Globalization, center and periphery

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Dec 2 13:05:51 MST 2002

International Viewpoint, Nov. 2002'

Imperialism in the 21st century
Claudio Katz

(Claudio Katz teaches at the University of Buenos Aires and is involved
in the Argentine network 'Economistas de Izquierda' (EDI, 'Left Economists')


In arguing that globalisation dilutes the frontiers between the First
and Third World, Toni Negri and Michael Hardt mount a serious challenge
to the theory of imperialism. They believe that a new global capital
acting through the UN, the G8, the IMF and the WTO (World Trade
Organization) has created an imperial sovereignty, linking the dominant
fractions of the centre and the periphery in one system of world

This characterization supposes the existence of a certain homogenisation
of capitalist development, which seems very difficult to verify. All the
data concerning investment, saving or consumption confirms on the
contrary the amplification of differences between the central and
peripheral economies and shows that the processes of accumulation and
crisis are also polarizing. The US prosperity of the last decade
contrasts with the generalized crisis of the underdeveloped nations,
while the social crisis of the periphery has for the moment no
equivalent in Europe. In the same way there is no sign of a convergence
in the status of the US and Venezuelan bourgeoisie, nor of a similarity
between the Argentine and Japanese crisis. Far from uniformising the
reproduction of capital around a common horizon, globalisation deepens
the duality of this process on the planetary scale.

It is clear that the association between the dominant classes of the
periphery and the big companies is a closer one, as it is clear that
poverty is spreading at the heart of advanced capitalism. But these
processes have not transformed any dependent country into a central one,
nor have they brought about the Third Worldisation of any central power.
The greater interlinking between the dominant classes coexists with the
consolidation of the historic gap that separates the developed from the
underdeveloped countries. Capitalism does not level out differences, nor
does it fracture around a new trans-national axis; it rather strengthens
the growing polarization which appeared in the preceding century.

The power held by the capitalists of about 20 nations over the other 200
is the main evidence of the persistence of the hierarchical organization
of the world market. Through the UN Security Council, they exercise a
military domination, through the WTO they impose their trade hegemony
and through the IMF they ensure the financial control of the planet.

In analysing the predominant links between the dominant classes, the
trans-nationalist thesis confuses 'association' and 'sharing of power'.
The fact that a sector of the capitalist groups of the periphery is
increasing its integration with its allies in the centre does not mean
it is sharing in world domination and does not suppress its structural
weakness. While US companies exploit Latin American workers, the
Ecuadorian or Brazilian bourgeoisie does not participate in the
expropriation of the US proletariat. Although the leap recorded in the
internationalisation of the economy is very significant, capital
continues to operate within the framework of the imperialist order that
establishes a fracture between centre and periphery.



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