The Pitfalls of Realist Analysis of Global Capitalism: A Critique of Ellen Meiksins Wood's Empire of Capital

Historical Materialism 15 (3):71-93 (2007)
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Abstract

The dynamics of the emerging transnational stage in world capitalism cannot be understood through the blinkers of nation-state-centric thinking. In her study Empire of Capital, Ellen Meiksins Wood exhibits the reification and outdated nation-state-centric thinking that plagues much recent work on world capitalism and US intervention, expressed in the confusing notion of a 'new imperialism'. The overarching problems in Wood's study – and, by extension, in much of the 'new-imperialism' literature – is a reified notion of imperialism, a refusal to draw out the analytical, theoretical, methodological, and epistemological implications of capitalist globalisation, and an incessant reification of the state. Instead of a 'new US empire', the current epoch is best understood as a new transnational phase in the ongoing evolution of world capitalism, characterised in particular by the rise of truly transnational capital, globalised circuits of accumulation, and transnational state apparatuses. 'US imperialism' refers to the use by tansnational élites of the US state apparatus to continue to attempt to expand, defend and stabilise the global capitalist system. US militarisation and intervention are best understood as a response to the intractable contradictions of global capitalism.

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