Blaut on globalisation, imperialism and India

Mark Jones jones118 at
Wed Jun 6 09:14:31 MDT 2001

.... Globalization theories tend to depict the landscapes of the Third World
as basically or partly precapitalist during and after the colonial period.
In recent times, capitalism has overspread these regions, has become
"global," and in doing so has brought beneficial changes to the Third World.
The industrial revolution is diffusing outward over the world: Third World
countries are becoming industrialized, hence modernized. And living
conditions of Third World people are improving: for some Euro-Marxists the
gap is closing and a fully globalized world, with no significant disparities
between rich and poor countries, is on the horizon (see Warren 1980; Harris
1984; Willoughby 1995). Needless to say, this view is close to that of
mainstream scholars, although it has strong roots in early Euro-Marxism
(notably in Kautsky's theory of "ultra-imperialism"). There is considerable
evidence against it. Genuine industrialization is emerging in very few
regions, and these mainly are regions that had a considerable amount of
heavy industry in earlier times. Brazil, India, and Mexico are prominent
examples. Mexico is a unique case under the impact of NAFTA. Brazil and
India have, in quantitative terms, a great deal of industry and a very large
labor force engaged in manufacture, but in proportion to their (huge) size
they may not be any more industrialized than the average Third World
country. In other regions we find a kind of industry that is really marginal
to the domestic economy: branch plants of core-area corporations; assembly
plants for mainly core-area consumers, typically using mainly core-area raw
materials; and the like. This is not integral industrialization, and not a
diffusion of the industrial revolution. And the supposed improvement in
living standards is largely illusory. Medical advances have indeed diffused
and people are living longer. But one may question whether real incomes have
increased in the Third World (statistics to that effect being very
questionable); in any case, any such increase masks a process of
differentiation, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
The Marxist theory of imperialism postulates a very different world dynamic.
Lenin (along with Luxemburg and Bukharin) introduced the basic postulate:
the effect of capitalism on colonial and semi-colonial regions -- now the
Third World -- is destructive and parasitic. It does not lead to
development: for Lenin, it leads to immiseration and to anti-colonial and
anti-capitalist revolution.7 This view, it is safe to say, underlies most
radical anti-colonial thought, Marxist and non-Marxist: it is immensely
important in the history of political ideas. The question to be asked,
however, is whether imperialism, as envisioned by Lenin, is still in
existence and still the dominant force in relations between the Third World
and the European world. Some Marxists and many other third World radical
scholars argue that today, as in the past, the effect of European capitalism
on Third World regions is either corrosive and negative or, at best, the
cause of a mixture of development and underdevelopment, positive in some
regions, negative in others. These scholars argue that capitalism became
global quite some time ago, and its effect on most of the formerly colonized
regions is still, qualitatively, the same as it was before decolonization,
although there are prominent exceptions (such as some oil-rich countries).
Globalization, they argue, is neo-colonialism, and its effect will be, as in
former times, increasing immiseration and resistance. There is evidence
favoring both theories. However, the preponderance of evidence seems (to me)
to favor the theory of imperialism, and the globalization theory is so
firmly seated in Eurocentric diffusionism that one might question it on
these grounds alone.
Many scholars and activists have rejected Marxist theory because of its
Eurocentrism. I have tried to show in this essay that the Eurocentrism in
Marxist theory can be identified, analyzed, and eliminated. Freed of
Eurocentrism, the theory will be more powerful and more useful....


 J. M. Blaut

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