ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Whither Imperialism?

Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire by Radhika Desai (New York: Pluto Press), 2013; pp xiv+ 313, £19.50 (PB).

Setting the long history of the emergence of the multipolar world in context, author Radhika Desai takes on the concept of a world unified by markets alone and its concomitant proposition of a “hegemonic” or “imperial” state in the dominant paradigms of globalisation, hegemony and empire. Discarding these paradigms on the basis of historical evidence, Desai puts the “materiality of nations” and the “dialectic that the Bolsheviks termed uneven and combined development” as the foundation of “geopolitical economy” to elaborate three arguments: (1) the centrality of nation states in capitalism, (2) the failed US and unrepeatable UK imperialist experience demonstrating the inadequacy of “Hegemony Stability Theory” (HST), and (3) the conceptual inaccuracies of theories around “empire” and “globalisation” including its latest terrain of “transformationalist” arguments.

The book is premised on the contention that the present historical conjuncture represents the closing of the “dominance, actual and attempted, of single powers” in the long history of imperialism. Imperialism entails collusion between imperial powers and ruling classes of various nation states but also entails the greater likelihood of competition among the relatively powerful countries in the world leading to multipolarity. In arguing this, Desai puts as the centrepiece the “fracture in the foundations of the power of financial capital” illustrated through the trajectory of the dollar in the build-up and the aftermath of the global crisis.

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