Globalisation is both a descriptive which is ideological and a prescriptive that dominates policy making. Many commentators including Meiksins Wood in Empire of Capital have pointed to the hegemony of the United States, their military spending and dominance over international institutions. Michael Parenti sums this up stating that “Under neoimperialism, the flag stays home, while the dollar goes everywhere – frequently assisted by the sword.”[i] If the definition of Imperialism is the effect that a State has in influencing the policies and socio-economic life of other nations, through violence, economic power or covert operations to effect regime change, then American foreign policy would suggest that globalisation is ideological cover for American Imperialism. However to extrapolate from this to infer the American State itself benefits from the policy that it pursues, overlooks the purpose of the liberal democratic state. In order to reproduce the mode of production it is necessary that the liberal state enforce through the rule of law, ideology and threat of violence, the conditions in which capitalist accumulation continues unhindered. Althusser tells us that the “state apparatus, which defines the state as a force of repressive execution and intervention “in the interests of the ruling classes”…quite certainly defines its basic function.”[ii] History shows us that Empires have come and gone, economic imperatives have been pursued “assisted by the sword” and that capital requires the state to enforce its rule. The use of the term “globalisation” is ideological cover, not for American imperialism but for the class war that is waged by a dominant class. Their interests served and mediated through their parasitic use of the state.
In Globalisation Unmasked Petras and Veltmeyer tell us “As a description “globalisation” is the “widening and deepening of the international flows of trade, capital, technology and information within a single integrated global market.”[iii] This simply describes the realisation of the conditions brought about by imperialism. “As a prescription, “globalisation” involves the liberalisation of national and global markets”[iv] but as Meiksins Wood asserts “global capitalism is what it is not only because it global but, above all, because it is capitalist.”[v] The belief that free market capital unfettered by the constraints of national protectionism or regulation creates growth is the ideology that underpins capital accumulation, serving the interests of a class who present globalisation as an inevitable process. Globalisation is the result of the institutional structures founded to serve the interests of imperialism. At its core are deep contradictions, subordinating the political to the economic, the new order requires strong authoritarian state control at the national level whilst positing the state within a “global system of multiple states, structured in a complex relation of domination and subordination.”[vi] Panitch writes “the connection between globalisation and states is often discussed purely as a matter of a decline in national sovereignty” but international tensions and the need for nation states to manage the social consequences of neo-liberal policy “have further increased the burden on states, since they have to manage these contradictions.”[vii] There is no such thing as a “global” government. “There is no world state developing to oversee globalisation; on the contrary, international corporations that worked so hard to escape regulatory constraints and welfare costs at the national level have no wish to recreate them at a higher level”[viii]which is why imperialism requires the nation state, to manage the political expectations and social consequences of globalisation.
The tendency within capital to monopoly and centralisation and it’s need of the state to facilitate the conditions under which this occur have been written about long before the word “globalisation” came into use. Hilferding and Bhukharin writing in the early C20th stressed that the concentration and centralisation of capital was inevitable and brought about by finance capital. Luxemburg stated that “from the very beginning, the forms and laws of capitalist production aim to comprise the entire globe as a store of productive forces…seizing them, if necessary by force.”[ix] American foreign policy is designed to open up and extend the regions of the world to US investment, allowing US finance capital to go global in its pursuit of profit. Luxemberg in The Accumulation of Capital made the case that capital strives to become universal but that it requires to exploit non-capitalist economies. The global market is far from totally integrated with differences in wages, conditions of employment and corporation tax rates functional to accumulation “International law and interstate agreements, in the form of a dense web of hundreds of bilateral trade and investment treaties, as well as broader regional and multilateral frameworks, have become principle tools for widening and deepening the liberal economic order.”[x] The role of the IMF and World Bank in pushing trade and investment treaties whilst demanding structural adjustment in return for loans further indebts developing and poorer nations to US finance capital. “As early as 1983, the interest collected by foreign banks on Third World debts was three times higher than their profits from direct Third World investments.”[xi] Even aid commits recipient nations to buy US goods at US prices as Parenti makes clear “the US government does not grant assistance to state-owned enterprises in Third World nations, only to the private sector.”[xii] Much of which is dominated by US based trans-nationals, all of which have grown to take up the greatest market share because finance capital privileges large companies over smaller ones.
The US is by far the greatest military power, projected to spend $600 billion in 2014. Panitch points out “The invisible hand of the global market is now frankly backed by the iron fist of internal state repression and imperialist war.”[xiii] The US targets on the periphery of the neo-liberal order, states that refuse of privatise their resources and countries with populist social democratic leadership. Within its borders state repression can be evidenced by the growing prison population and surveillance of its citizens. Naomi Wolf in The End of America identified ten ways in which democracy was being subverted by the state. These include, invoking an external or internal enemy, secret prisons, paramilitary force, internal surveillance, harassment of groups, arbitrary detention, targeting of dissidents, recast criticism as espionage, control of the press and subvert the rule of law. The list of South American countries where the US has intervened and brought about regime change has included Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. The US has given financial aid, technical assistance and training in surveillance, torture and repression, as well as supported mercenary forces to destabilise and bring about regime change in many countries where they considered there was a strategic advantage in doing so. They have supported dictatorships in Chile, Iraq, El Salvador, Haiti, Ecuador and the Philippines where popular protests and left democratic movements have been squashed resulting in hundreds of thousands being killed, imprisoned and tortured. Marcos was praised by the US state after the economy was opened up to foreign investment, as the praise rolled in the national debt rose from $2 billion to $30 billion and 60,000 people were killed.
The expansion of private investment into social welfare, health, education and infrastructure around the globe in other nations is matched by the resistance of the US state to deal with the rising tide of inequality within its own national borders. As Petras and Veltmeyer state “the greatest social crisis is precisely in the countries which have advanced furthest in globalisation.”[xiv] The US national debt is over $17 trillion and as a percentage of GDP over 100%. The number of part time poorly paid workers, those on zero hours contracts and without medical coverage is growing alongside rising unemployment. The way in which the capitalist class bring about this redistribution of wealth and property on a global scale, is with the use of ideology, the threat of capital flight, the use of the nation state to impose authority over citizens, and this is backed ultimately with the threat of war or sanctions against nations that refuse to open up and liberalise their economies. The need for capitalism to expand into new areas geographically and socially requires the liberal democratic state to impose the rule of law, free trade and neo-liberal policy on states and populations that would otherwise resist this. As can be evidenced by U.S debt, rising inequality within its borders and the erosion of democracy, the imperialist policy of the United States, does not benefit the state or America in general but serves the interests of U.S transnationals and U.S finance capital.
[i] Parenti,M. Against Empire (City Lights Books, San Francisco 1995),15.
[ii] Althusser, L. On Ideology (Verso London 2008),11.
[iii] Petras,J and Veltmeyer,H. Globalization Unmasked (Fernwood Publishing, Zed Books 2002),11
[iv] Petras,J and Veltmeyer,H. Globalization Unmasked (Fernwood Publishing, Zed Books 2002),11
[v] Meiksins Wood, E. Empire of Capital (Verso London 2005),14
[vi] Meiksins Wood, E. Empire of Capital (Verso London 2005),20
[vii] Panitch,L et al The Globalization Decade, A Critical Reader (Merlin Press, Fernwood Publishing 2004),4
[viii] Panitch,L et al The Globalization Decade, A Critical Reader (Merlin Press, Fernwood Publishing 2004),5
[ix] Brewer, A. Marxist Theories of Imperialism(Routledge & Kegan Paul 1980), 70.
[x] Panitch,L et al The Globalization Decade, A Critical Reader (Merlin Press, Fernwood Publishing 2004),6.
[xi] Parenti,M. Against Empire (City Lights Books, San Francisco 1995),20.
[xii] Parenti,M. Against Empire (City Lights Books, San Francisco 1995),21
[xiii] Panitch,L et al The Globalization Decade, A Critical Reader (Merlin Press, Fernwood Publishing 2004),7.
[xiv] Petras,J and Veltmeyer,H. Globalization Unmasked (Fernwood Publishing, Zed Books 2002),51.
Althusser, L. On Ideology (Verso London 2008).
Brewer, A. Marxist Theories of Imperialism(Routledge & Kegan Paul 1980).
Lenin, V,I. Imperialism:The Highest Stage of capitalism(Penguin Books 2010).
Meiksins Wood, E. Empire of Capital (Verso London 2005).
Panitch,L et al The Globalization Decade, A Critical Reader (Merlin Press, Fernwood Publishing 2004).
Parenti,M. Against Empire (City Lights Books, San Francisco 1995).
Petras,J and Veltmeyer,H. Globalization Unmasked (Fernwood Publishing, Zed Books 2002).
Understanding Society in a Global Word Course Reader