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Re: NYTimes.com Article: All Roads Lead to D.C.
by Threehegemons
07 April 2002 18:14 UTC
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<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. >

Elson--I'm not sure why you continue to downplay the element in Arrighi's 
thought that emphasises the prospect of East Asian leadership (i.e. hegemony).  
Here, for example, is a quote "An equally essential condition (for a 
non-catastrophic transition to a new world order) is the emergence of a new 
global leadership from the main centers of the East Asian economic expansion." 
(Chaos and Governance, 289).  This aspect of Arrighi's thought is one of the 
most striking elements not only for myself put also for Arrighi's critics, such 
as Hardt and Negri, William Robinson, etc.  The view that "there is far more
compatibility of ideas and goals among the US, Europe, and Japan than
differences" is much closer to Hardt/Negri, or Robinson, than Arrighi. For 
example, in his forthcoming critique of Hardt and Negri, Arrighi notes the 
authors of 'Empire' fail to investigate East Asian genealogies of the concept, 
despite East Asia's importance in the future. And the entirety of both Chaos 
and Governance, not to mention The Long Twentieth Century, seems focused on 
emphasizing the continuities with earlier cycles in the present situation, as 
well as the discontinuity you note--the possible emergence of a world empire, 
which, and here I also agree with you, should not be conflated with the short 
term power plays of the US.    Incidentally, while Wallerstein's comments about 
entering a period of bifurcation, chaos etc are often noted, he also emphasizes 
some continuities, for example:  "The great difference of this third logistic 
from the first two is that the capitalist world-economy has now entered into a 
structural crisis as an historical system.  The question is whether this fact 
will obliterate these cyclical proceses.  I do not believe it will obliterate 
them but rather that it will work itself out in part through them." ("The Three 
instances of hegemony in the history of the capitalist world economy").

My own two cents--the cycle that matters a lot, that no one is talking about 
much, is the one that involves two of Arrighi's 'systemic cycles of 
accumulation'--the swing from corporate-national forms of capitalism to 
cosmopolitan/familial forms.  We now appear to be swinging back to the latter.  
Much as the USSR rotted because its attempt to bureaucratically control the 
entirety of society opened the way for myriad 'black market' forces to thrive 
and eat away its real control, so the efforts by the US to bureaucratically 
organize the world--first through national developmental states in the UN 
framework, secondly more directly through the IMF/World Bank etc and the 
market--seem to be spawning transnational 'termites' in the form of 
ethnic/religious solidarities.  These networked diasporas (the most important, 
economically, being the Chinese) do not require, and probably do not even 
desire, a world government, since trust is not located in the potential to 
enforce rules, but through kinship.  The question is, who is stronger--these 
forces, or those who would push for a world state--the multinational 
corporations and the NGOs, each of whom have a vision of rules that they 
believe should be enforced on a world scale.  I expect we'll see some sort of 
move to the middle on the part of all these forces. 

Steven Sherman

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