about the (mistaken) idea
of a "US empire," or even US hegemony, as something akin to British
empire/hegemony.  Britain was the final hegemon of different capitalist
system, a territorial system in which core states created colonial empires
that involved the systemic geographic expansion of capitalism,
incorporations, and which led to three world wars.  In contrast, the US
initiated the creation of a world-empire -- *not* a US empire -- in 1945 in
which core territorial rivalry became a thing of the past and in which the
globe was made "safe" (everywhere by 1989) for all core capitals to exploit
globally via rule of law and without leading to core state military
conflicts.  As both Wallerstein and Arrighi argue, the rules of the game
changed.  That indicates to me a different kind of capitalism, which is
precisely why one may interpret _The Long Twentieth Century_, as the title
suggests, as analysis of transition.

The US was a "hegemon," but during a period of transition to a
politically-economically different kind of capitalism.  (This transition may
fail, but that remains to be seen.)  Hence, US hegemony in this forming
world-empire isn't the fourth in a series, it's the first, and insofar as
this is a transitional period, perhaps it's last of it's kind.  Further,
hegemons in this system are not as crucial to global governance as they were
within capitalism 1500-1945/1989.  Hence, as Arrighi astutely notes,
"hegemony" today is no longer associated with the shifting centers of
accumulation.  For the first time, guns and money are split while states are
being displaced by, yet are also key to the formation and strengthening of,
world-government agencies and transnational forms of capital (not just TNCs)
and new geocultures.  National developmentalism qua geoculture has lost
legitimacy.  There is an emerging geoculture of empire and it should not be
confused with the ongoing talk of US-empire.  Indeed the latter -- which is
easy to deny -- obfuscates the former.  But will world-empire talk of which
we hear do also hear in the media, gain legitimacy as a geoculture?  The
"reform" of the WTO, IMF, WB, talk of easing peripheral debt, and even the
global talk of the compatibility of markets and the Declaration of Human
Rights, seem to be leading in the direction of a political "third way" -- a
"liberal" world-empire.  In historical perspective, there is far more
compatibility of ideas and goals among the US, Europe, and Japan than
differences.  The current demise of US power, as it struggles to assert
power, is working more as a lever toward world-empire than toward

The point and importance, in terms of political struggle, is that the
mistaken attacks on the idea of "US empire" or the problematic focus on the
US as a "late hegemon," is as unwise as is the assumption of a coming
systemic bifurcation.  The problem is here and now: the world-empire in
formation -- not only the actions of a particular core state of this

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