13 June 2009

THe World Economy

It is not entirely fair, or for that matter accurate to simplify a globally integrated economy down to simple imperialism, therefore the following is very small part of what we are currently facing:

Global integration makes a lot of sense in the lens of capitalist growth. The traditional theory of imperialism holds, namely that domestic capital in advanced countries has fully saturated home markets and needs to find both new markets and/or cheaper sources of raw materials to increase profitability.

What is unique about the current period (and would be unique to any period of capitalist development) is the level of technology in the "home" nations.
Higher levels of technology by definition require larger capital investments, and ever increasing freedom/complexity of financial markets in order to facilitate these investments (and to get profit out of the colony).

As we are at the highest level of technology thus far in human advancement, modern imperialism requires the highest level of capital investment and most advanced financial markets the world has ever seen to be successful. All of this is fairly obvious and mundane.

Where this point becomes more interesting (to me at least) is that with greater levels of capital investment, (higher levels of development) it is easy to argue that greater levels of military security should also be a priority. This will come as no surprise to the portions of the world who live under perpetual occupation of the American military.

The two large contradictions here are that, 1. The very capitalists who rely on their home state for unprecedented military security are more often than not advocates of a shrinking the state at home (as the larger the state the more of their domestic profits are necessary to sustain it). And 2. The very same high level of technology that precipitates the need for military security in colonies (or subjugated nations, or whatever the popular thing is to call the countries we are fucking over today is), allows for easy destruction of large capital investments by small groups of unhappy, or aware citizens of these nations (ie "terrorism"). Technology facilitates the easier destruction of technology.

As per the development of any system, modern global capital holds within itself contradictions that have the potential to be its undoing.


Daniel MacDonald said...

Hey James,

Your attachment of capital investment to technology is thought-provoking. Technology can be defined in a variety of ways, one of which would be the accumulation of knowledge applied in new and different ways. And, in light of such a definition I would be wary of attaching it too closely to capital investment.

How I see it being applicable to capital investment: Marx would inevitably say knowledge is full of "bourgeois" influences and definitions. Therefore, knowledge production takes on a class character. Technology is thus controlled in universities and other institutions of higher learning solely in order to serve the benefit of the ruling class. (See David Noble's "America By Design" for a good Marxist interpretation of the rise of engineering schools in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th century.)

Where I don't see it working:

Uprooting capital, i.e. class structure, is not the same as destroying technology. We should only be concerned with the uprooting of the class character of technology, which is of course slightly different: the internet is an excellent example of how technology has been democratized and what the implications of that are for economy and society. But of course, there are many other examples such as independent videogame companies (hehe) and music, etc.

I think we fundamentally agree here. I just wanted to call your attention to a slight imprecision in your analysis, and noting the alternate positive forms of technology within capitalism. I see your point with terrorism, but would argue that it's not really the destruction of /technology/ there; rather, an attack on class influence in political economy.

James Miehls said...

I appreciate your my attention to this. Where I was very sloppy was in the use of the phrase technology. What was meant by technology in the original post was essentially development that raises the productivity of labor. (not necessarily synonymous with technology)