Imperialism and Global Political Economy, Polity Press: Cambridge, 2009; 295pp: 9780745640464, 17.99 [pounds sterling]
Given the degree of devastation caused by the still-unfolding global economic crisis and the increasing propensity for already existing political fault lines to further break in the capitalist heartland, this book by Alex Callinicos could hardly have arrived in a more timely fashion. In ir, Callinicos argues for the historical validity of the Lenin-Bukharin synthesis of capitalist imperialism in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the two distinct, though inter-related, forms of competition: the (geo)political and the economic. He holds that, once capitalist imperialism is conceptualised as the 'intersection' of these two forms of competition, 'the interstate rivalries' become 'integrated into the larger processes of capital accumulation', a process 'which takes several centuries' (p. 15). Also, since imperialism is now shaped by the indeterminate interplay of geopolitical and economic motives, this leads to a 'non-reductionist treatment of imperialism' which enables the theory to go beyond its reductionary readings, based on either the organisational structure of capitalism or that of the international system (p. 16).
The first part of the book consists of two chapters. The first chapter is devoted to a critical examination of the Lenin-Bukharin synthesis, as well as of other classical Marxist and non-Marxist theories of imperialism. Callinicos contends that classical Marxist theories of imperialism can be understood as a continuation of the 'explanatory strategy' that Marx developed in Das Kapital 'to uncover the structural logic of the capitalist mode of production' (p. 27). While searching the inner and necessary connections of phenomenal forms, Marx started from the most abstract, and progressively and non-deductively introduced ever-more concrete determinations in his analysis. Similarly, Marxist theoreticians of imperialism made 'Marx's research programme more concrete by building on to it an evolutionary theory of successive stages of capitalist development', e.g. the introduction of the concept of finance capital and imperialism (p. 34).
Later in this first chapter, Callinicos attempts to pick up certain features of Lenin's and Bukharin's theories to reveal the source of his theory. While remaining fairly critical of Lenin and Bukharin, charging the former with 'underconsumptionism' and 'a...