Blog post

New Left Review — Special Issue out now

Guy Sewell31 October 2013

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NLR 83, Sept-Oct 2013

Perry Anderson: American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers

The latest issue of the journal is devoted to a two-part study of American foreign policy by Perry Anderson. The first text, ‘Imperium’ examines the objectives and outcomes of US world power, from the closing stages of the Second World War through to the present; the second, ‘Consilium’, engages with the mainstream literature on America’s role in the world and the assumptions of its practitioners. 

NLR has run three special numbers before: Tom Nairn on Europe in 1972, Anthony Barnett, on the Falklands War in 1982 and Robert Brenner, in 1998 on the dynamics of manufacturing over-capacity that underlie hyper-leveraged financialization. Concerned with leading questions of world politics, Anderson’s contribution can be read as complementary to Brenner’s on the global economy.

From 'Imperium'

In the course of four decades of unremitting struggle, a military and political order was constructed that transformed what had once been a merely hemispheric hegemony into a global empire, remoulding the form of the us state itself . . . In the Cold War, triumph was in the end complete. But the empire created to win it did not dissolve back into the liberal ecumene out of whose ideological vision it had emerged. The institutions and acquisitions, ideologies and reflexes bequeathed by the battle against communism now constituted a massive historical complex with its own dynamics.

But though the empire has survived, it is becoming disarticulated from the order it sought to extend. American primacy is no longer the automatic capstone of the civilization of capital. A liberal international order with the United States at its head risks becoming something else, less congenial to the Land of the Free. A reconciliation, never perfect, of the universal with the particular was a constitutive condition of American hegemony. Today they are drifting apart. Can they be reconjugated? If so, how?

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