Imperialism and the development myth

How rich countries dominate in the twenty-first century

Author: Sam King

"Over a hundred years since the beginning of modern imperialism, the former colonial world is still prevented from joining the club of imperialist powers. The gap between rich and poor countries is not narrowing but growing. China is usually presented as challenging the dominance of the United States and other rich countries. However, imperialist domination over the most sophisticated aspects of the labour process gives the rich countries and their corporations control over the global labour process as a whole – including in China. Third World producers are forced to specialise in the opposite types of work – in relatively simple and low-end labour, for which major price markups and large profits are rarely possible. This is the kernel of unequal exchange in world trade. The imperialist system develops two types of capital – monopoly and non-monopoly capital – and two types of societies – rich, monopoly, imperialist societies and poor, non-monopoly, ‘Third World’ societies. China’s ascendance to become the most powerful Third World country in no way threatens to topple continuing imperialist dominance. Most contemporary Marxist writing has not been focused on global income polarisation and imperialist exploitation of the poor countries. For this reason, it has been unable to explain how exactly the same countries continuously reproduce their dominance. However, the actual conditions of the neoliberal world economy have made explicit how this happens through the labour process itself. In doing so it has also shown how Marx’s labour theory of value can be concretely applied to the conditions of monopoly capital today.

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