Jim Blaut on Lenin and the National Question

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Mon Nov 20 13:35:46 MST 2000

Richard Fidler wrote:

> >Nor is "world systems" analysis of much assistance here. For >example, Arrighi
> >states: "For what we know, the present rise of East Asia to >most dynamic center
> >of processes of capital accumulation on a world scale may >well be the preamble
> >to a recentering of the regional and world economies on >China as they were in
> >pre-modern times." That leaves out a hell of a lot, starting >with the outcome of
> >the developing class struggle in China itself.
> >Richard Fidler
> rfidler at cyberus.ca

I agree. World system theory of Arrighi should be approached with some caution. I
don't know if you guys have a chance to read his book.  In _The Long Twentieth
Century_ Arrighi's account of the emergence of capitalism is so limited that he
talks about nothing but the rise and decline of hegemons in the world system (Dutch,
British, US, East Asia). As far as I can tell, real polittik with a Marxian verbiage
of some variety drives the logic of his analysis (That is what you get when Gramsci
is abused in the name of geo-politics) There is no mentinoning of national question,
racism, core-periphery inequalities and class formation in the periphery of the
world system. No doubt that the rise of East Asia is part of his discussion.
However, when I first read the book I got the impression that  not only he
overstates the inter-imperialist conflict among capitalist powers in his explanation
of why Asia became a major world power, but also quickly welcomes the decline of US
hegemony in the region. The whole scenerio behind the Asian crisis has proven that
the crisis was trigged by external factors--private financial capital flows
encouraged by the US and IMF (and Japan), which started long before the crisis took
place. Arrighi is reluctant to see the persistence of US imperialism in Asia and its
consequences for national economies.. The fact that he published the book before the
crisis is not an excuse for why does not mention US imperialism. More importantly,
Arrighi well ignores the social stratification and power inequalities _within_ the
region--ie Japan staying at the core and exploiting the labor of semi-peripheral and
peripheral states such as Malaysia, Indonesia, etc..(or South Korea exploiting those
two). For a better discussion of the political economy of the region and commodity
chains in the wold system, I recommend Bonacich's _Global Production: The Apparel
Industry in the Pacific Rim_ (especially Gery Gereffi's articles there)

Arrighi could have done a much better job if he could have combined Gramsci with a
Marxian version of world system theory . Smart guy but he did not do it.



Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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