Imperialism and Capitalism
275 Madison Avenue, Suite 2114
New York, NY 10016
What is imperialism? Though typically understood as a process that involves growth of political power through territorial expansion, it is also an economic phenomenon connected to the logic of capital accumulation and more. While Hegel and Marx already noted the tendencies within capitalism of constant expansionism, subsequent writers have characterized imperialism as an advanced stage of capitalism (Lenin’s famous definition of imperialism as the “monopoly stage of capitalism”), with colonial exploitation designed to ensure greater profits or solve the inherent contradictions of expanded reproduction. Influenced by Fernand Braudel’s longue durée, Giovanni Arrighi suggests that capitalism has unfolded as successive cycles of capital accumulation, each producing a new world power – the Genoese, the Dutch, the British and the American. At the same time, thinkers like Edward Said began paying closer attention to how imperialism functions in cultural terms – in language, literature, and beyond – that are intimately bound up to the power expressed through economic and political domination. How can we understand the political economy of imperialism? How does critique that focuses on culture complement or augment that understanding?
In this course, we will explore these distinct but intertwined dimensions of imperialism through selections from Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital, Arrighi’s classic The Long Twentieth Century and The Geometry of Imperialism, David Harvey’s The New Imperialism, and Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism. Are the territorial and capitalist logics always self-reinforcing or potentially contradictory? What are the evolving patterns of economic power and capital accumulation? What role do cultural ideas and forces play in reinforcing or reproducing these relations? What is the link to state formation and imperialism? What role might finance and financial crises play in establishing mechanisms of control and transfers of hegemony? If we do have a new imperialism, as Harvey suggests, how might it be different from other ancient empires? We will conclude by considering the financialization of the global economy beginning with the advent of the Reagan era and reflecting on the ongoing political and economic imperialism of today.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
June 07 — June 28, 2017