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Re: NYTimes.com Article: All Roads Lead to D.C.
by Elson Boles
08 April 2002 15:04 UTC
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Threehegemons@aol.com [mailto:Threehegemons@aol.com]
> Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2002 2:15 PM
> To: "Elson Boles"; wsn@csf.colorado.edu
> Subject: Re: Re: NYTimes.com Article: All Roads Lead to D.C.
> 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).

For one, in my judgment and experience, Asian states may become the leading
production and investment centers, but even that doesn't mean what it did
prior to 1945.   A significant part of the high-tech wealth and growth
capital in East Asia is owned by US, Japanese, and European concerns, many
of which are themselves integrated formally and informally to one degree or
another.  For another, insofar as East Asian entrepreneurs and enterprises
ascend to the commanding heights of the world-economy, I don't see any of
the states in East Asia taking a leading role in establishing a new
geoculture -- a civilizational project.  I see other areas doing that.
Another oddity of the present situation is that, unlike 1920-40, the new
center (Asia) is not more "progressive" than the old center (the US) and the
older center (Europe).  Just the opposite.  Above all, I don't think having
a hegemon is as important to world governance as it was before 1945 when the
system was highly territorial and war among core states was a greater
possibility.  Insofar as we're in a transition (one not concluded) toward a
world-empire, it is the interstate structure and major transnational
players, rather than a particular state, that is becoming the source of
governance and geoculture.  I suspect (confused) anti-systemic movements
will throw their weight behind the liberal leanings of European leaders --
precisely the "new doctrine of humanitarian intervention which would place
limits on state sovereignty" per the article posted after my first post on
the topic, by Syed Khurram Husain.  This is the new De Lampedusa dilemma.

> 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.

I agree I'm closer to Negri, but my ideas come far more from Arrighi (I've
barely scanned Negri's book).

> 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,

Yes, Arrighi does focus on the continuities.  But, as I've been arguing for
some time, the discontinuities are greater.  I'm just not convinced by
Arrighi's implicit emphasis on the continuities.  Moreover, the continuity
that he emphasizes above all is the cyclical rebirth.  The other important
continuity that he emphasizes is in fact a discontinuity -- how capitalism
consistently breaks down and is rebuilt through new structures of
governance, the latest systemic break down being the period 1914-45.  The
rebuilding of capitalism after 1945 dramatically changed international
governance, including de-colonization and the spread of state sovereignty,
without which the form of transnational capital that we see today, including
UN institutions such as the IMF and WB, and policies such as the SAPs would
not exist.  As part of a restructuring that has significantly transformed
the relationship between core state and capital, with one result being the
low likelihood of war among the core states, I think we have lived through a
rebuilding of capitalism that is unlike any of the previous rebuildings.  it
is a rupture with the past patterns in which the rules of the game have
significantly changed.  And I think the demise of US hegemony is a lever
that strengthens this trend.

> and here I also
> agree with you, should not be conflated with the short term power
> plays of the US.

I entirely agree with this, is precisely why I made rather explicit comments
that the two should not be confused, and that the demise of US hegemony and
its Mafioso racket qua attempt to build a "US empire" is pushing us toward
real empire.  So, why it is that you advice me not to confuse the two is a

> 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 wi
> ll 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 qu
> estion 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

I agree in part, and this is one reason why empire may not form.  There are
also the anti-systemic movements.  But on the other hand, despite all the
literature on hybridization and creolization -- of globalized diffusion and
localized appropriation -- global capital seems fairly strong and quite
flexible.  That's why I think, at least in this transitionary period, that
the rise of the EU and it's reformist project will be a major political
force in the interstate arena.  It is a shame, but, as world-inequality
continues to worsen and concerns over environmental destruction grow, it
will be more appealing to more people than the US Mafioso racket and the
kind of self-absorbed profit-making interests that I see predominant in East
Asia, at the regional level for now, and among US organizations at the
global level.  Also,  I don't agree that the Chinese business diaspora will
not be interested in world government.  On the contrary, they will, as with
other forms of transnational capital, be very interested in doing business
globally, and as the indigenous manufacturing enterprises and financial
corporations in East Asia grow larger, they will increasingly shed their
"regional" informal structures and work more through the formal global
institutions -- IMF, WB, WTO -- in order to get a foot in the door abroad.

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