Contemporary Marxist response to world polarisation
in Imperialism and the development myth
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Influential Marxist work written inside the rich, imperialist countries this century either ignores the enormous and growing global polarisation between rich and poor countries or acknowledges it only weakly and partially. No major work adequately explains how this fundamental global social divide is maintained and reproduced. Harvey’s theoretical framework of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ allowed him to move from The New Imperialism (2003) to arguing by 2014 that there is no imperialism. The Monthly Review tendency, by contrast, argues that imperialism and the global rich–poor divide is a centrally important problem. However, contemporary Monthly Review writers such as Bellamy Foster cannot demonstrate how this situation is maintained – that is, how the imperialist countries maintain their dominance. Researchers influenced by world-systems theory have developed empirical evidence about how contemporary imperialist economic domination works. This contributed to an upturn in new Marxist work from around 2011attempting to explain the global divide. Among the most important, and most ambitious of these works is John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty First Century (2016). Smith’s explanation of how surplus value is transferred from poor to rich countries is shown to repeat core arguments of Arghiri Emmanuel’s Unequal Exchange (1972) and Samir Amin. However, Smith’s work does not explain how rich countries reproduce their dominance. The common weakness is that no work explains imperialist domination through analysis of the global labour process itself. That is why none can demonstrate how imperialism can keep dominating.

Imperialism and the development myth

How rich countries dominate in the twenty-first century

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