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Geopolitical Economy

Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire

Radhika Desai
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Geopolitical Economy
    Book Description:

    Geopolitical Economy radically reinterprets the historical evolution of the world order, as a multi-polar world emerges from the dust of the financial and economic crisis. Radhika Desai offers a radical critique of the theories of US hegemony, globalisation and empire which dominate academic international political economy and international relations, revealing their ideological origins in successive failed US attempts at world dominance through the dollar. Desai revitalizes revolutionary intellectual traditions which combine class and national perspectives on ‘the relations of producing nations’. At a time of global upheavals and profound shifts in the distribution of world power, Geopolitical Economy forges a vivid and compelling account of the historical processes which are shaping the contemporary international order.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-839-4
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-ix)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (pp. x-xii)
    Radhika Desai
  4. List of abbreviations (pp. xiii-xiv)

    The owl of Minerva, Hegel once remarked, takes wing at dusk. Knowledge results from reflectionafterthe tumult of the day. This gloomy view may be too sweeping, but it certainly applies to the multipolar world order. Influential figures began hailing it in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession. The American president of the World Bank spoke of ‘a new, fast-evolving multi-polar world economy’ (World Bank, 2010). Veteran international financier George Soros predicted that ‘the current financial crisis is less likely to cause a global recession than a radical realignment of the global economy, with...


    Oppositions between politics and economics and between markets and states have critical ideological functions in capitalist society. They emerged in early bourgeois assertion against the aristocracy and also pitted commerce against conquest, peace against war and reason against violence. These oppositions reinforced the view that states play minimal roles in capitalist societies, roles inconsequential to their economic fates. In this view, the plurality of nation-states in the modern capitalist world order can only be explained in terms of culture: they are economically inconsequential (for critiques see Desai, 2009b, 2010c, 2012). Against these ideas, this chapter opens the first argument of...

  7. 3 THE US IMPERIAL CAREER (pp. 64-91)

    Myths have always shrouded imperialisms but also changed in telling ways. By the twentieth century, imperialism had become so illegitimate that when the United States attempted to emulate British dominance, nineteenth-century myths about imperialism’s benevolence had to be supplemented with myths about US reluctance. According to the ‘myth of the reluctant superpower’, the United States was an anti-colonial revolutionary state, originally inwardly directed and isolationist, which accepted its postwar world role only reluctantly (Bacevich, 2002). The kindred myth of US isolationism stated, more specifically, ‘that the United States was isolationist until world power was “thrust upon it”, first to help...

  8. 4 AMBITION AND REALITIES (pp. 92-123)

    The notion that the United States was ‘hegemonic’ between 1945 and 1971 is so widespread that a re-examination of the period is bound to surprise. For hegemony stability theory (HST) and for the US policy makers in whose aspiration to emulate British dominance HST had its origins, the dollar’s world role was the benchmark of US hegemony. It was troubled from the start. If that were not enough, in the geopolitical economy of the postwar period, maintaining US economic strength and the dollar’s world role pointed in opposite directions.

    Postwar combined development was stronger than hitherto. Its strongest form, communism,...


    Free trade served to justify the United Kingdom’s world role, and in a sense hegemonic stability theory (HST) played a similar role for US attempts to emulate it. However, HST was also quite different from free trade. After all, the US imperial project was an epigone of the British original. It had had to lower its sights to making the dollar the world’s currency and New York its financial centre. Success repeatedly eluded the realization of even these scaled-down ambitions. Chief among the resulting differences was that unlike free trade, HST did not emerge at the apogee of US productive...

  10. 6 RENEWAL? (pp. 153-186)

    The sternest critics of US imperialism regard the closing of the gold window with a certain grudging admiration. The result – variously labelled the ‘Dollar Wall Street regime’ (Gowan, 1991a) or the US Treasury bill standard (Hudson, 1972) – they believe, left the United States ‘still overwhelmingly dominant’ and no longer ‘constrained by rules’ such as the gold–dollar peg. After 1971 dollar dominance became a ‘fact which regularly reproduce[d] itself’ (Gowan, 1999a: 30, 33, 36). The United States could adopt something like a policy of ‘benign neglect’ toward the dollar’s value because private actors had confidence in it and irate...

  11. 7 GLOBALIZATION? (pp. 187-225)

    The ‘roaring nineties’ were truly remarkable for the United States. After stagnating, or growing only under fiscal stimulus, for the better part of the two decades since 1973, the economy recovered momentum, apparently powered by a ‘new economy’. It turned received truths on their heads. Inflation and unemployment declined together, the stock market rose unstoppably, and its ‘wealth effects’ sustained unprecedented levels of credit-fuelled consumption- and investment-led growth under the deft monetary management of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, ‘maestro’ Alan Greenspan. Clinton’s last economic report (ERP, 2001), finished just before the inauguration of George Bush Jr in January...

  12. 8 EMPIRE? (pp. 226-261)

    The events of September 11, 2001 appeared to define the twentyfirst century. The Bush administration invoked them to justify its unparalleled projection of US military power thereafter – in Afghanistan, Iraq and against ‘terrorism’ worldwide. The Fed and the administration also invoked 9/11 and the recession it allegedly caused to justify the economic policies, particularly the low interest rates, of the years that followed (ERP, 2002: 23, 30). Combined with the innovation of a financial sector now freed from the Glass-Steagall separation of commercial from investment banking, these policies attracted greater torrents of capital into the United States than even...


    The multipolar moment of the twenty-first century closes the long chapter in the history of imperialism in which single powers could dominate, or attempt to dominate, the capitalist world order. Successive waves of contender development, of which that of the USSR and communism generally was the strongest, and that of the BRICs and the emerging economies is the latest, spread productive power ever more widely, and by the early twenty-first century had made such dominance impossible. Imperialism has not come to an end: the more powerful states, the poles of the multipolar capitalist world, will still attempt to stall further...

  14. REFERENCES (pp. 281-300)
  15. INDEX (pp. 301-314)