Blog post

Surfing the Crisis: The Making of Global Capitalism is Making Waves

Matthew Cole29 November 2012

The Making of Global Capitalism is making waves across the UK and Europe. As Adam David Morton, Associate Professor in Political Economy and co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) at the University of Nottingham, notes on his blog, "the book is rightly heralded as a groundbreaking assessment of American empire in shaping global capitalism." Furthermore:

This is a political economy of American empire that rivals the work of Eric Hobsbawm in its accessibility and its forensic grasp of the intellectuals of statecraft (referring to a whole community of American state bureaucrats, leaders, foreign policy experts, and advisors who comment upon, influence, and conduct the activities of statecraft) essential to the making of global capitalism.

The product of ten years of work by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism seems to be reigniting the fires of Marxian political economy that were largely extinguished during the glory days of neoliberal monopoly capitalism. Since 2008, an entirely new generation of thinkers has begun to take up the problems posed by the crisis. This book provides the map we need to trace the lineage of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis for those whoa ren't economics nerds) from late 19th century to the present. The only way the left will recover from the neoliberal siege on the global economy is to understand that, as Panitch and Gindin put it in their introduction to the 2011 Socialist Register: 

...the way the 1970s crisis was resolved set up the conditions for the subprime crisis three decades later. The failure to recognize this obscures the fundamental differences between the 1970s crisis and the present one in terms of the degree of working-class strength; the transformations in finance, technology and the international division of labour; and the institutional learning that has occurred within and among states.

They discuss this at length during their conversation last week on Novara, a popular radio show on Resonance FM hosted by Aaron Peters. Leo Panitch also narrates a compressed ten-minute history of 20th century global capitalism illustrated by a slide show on the Gaurdian website. They highlight the crucial period of transition in the late 1970's where the world became significantly more integrated, far beyond what the architects of the Bretton Wood's agreement could have imagined in 1944. Global integration required the state to be far more active in regulating the contracts that firms engaged in. As Panitch notes,

...There were no less than 72 financial crises in low and middle-income countries as they removed capital controls and entered into global capitalism, with their states leading the way... The American state in this context, plays the central role of trying to contain these crises in such as way as to not interrupt this process of globalization.

Panitch concludes that, "the multinational corporations of the world, the international banks of the world need very large and interventionist states precisely to contain the inevitable crisis that financialised capitalism gives rise to." We must address both the State and capitalism as inextricably bound together in the new era of global capitalism. Only when the left takes this as its starting point, will they be able to begin again, as Marx says, "the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence." 

Visit Adam David Morton's blog to read the review in full.

Visit the Guardian to watch the video in full.

Visit the soundcloud to listen to the radio show in full.