Robert Biel reply to Mark Jones

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Sep 9 07:33:13 MDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Biel" <ucftrob at>
To: <markjones011 at>
Sent: Monday, September 09, 2002 1:12 PM
Subject: New Imperialism

Dear Mark,

Thanks very much for sending me a copy of your discussion of my book 'The
New Imperialism'.  I was very pleased about your globally positive
evaluation of the book.  I'm kind of working on a new chapter updating it,
for a hypothetical second edition, and have obviously been thinking a lot
about recent developments, both in the field of military intervention and
the tremendously serious environmental situation.  Your critical comments
will definitely prove useful in this context.

As an initial response, rather than going through them all superficially,
it might be more useful to concentrate on one area.  My understanding of
ultra-imperialism is that it fundamentally refers not to the surmounting of
inter-imperialist rivalry, but to the ability of the big corporations to
plan the world economy strategically.  The conclusion of my book is, I
hope, AGAINST ultra-imperialism in this sense, but in order to arrive at
this point, I thought it was useful to lift the taboo on seriously
discussing the POSSIBILTY of ultra-imperialism.  The Club of Rome seemed an
interesting case because capitalism would 'like' to develop in this
direction, but ultimately it can't.  The importance of the environmental
crisis is linked to this issue in my argument, but I do take on board the
fact that I wasn't altogether on top of how to characterise that crisis.
Over the past couple of years, I've been increasingly seeing environmental
degradation as following a path DISTINCT from that of the accumulation
waves . with consequences which are, I fully agree with you, immensely

If we now take what I think is the way in which you use the concept of
ultra-imperialism, i.e. relations between imperialist powers: I would
certainly stand by my assertion that imperialism has found a way of
surmounting the antagonistic rivalry between the great powers, and instead
found a mutually beneficial way of, in some sense, 'jointly' exploiting the
rest of the world.  This does not exclude the existence of US hegemony, on
the contrary, it's predicated on it; that's quite a complex dialectic, but
it seems the characterisation which makes most sense.  The US is collective
gendarme (at times the other capitalist powers play a 'good cop' role).

However, there is also another issue, which I think is perhaps hinted at
but not clearly stated in the points you make, but is an area which is not
yet clear in my book, and I've been thinking about over the recent period:
one 'ideal' way in which capitalism might function would be to establish an
international relations superstructure which would be seemingly independent
of the action of individual states, i.e. institutions, regimes, legal
systems [[is this the IR equivalent of Kautskyite economic ultra
imperialism??]].  The events of the past year have completely undermined
this, and here again, there are extremely important conclusions to be drawn.

Do keep in touch, and thanks again for your comments.  I'm only a stone's
throw from the British Library, maybe we should meet up??

All best wishes,


Louis Proyect

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list