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Posted September 9, 2004
Useful study of capitalism's absolute decline
Wallerstein is a Senior Research Scholar at Yale University. He analyses the absolute decline of the capitalist world-economy, from its genesis in 1450 through its development to its current `period of terminal crisis¿. We now endure economic stagnation, political instability and social pathologies. He points out that there is no escape from class struggle, internally between those for and those against a more democratic and egalitarian society, externally between those defending nations¿ sovereignty and those upholding the imperial `right to intervene¿. He has some dazzling insights - ¿The idea that leaders sell out, just like the idea that the masses are falsely conscious, seems to me analytically sterile and politically disabling.¿ But there are weaknesses too, as when he focuses on the `left¿ and on `anti-systemic movements¿, rather than on the mass, on the necessity for every country to develop workers¿ nationalism, to control speculative flows of capital and labour. Workers are the immense majority in the world. Migration from rural areas into labour markets has enabled capitalists to relocate, particularly to China. But the world is running out of new sources of cheap labour, and within a generation the new workers learn how to organise for better wages. So wage levels are rising as a percentage of production costs, averaged across the world. Also, taxes to pay for health, education and welfare are rising. Higher wages and taxes squeeze global profits, threatening capitalists¿ ability to accumulate capital, especially from industrial production. So the USA is a colossus with feet of clay. Its economy is faltering, and it cannot use its military muscle to shape the world the way it wants. Unable to prevail over China and Korea, defeated by Vietnam, it is now trapped in the quagmire of Iraq. Wallerstein concludes, ¿In the history of the world, military power has never been sufficient to maintain supremacy. Legitimacy is essential, at least legitimacy recognised by a significant part of the world. With their preemptive war, the American hawks have undermined very fundamentally the U.S. claim to legitimacy. And thus they have weakened the United States irremediably in the geopolitical arena.¿Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.